I have no friends!
A complete guide on how to fix it
“I have no friends!” is not something that many of us would want to shout from the rooftops. Why? Because it feels like if we admit it, there is something wrong with us. But hang on…is there something wrong with us?
Why do I have no friends?
Let’s be honest – there are some people in the world who just don’t deserve to have any friends. They are rude, obnoxious, selfish and mean spirited, so we can all understand why nobody likes them. But that doesn’t apply to us, right? We’re normal, so what’s going on?
Is it me or my circumstances?
There are many reasons why some of us have few or no friends. Sometimes it is to do with us, and other times it is to do with our circumstances. It can also be a combination of both things. Let’s start by looking at ourselves.
Who’s going to tell us?
Sometimes, when we do things that turn people away from us, it takes someone else to point those things out before we become aware of them. Most of the time, however, people are too polite to say anything.
Don’t do this!
For example, would you go up to a work colleague and say “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to use more deodorant”? Thankfully, most of us wouldn’t, but that painful piece of information could transform that “odour challenged” person’s life for the better. Just to be clear though – don’t say that to your work colleague!
Let’s just check that there are no red flags
So rather than waiting for someone else to drop a bombshell on us, let’s run through a checklist of what could be a barrier to meeting people and making new friends. Honestly reflect and ask yourself “Is that me?”.
Being a bad listener
Have you ever spent time talking to someone who is clearly not listening to you? Even worse, they are looking at their phone while you’re talking to them. How does it make you feel? If you’re a bad listener because you haven’t got the patience to pay attention, then this will prevent you from forming close friendships. It’s absolutely key to a friendship that both sides feel that the other person is interested in what is being said.
Nobody likes a show-off. Showing off about the money that you make, the car that you drive, your children’s achievements or the size of your IQ. By all means, have and enjoy these things, but modesty goes a long way in getting people to relate to you.
A frequent no-show
If you are constantly making excuses for not meeting or talking to your friends, they will eventually stop asking. If you feel lonely or disconnected, it can, ironically, lead to you feeling like you want to retreat and stay away from people. Break this cycle and make time for your friends or risk losing them.
A conversation hogger
The next time that you talk to someone who you know on the phone, notice if you find that you can talk for 5 to 10 minutes without the other person saying a word (apart from perhaps “Aha”). Sometimes one-sided conversations are necessary, but if this is a common theme from your side, it may be worth giving the other person some space to speak too. Otherwise, the prospect of talking to you can, for others, seem like a daunting task.
Being overly judgmental
Without a doubt, sometimes people do need to be told. But if you find that you are giving a speech about how that person should behave all of the time, the most likely outcome is that that person will stop sharing any information with you that could be used to beat them with.
Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Sometimes things happen which means that you have no choice but to let the other person down. But if you’re always letting someone down, they will get tired of it and stop trusting you to do the things that matter to them.
Ok, so this one is a bit tongue-in-cheek; but if you do happen to smell, it could seriously affect your social life and ability to make friends. Bad breath and body odour are the most common culprits.This one doesn’t apply to most of us (most of the time anyway), but if it could apply to you, you are strongly advised to sort it out. Being smelly is also quite easy to fix. If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor about what the options are.
Shunning your friends for your romantic relationship
Being in a strong romantic relationship is great, no question. But losing touch with your friends and dedicating all of your time to a partner is a big mistake. Firstly, being multi-faceted, each of us has a variety of different needs. Although your partner may tick many boxes, it’s nearly impossible for one person to tick them all. Enjoy different things with different people. Secondly, if your partner stops being around (usually because of a breakup or bereavement), those friends that you shunned may be difficult to win back.
Being a gossip
If you’re in the business of sharing secrets, spreading rumours or information about other people’s personal lives to people who you hardly know, the chances are that your listener is not going to want to share any personal information with you.
Having a lack of empathy
Empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of the other person and making an attempt to understand what they are going through. Then you act accordingly, ideally to help that person feel better. Some people just don’t feel very much empathy, and that’s fine if that’s the way their brain is wired. If that’s you, try to appreciate that your friend needs support and whatever they are going through is affecting them, even if it wouldn’t affect you in the same way.
A friend has upset you in a big way, a way that you consider unforgivable. So you go for the nuclear option and cut them out of your life. If you have a tendency to do this, it may be that you are too sensitive and losing friends unnecessarily. A frank, and perhaps difficult, conversation may have resolved the issue. Once the friendship has been blown up, it can be all but impossible to put it back together again, so think it through carefully before pushing the red button.
Chewing with your mouth open, yawning into someone’s face, picking your nose in public or coughing without covering your mouth will lead to people keeping their distance. If you do any of those things, please stop.
