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Forge new relationships by reaching out

To be happier, consider a habit that will help you forge new relationships by reaching out.

Why this aim is likely to make you happier

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree: strong relationships are a key—perhaps the key—to a happy life. While maintaining existing relationships is important, cultivating new ones can open us up to new experiences and ideas, strengthen our social networks, and lead to new opportunities.

It can be a challenge to make new friends, especially as an adult. But if we move to a new city, start a new job, get into a new hobby, or meet a new partner’s friends for the first time, these skills can come in handy.

Aims you might consider

If there’s an activity you do regularly—go to the gym, take your dog to the dog park, go to the office—try to do it at the same time every day, so you see the same people; it can be a great way to make friends

Identify a hobby, subject, or skill that interests you and take a class

Join or start a group that meets regularly

Set up weekly coffee dates or Zoom calls with coworkers to get to know them better

Give three genuine compliments every week

If you tend to talk over people in conversation, practice asking questions or pausing before speaking

Make a habit of saying “yes” if possible whenever you’re invited to a gathering

When attending events, consider arriving on the early side, when it’s easier to connect with the few people who are there

Know Yourself Better

Self-knowledge is an essential aspect of happiness, because we can create a happy life only on the foundation of our own nature, our own values, and our own interests. 

As you consider ways to forge new relationships by reaching out​​, ask yourself:

  • Do you have a friend at work? Research suggests that people are more likely to feel happy at their job when they have a work friend. If you don’t have a friend at work, identify someone you’d like to learn from or get to know better.
  • In what area of your life do you wish you had stronger connections? If you’re seeking new connections, shared experiences or circumstances can present potential friends. Consider striking up conversations with work colleagues, parents of a child’s classmates, friends of friends, fellow pet owners, and neighbors.

A few notes of caution…

  • Some people expect friendships to form spontaneously and easily. However, making friends can be challenging—especially for adults. If you’re feeling the lack of friends in your life, it’s worth the effort to build those bonds. Don’t feel surprised or discouraged if you have to work at it.

  • If you’re at a loss about where you might find new friends, consider the phenomenon called “triadic closure.” We often find it easier to befriend the friends of our friends. So make friends with your friends’ friends!