If you’re looking to give your social life a boost this year, there are all kinds of simple things you can do to help your cause. Kate Luczko, president and CEO of Stay Work Play NH, said it all starts with getting out of the house.
“This time of year, a lot of us want to snuggle up on the couch and be a total homebody,” she said, “but it’s amazing how many different things are happening all over the state where you can meet people. You just have to put yourself out there.”
Utilizing social media is a good way to take that first step.
“I think a lot of people form real-life relationships that way,” she said. “If you’re into photography and you’re following someone on Twitter who’s into photography, maybe you’ll see a post from them about a photography club you can get involved in. It’s a way to learn about opportunities that you may otherwise not have exposure to.”
The easiest and most natural way to meet new people is to just follow your passions and do the things you love to do.
When Stay Work Play NH blogger Erinn Larson moved from Richmond, Virginia, to Dover two years ago for a job, she didn’t know anyone in the area and had to build her social life from the ground up.
As someone who enjoys volunteering, she said, one of the first things she did after the move was sign up for a volunteering opportunity to pick up trash around Dover. There, she struck up a conversation with the Dover chief of police, who told her about a local running group that she joined shortly after.
“It was a cool sort of snowball effect; you never know what a conversation will lead to,” she said. “One of my best friends here is someone I met through the running group, and that only happened because I volunteered, met the police chief, and he recommended the group. It just shows how things can develop if you stay true to your interests and do things that match your identity.”
Another way to meet people is to hang out at places with a lot of social activity. Luzcko suggests places like bars and breweries, coffee shops, bookstores, museums, fitness centers, public skating rinks and dog parks.
“There are breweries everywhere in New Hampshire, and a lot of them are doing special events and trivia nights, or they have little table games set up and other things to do,” she said. “It can be a cool place to hang out and meet people without forced formality.”
The key thing to remember about hanging out at places to meet people as opposed to joining a formal group or event is to be consistent. If you stop by the same coffee shop every day for your afternoon cup of joe, chances are that you’ll start to see the same people who share your routine.
“It takes time, but if you’re open to friendliness, it just works out. The biggest thing is, you have to get comfortable with being alone [out in public],” Larson said. “It’s not glamorous, but that’s what it takes. You won’t get anywhere by sitting on your couch watching Netflix and wishing you had friends. You have to get out there.”
Once you’ve established a connection with someone, elevating it from “acquaintance” to “friend” status can be an awkward and tedious process.
Luzcko said the best way to take that first step is to invite the person for a joint activity related to your primary shared interest. Look for strategic moments to pop the question when it will seem natural.
“If you’re at a trivia night and one of the questions is about a movie, you can say, ‘Hey, they’re doing a throwback showing of that movie at this theater, we should get together and go,’” she said.
Also, don’t be afraid to do a little eavesdropping for inspiration.
“You really have to pay attention for a while at the beginning and try to catch on to what people are saying so you can start a new conversation,” she said.
Larson suggests adding the person as a friend on Facebook to show that you’re interested in making them a part of your life. If you’re hanging out with someone for the first time, you can save yourself a lot of stress by making follow-up plans before you part ways.
“If you want to take things to the next level, you have to make plans and say yes when people invite you to things, even if you’re scared and nervous about it,” she said. “Be courageous. You never know who you’ll meet or what experience you’ll have.”