Lack of common courtesy
If someone stands and holds a door open for you or waits in their car to let your car pass, not to show any gratitude shows a lack of respect for that person’s time and the small effort that they made on your behalf. If you do that, that lack of respect may pop up in other areas of your life which may be affecting your ability to make friends.
Never taking responsibility
If you do something wrong, admit it. Don’t try to argue yourself out of it as that is a sure-fire way to lose respect. “I’m really sorry, I messed up and I’ll do everything that I can to fix it”, is a lot more palatable than “It wasn’t my fault” when everybody knows that it was.
Being too bossy
If you’re the boss at work, leave your boss hat in the office. Let somebody else make a decision if they want to.
Being too needy
Everybody appreciates their own space from time to time. If you’re too demanding of somebody’s time, they will want to see less or even, eventually, none of you. Constant texts, phone calls and visits can turn others away.
If this applies to you, here’s a quick newsflash – the world does not revolve around you! Start considering others more and you will start reaping the benefits.
Being emotionally draining all of the time
Sharing is good. It helps you get through difficult times. But if all you ever do is talk to your friends about your hardships and problems, it can be as emotionally exhausting for them as it is for you. Good friends will see you through, but it’s important to be aware that they may need you too and you should continue to show interest in their lives.
If you have a short temper, learn to control it. Frequent and unnecessary outbursts are not only off-putting, they can also be scary. Get help if you have problems with controlling your anger. A short fuse is one of the most off-putting things there is in trying to form or maintain a friendship.
Being negative all of the time
You may be in a low mood, but if you find that you are constantly bringing down the mood of others or always speaking in a way that discourages or belittles their ambitions, they are not going to want to be around you.
Being too serious
If this is you, learn to smile and relax. To make friends, you need to appear to be (you guessed it) friendly. Smiling and laughing is one of the most effective things that you can do to make others feel at ease.
There’s a song lyric that goes “Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to”. We could add “including making friends”. This is a difficult one to overcome, but a good first step is to do things even when you don’t want to. When you’re as nervous as heck, do it anyway. It won’t necessarily stop you from feeling shy, but you will get a lot more done and increase your chances of making new friends.
Actually, everybody has something interesting about them, we just need to find the right way of sharing it. You’re not boring, you just need to be around the right people.
If you love trains and like to talk about them to everyone you meet, make sure that they are happy to listen and are interested. This is why it’s useful to talk to people with the same interests. If you just don’t know what to talk about, throw in a few things that are going on in the outside world. There is a lot going on out there. It’s also useful to ask the other person questions about themselves. Don’t make those questions too personal early on though.
Being obsessed with your job
If you’re always calling things off because of work, can’t go because you’ve just got to finish something work related, or even when you’re out with friends you’re checking your phone and have to take work phone calls, your friends will get fed up. Take your friends as seriously as you do your job. When you’re supposed to be with your friends, be with your friends.
Sharing too much too soon
As tempting as it can be to share it, no-one wants to hear the full saga of your last break-up or the clever way that you found to get rid of your haemorrhoids in your first conversation. Hold back a little and build your friendship up to the point where details like that can be freely shared.
The one exception to this is where you are a part of a group where sharing is necessary. If whatever it is you are sharing is the subject matter of the group, this is acceptable.
Being overly sensitive
Being too sensitive can be a big blocker to making new friends. If you find that you are constantly offended by what people say and do, it could be that you are unwittingly pushing potential friendships away by being too delicate. The next time that you feel offended by someone who you otherwise like, consider what that person’s intentions were and even discuss it with them before buddying up is taken off the table. Being easily offended can also be a pain for others who get tired of having to explain themselves to you.
Being too argumentative
If talking to you almost always ends up turning into a shouting match or some kind of passive-aggressive tussle, friends will not stick. It’s too much hard work and others will get tired of the stress. This can come from being overly sensitive, aggressive or insecure.
Don’t look desperate
Coming across as being overly desperate, it can be off-putting to others. Rather than focusing on the friends that you don’t currently have, try to enjoy the process of meeting and getting to know new people without taking it too seriously.
So now you have been told. If you are guilty of any of the friend blockers above, you can’t claim nobody told you. The good news is that you now have some things to look out for and work on that could result in attracting many more friendships.
But none of that applies to me…I think!
You’ve gone through the list and you’re not smelly or aggressive; you get a green flag all the way. So what else could be going on that has resulted in this painful lack of friendship?
That things change, is a simple fact of life. Here is a classic example. You and your best mate were joint at the hip. You’d go partying together, holidays, everything. Then they got a new partner, had babies and settled down. You’re still single and want to do different things.
What’s to be done here?
