A few months ago, I was interviewed by Kiara Moore for The Elizabethian, on how to get a social life as a busy professional. I wanted to share with you our interview here, to help inspire you to get a social life that makes you happier, instead of stressing you out. I hope you enjoy it, here is the interview below:
Making friends with the ease of playground school mates isn’t the same in adulthood. I wish we could back to those sandbox days; the days friendship was ignited easily and instantly. Alas, these days I find that I lack time due to my busy work schedule.
Not only do I face the hurdle of striking up new interactions with strangers, but I have a hard time getting out there to meet others. After work, it’s easier for me to go straight home and check in with Olivia Pope.
Adding the fact that I’m new to this town, making friends is a more immediate problem, as I can’t easily text my bestie to meet for quick drinks. I have to actually go out and make new friends. But where do busy students and young professionals meet new people? And how do we find the time?
I interviewed Paul Sanders, friendship expert and author of “Get the Friends You Want.” He helps people overcome the hurdle of meeting new people and getting a social life. And the great thing is—anyone can do it! With the right amount of consistent effort, you can have a thriving social life. Paul’s journey of becoming a friend-making guru started with his own search to make friends.
He was a person who loved to spend time immersed in passionate pastimes and learning but discovered he spent way too much time alone. Being a perpetual learner, he took an analytical approach and sought to understand how to make friends. He studied books but didn’t have any consistent results. What made a difference was hanging out with people who were skilled socially and noticing that people who traveled constantly usually had a knack for easily meeting people and forming friendships. “They could build a new social life in a new place in a matter of weeks.” His interested was kindled, and he sought to learn everything from them.
You mentioned the “I need friends moment” in an article and realizing the need to establish a social circle… A feeling many of us can relate to! Could you explain your personal experience with this and a little bit on how you went about changing it?
I realized that it was a natural emotion. I was surprised to find that “I need a friend” feeling can come up, even when you do have friends in your life.
Now, I see it as sign that I’m not understood enough, that the friends I made aren’t the ones I need to talk to about some personal subjects…or that I have changed, with new goals, new ways of seeing life, and now I need new friends who are aligned with my new reality.
I see it as a natural thing for me right now…and that’s what I teach people.
If you don’t have friends, take that as a sign, use that “sad” energy and invest it in building social habits. If you already have friends, and yet that feeling comes back—notice that you made friends in the past, which means you can do it again. This time, look for a different kind of friends. Accept it as a challenge.
You talk about the importance of creating social habits, nurturing your social life, and making time to meet new people in one of your articles. I find it difficult to balance my social, professional, and my personal life. Can you share your personal experiences and provide a few tips on how to manage so you have a thriving social life?
Paul: There are many things that I can teach a person to do in order to make and improve their social life. The challenge is about how many times they’ll execute on that. If they do it only once, it won’t magically solve all of their social problems forever. That’s just not how things work.
For example, you can’t go out to meet new people every three years and expect to build a social life. You can’t meet a group of people every three months and expect them to become close friends. Not all friends you’ll meet will end up being the ones you keep. Some repetition and trial and error is required. That’s what helps you find the best friends possible, and get your social life going.
This is important especially if you’re busy. With small and simple changes, you can improve your social life habits without spending hours and hours strategizing.
Get A Social Life By Implementing These Two Social Habits
Here are two basic habits to get you started:
- Every week, Wednesday evening for example, take 30-60 minutes of “social time.” Get in touch with people you know and follow up with people you met recently. Touch base with your extended social circle as well. Set a “weekly recurring event” in your electronic calendar, so you don’t forget. Think of social activities and plans you can during that particular week by checking event listings. You can also just pick a place you want to try, like a new interesting restaurant for example.
- Every month, go out somewhere to meet *new* people: if you’re just starting out and have no friends right now, maybe you should do this twice a month, or more. Go places where others are looking to meet new people, get to know them, and practice your socializing skills.
With habits, you can be the busiest professional, and it would still only take 1 hour per week to keep in touch with people and make plans. That, and the time it takes to actually socialize in real life, go a long way to help you get a social life.
When you’re busy it can be difficult to create deeper connections and find people who “get you.” How do you go about forming friends of substance when you’re really busy?
Paul: The process would be the same but with a twist. The regular process goes like this:
- Meet new people,
- Stay in touch,
- Make plans to hang out again,
- Introduce them to other friends,
- And deepen the friendship if appropriate.
For example, if you’re looking for people who understand your career struggles, go to professional events and try to make friends with smart professionals. If you want friends with a multicultural perspective, try to make friends with expats or world travelers. If you are an entrepreneur and want people who can understand your ambitions and challenges, go to entrepreneurial gatherings. And so on.
If you want to get a social life, and have friends who “get you”, then there is something else you need to do, and it’s purely psychological. It’s about adjusting your expectations. Your personality as an adult is much more complex compared to when you were younger. That makes it harder to “hit the nail on the head” when it comes to finding friends who will make you feel completely understood. Knowing that, you won’t expect it to be an instant job. And that is good for you, because you’ll find it normal if it takes a bit more time to find the right people, instead of getting discourage too quickly.
Where can busy professionals/students go to meet people?
Paul: The key here is to avoid places where others expect to meet with their existing friends. Instead, go where others expect to meet new people. That’s the key distinction that makes 90% of the difference between success and failure of meeting new friends.
Go to meetup events, local community events, find interest-based groups, sports teams, or cultural events in your area. When people go to these things, they open up to meeting new people—it makes your life that much easier.
You can just go there, walk up to anyone, introduce yourself, and start talking about the theme of the event. That would be the appropriate thing to do in these social settings. It wouldn’t be the case if went to a bar or restaurant, for example. If you make a habit of going to events like that, it won’t take too long for you to get a social life going and growing.
If you to take things to the next level, try and take a contributing role in this new community. Volunteer some of your time and become part of the team. It’s super easy, and you’re likely to be welcome, as most communities could use some help. If you become part of the organizing team, you’ll notice that it’s probably the easiest way to meet new people and make friends with them.
It’s Time To Get A Social Life Without Spending Half Your Time Socializing
If you’re ready to save a huge amount of time (maybe months of trial and error), then you can learn from my mistakes. It took me years to figure out how to build a social life, with the least amount of effort and time possible. If getting a social life means that you should spend four hours a day socializing, that wouldn’t work. It couldn’t work for me neither – I can fit that in my schedule, and wouldn’t want to even If I could. That’s why I wanted to find and refine the most efficient and effective techniques and principles.
I compiled those techniques and principles and organized them in a nice, digestible way, so anyone can use them to get the social life they want. You can start right here.
– Paul Sanders