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How does one go about making friends in retirement? We have been doing it all our lives. Trouble is, retirement doesn’t give us the structure we got used to having as older kids and adults. We have to work at it differently now. Here are some ideas on how to find friends while retired.
Making friends without work
Making friends when you work is not too difficult. You get access to a number of people with whom you already have something in common. Then you narrow it down from there.
When that job goes away, the other people there no longer have the job in common with you. You may keep some after retiring but it will be different.
Now you need new friends with different common ground to start from. Here are some examples.
Neighbors share your location. Something drew them here as something drew you. Maybe you’ll share some concerns, such as what the city plans to do with shade trees that grow along the street.
You can approach neighbors in any number of ways. Use the misdirected piece of mail you got, the one that goes next door. Take it over there and introduce yourself. If they seem open to it, invite them over for coffee.
You may be walking your dog, or see another person with one. Say hi to folks you meet. Conversations sometimes ensue. If not, that’s OK. Maybe today isn’t the day to establish anything new. Keep at it. When you look more familiar, it’ll get easier.
Greet the neighbor who’s mowing the lawn, tending their flowers, or washing the car. Commiserate a little and if they’re open to it, offer them a cool drink.
Go to gatherings in the neighborhood, if there are any. Homeowner association meetings are great places to pick up on people who not only live in your neighborhood but also show they have ideas in common with yours. Talk about those ideas and maybe they will be receptive to coffee and a chat or something.
You can always borrow a cup of sugar. Be sure to return it. Two contacts are better than one!
Making friends in established social groups can be harder. You are walking into a room full of people who already associate with their friends. If you have someone you know bringing you in, that gives you a start.
Try to find something you can contribute to the group. When you have a role in the group it draws others to you. Suppose the church is having an event and calls for tons of cookies. You might bake some cookies for it and bring them in. You might volunteer to staff the event, keeping the coffee urn going and the attendees directed to the bathrooms. Other volunteers get acquainted and maybe you find you enjoy their company.
Look for groups that are small and/or new. Watch the local paper for such things. A new exercise class would be a great place to start. At least some of the people in that class will be new, so you’ll fit right in. As the others get used to you, and you to them, you might find a friend there.
For more ideas about where to find friends, read Loneliness: 10 Ways To Beat It.
Tips on making friends
You want friends, so you won’t be lonely. Well, that is what everyone wants, so you are assured of some success. Here are some things to watch out for in your hunt for more friends.
Let’s say you are impressed with how some lady at the coffee shop is dressed. Wouldn’t it be great to be that elegant! Well, why not tell her she looks fabulous? Maybe she’ll be happy to get that news. If she is snobby about it, you have lost what, 30 seconds? But if she is receptive, ask her for a pointer since she looks like she knows what she’s doing. Maybe that will get her interested in being a friend.
Try not to be too needy. Even if you’re new in town and don’t know a soul. Take it slow and keep showing interest in the other person, and watch to see if they reciprocate.
Telling too much too soon is dangerous to a budding friendship. The teller is being needy and trusting too much. That puts a burden on the other person.
If I start my friendship attempt by telling you all about my recent losses, my medical problems and the fact that my grandchildren never visit, I will only make you miserable having to listen to it. If you’re smart you’ll avoid me after that. I will probably avoid you too because I now realize you don’t need to know all this.
When friendship takes
When you get a friend, you need to remember you may be one of many. At first, try to keep in touch with your new friend as much as you feel is reasonable. Watch for signs that this is too much or too little.
I have a friend who is very popular and enjoys socializing. Being more introverted, I socialize less. Yet when we talk about going out to supper sometime, and I call to see if Saturday would work and don’t hear back, I have learned it’s not The End. She just didn’t get my message in time. Or she may already have something going on then. We’ll do it someday.
Now, my friend could probably take a call from me a couple of times a week and be happy with that. I don’t call that much because she has family calling and other friends. Plus, I hate phones and only call to set dates, preferring to do my talking in person.
But another friend I could call every day and she’d want more because she is a phone junkie and has a lot of time on her hands. You’ll get to know this as your friendship develops.
So if you’ve made overtures to a possible friend and they don’t go for it, what do you do?
For one thing, they weren’t your friend yet, just a possibility. They’re like a car whose tires you kicked but didn’t buy. It’s OK not to succeed every time. It just wasn’t a good fit for them.
Which means it probably wouldn’t have fit for you eventually. Whatever, it wasn’t your fault. You can’t help it if:
–they already had a zillion friends and didn’t have time.
–you look like the in-law they hate.
–they are introverts and got overwhelmed
Just move on, being you and showing interest in other people that you find around you. You will find people to talk to, do things with, and exchange supports with. If I can do it, you can do it too.
Do you have a favorite icebreaker that helps you find new friends? Share it in comments!