The dynamics of your relationship have now changed, but it doesn’t mean the end. If you’re the one who has settled down, you need to appreciate that your friend may feel alienated. They may still enjoy coming to see you, but they don’t necessarily want everything that you do together to include your children or your partner. Ensure that you get a babysitter for a girls/boys only night and spend some quality time. If you don’t, you may notice that you’re seeing less and less of each other.
If you’re the one who is still single, accept that your friend’s life has changed and try to be a part of it without resentment or jealousy. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting a night out alone with them though.
Working through these life changes together can prevent gradual and unwanted drift.
Social anxiety can make it very difficult to make new friends. If this is what you experience when meet new people, there are treatments available that can help. Click here to see more information.
I know people, but they’re just not friends
Ok – first things first. Let’s dig a little deeper to figure out why the people who we know, and even like, are not becoming close friends.
What is a friend?
It’s not as if we don’t know people. We work with them; they go to the same university; we chit-chat with them outside of the school gates after dropping off the kids; we talk to them over the garden fence. What is the difference between these people and what we would call a friend?
When does someone become a friend?
There are several stages of relationship that we go through before most of us would call somebody a friend. If these stages are skipped, it can seem odd to us and the other person. For example, if someone meets us for the first time and we have a fun chat and get on, it’s likely to feel surprising if that person then refers to us as a friend. Why? Because friendships need to be earned and established over time. Friendships cannot be forced or fast-tracked.
So what are these stages?
- Strangers. We are normally polite to these people. Giving them a nod or a “Good morning” when passing them in the street, is not a problem. We may have a general chat with them about the weather or whatever setting you happen to be in. At this point, nothing private or personal is shared.
- Acquaintances. These are people who we are more likely to see on a regular basis. Maybe people at work or on the same course. We’re happier to share a little more than we would with a stranger, but it’s usually light-hearted and fun.
- Friends. Now we’re in real friendship territory. We spend a lot more time together and are willing to share much more personal information. There is more trust. We are able to share our world view, even if that view is a little controversial or unusual. We act like our natural selves around these people and make an effort to spend time together. Many friendships don’t go beyond this level.
- Close friends. These people know us. They have seen us at our best and our worst. Close friends have a common or complementary way of thinking. We are comfortable with sharing some of our most sensitive thoughts with them because we trust them and we know that they will understand. Close friends go out of their way to look out for each other and are emotionally affected if their relationship is threatened. These friends feel like family. It normally takes years to develop this kind of friendship and is probably the kind of relationship that most of us lack.
So how do I get to the ‘friend’ or ‘close friend’ stages?
Well, first of all, you need to make sure that you don’t have any of the red flags that were listed earlier. Then:
Find people who you have a common interest with
If you have something to talk about that excites you both, it can act as a good starting point for a potential friendship. This is why if you are looking to make new friends, it’s a good idea to join a group that does something that you enjoy. If you are on a website or app that helps you to find friends, ensure that your interests are clear so that you can be found by them.
Find people who are working towards a common goal
Closely related to common interests, working towards a common goal is a great way of getting to know people. These are the people who may wish to lose weight, run that distance, or pass that exam. Buddying up with someone to achieve a common purpose can not only help you achieve that goal, but also be a great catalyst for friendship.
Find people who are or have experienced your circumstances
If you have been through a specific circumstance, finding people who know what it feels like to go through your experience can be something that unites you. This often relates to life changing things like having a baby; going to university; being bereaved or having a relationship breakdown.
Take a genuine interest in other people
Everybody (including you) is interesting in some way. Take the time to ask questions and show that you have an interest in your potential buddy’s life. Make sure that interest is genuine though as most people can sniff out when a question is not sincere. Be curious, ask questions. As Dale Carnegie put it in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, “You will make more friends in 2 months by being genuinely interested in other people than in 2 years by trying to make people interested in you.”
Develop your self esteem
It sounds like a cliché, but only once you start appreciating your own self worth will you begin to truly shine for others. Easier said than done, but it is important to realise two things: firstly, other people’s opinion of you does not have to be your reality. The second thing is that however low your self-esteem is, it can be changed. There are many books, online resources or courses that can help.
There is no app, group or anything else is going to give you a friend straight away. The best that can be done is for you to be introduced to potential friends. If your expectation is to be able to make a new friend in a few days, you will always be disappointed. Studies have shown that it takes time to make friends. Here’s one to look at. But in a nutshell, the more time that you spend with somebody, the more likely you are to become friends. No surprise there. That time needs to be time well spent, like talking or doing a leisure activity together.
Resetting the clock
As mentioned above, patience is important as it takes time to make a friend. If you get impatient and give up, you are effectively resetting the clock back to zero.
Sitting and being depressed about not having any friends will not lead to you having friends. In fact, the sense of loneliness that you may feel may lead to a lack of motivation to do anything.
The fact that you are reading this is a good start. Now you need to move on to the next step and act on what has been suggested.
Don’t let a setback put you off
If you’ve made an effort to get to know someone and they suddenly go cold, don’t let that setback put you off meeting new people. As disappointing as it may feel, it indicates that that person was never going to be your friend, and it’s probably a good thing that you find that out sooner rather than later.
It’s not me, it’s my circumstances
So far, we’ve looked at what you can do to become good friend material, but what if your circumstances make it nearly impossible? Maybe you’ve moved to a new town. Or maybe you’re a single working mum who finds it difficult to take any time outside of work and looking after your child.
At the time of writing, Coronavirus is making it exceptionally difficult to connect with anyone.
What can you do?
It’s been said that in order for your life to change, you have to change your life. Although that may sound like something out of the school of the bleeding obvious, there is a useful point. Nothing will change unless something is done to force it. Unfortunately, if your circumstances are difficult, it will mean that more of an effort will be needed for things to change.
Try some of the following:
- Do some investigation to find where you can start connecting with new people. Some ideas have been listed in the section below.
- Look at your schedule. Finding new friends takes time. This means that time needs to be taken from your current schedule. Look at what you can swap out. For example, if you’re spending time sharing things on social media but not really connecting with anybody new, consider spending that time on platforms where you can engage with new people.
- Get ideas from other people in the same situation. If you’re a stay-at-home mum, a carer or someone with a disability who finds it difficult to get out, find groups online with people in the same situation. There may even be a charity that is dedicated to helping you. Like you, the people in these groups will be looking to make new connections, too. Between you, provisions could be made to connect whilst overcoming your difficult shared circumstances..
- If you’re busy, try getting up thirty minutes to one hour earlier. This creates more time in your day to pursue personal interests such as finding or talking to new friends.
Where do I find these potential friends?
So, it’s all well and good having all of these recommendations, but where can you actually find people to try all of this out on? Let’s look at the options.
You could make friends at work. Here we are talking about real chums rather than just work colleagues who you are friendly with. We spend many hours at work, so making friends there should be easy, right?
Developing a close friendship could require a lot of trust in the early stages. Shared confidences could be spread across the company.
Friendships at work can also create a personal vs professional conflict. For example, could you really do an impartial appraisal for a good mate? Easy if they are brilliant at what they do, not so easy if they are not.
Aristotle, a philosopher from back in the day, did a lot of thinking around friendship. He identified different types of friendship. One of them is “The friendship of utility”. In a nutshell, it says that the people involved in the friendship are only friends because being so is mutually beneficial. This is common at work.
The trouble with this kind of friendship is that once the mutual benefit ends, the friendship often ends, too. After having left your job, how many of you ex-work buddies remain good friends?
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make friends with people at work, not at all. It’s just useful to know what could happen.
Social groups and evening classes
Joining an evening class or social group is a fantastic way of meeting new people. You will immediately be amongst people who share the same interest as you do. This is a great starting point for any potential friendship as you could have a lot to talk about. Have a look at your local authority website; many have local groups listed on them. You could also look at findcourses.co.uk for evening classes or frindow.com for social groups.
At the time of writing, COVID is a bit of a fly in the ointment as a lot of groups and classes have to meet online instead of in person. But this is still a good place to start as talking to new people and becoming familiar with them will be good preparation for when you do finally meet.
Being a part of an online community is a great way of being introduced to people who you would not meet in your ordinary, day-to-day life. Regular engagement such as text and video chat can give you a good sense of who someone is. However, in-person engagement will always rule when it comes to getting to know someone well. So use online platforms as a means to an end. Talk to people who share similar interests and use all of the available tools. Then, when the time is right, meet in person to take your online friendship to the next level. Talk to people who share similar interests and use all of the available tools.
Become a volunteer
Not only is volunteering a great way to meet new people, but it also helps to give back to your community. There are obviously a lot of charities that you could help. Your local authority website should list a number of charities near you. Below are a few links to charities that are always looking for volunteers:
Finding new friends in the modern age is not easy. Long working weeks, living alone and pandemics means that more and more of us are feeling lonely and finding ourselves without close and meaningful friendships – just when we need them the most.
So here are the steps again:
- Make sure that you are good friendship material and ensure that you are not doing things that could be putting people off.
- Dig deep if necessary, to find out what you enjoy doing or talking about, and seek out people who enjoy the same things.
- Be patient. Making good friends doesn’t happen overnight. If you are impatient, it will always be a barrier to your progress.
- Be proactive. Don’t sit and wait for fate to throw a friend your way. Find a place on or off line where you can start connecting with new people.