How To Have A Lot Of Friends And Create A Large Social Circle
This article is a bit more advanced than the more basic social skills advice this site usually covers. It's a collection of my observations on what people can do to make a lot of friends and build a large social circle for themselves. I'll start with some quick disclaimers then get into the actual suggestions.
- This article is about actions and strategies that are specifically focused on making a lot of friends, so it won't give vague broad advice like "Be true to yourself" or "Be a good listener."
- The points below are about how to make a lot of friends, but not necessarily how to be a popular leader figure among them. Being seen as a charismatic leader type, whether to your whole campus, or among your six good buddies, is a different ball game from just knowing a lot of people. Someone can have a ton of social contacts, but be seen as just another regular person among them.
- The article's suggestions are about how to meet and make friends with a lot of people in general. I can't say if they'll all be from the same place. In other words, if you goal is to have everyone in your high school, or job, or college program, be friends with you, this article can't guarantee that. It's more about how to have a big social circle, but the people may be drawn from a variety of sources.
- If you've got logistical barriers in your life that get in the way of your making friends, you may not be able to fully use the tips below. For example, if you live in a really small town and don't have a car.
Having a ton of friends actually isn't the best fit for many people
I think for a lot of people the idea of having a ton of friends is better on paper than in reality. A person may be a bit insecure and think if they can form a big social circle and become the person on campus who knows everyone that will make them more worthy somehow. It's really only a particular type of person for who having a million friends is a good match for their personality.
Your average person is content to have a handful of good buddies, maybe one to three really close friends, and some acquaintances they hang out with every so often at bigger get togethers. It's also not rare at all for some people to like to spend a lot of time alone, and only have a couple of high-quality friends they see every so often. This is all totally normal and acceptable. More isn't automatically better. Some of the most likable people I've ever met didn't have, or want, any more friends than the next person.
I don't want to overstate my case and make it seem like having a ton of friends is completely empty and shallow and unfulfilling. It can be awesome to have a ton going on in your social life. However, knowing a lot of people has some drawbacks as well:
- It can take up a lot of your time to keep up with your many friends and meet their demands for your company. If you're the kind of person who likes to take a lot of time for themselves, that conflicts with constantly getting invitations to catch up or attend one function or another. When you know a lot of people you'll also be getting tons of texts and emails and instant messages throughout the day.
- It takes a fair amount of time and effort to just meet a lot of people, or to constantly be organizing ways you can all hang out. If you're not that socially inclined, it can feel like a lot of work.
- If you know a lot of people, it's impossible that they're all going to be really close relationships. Some people are okay with this, and acquaintances who are friendly with you and who you can still do fun things with aren't automatically bad, but some of us get a lot less out of those types of connections than others.
- I'd say on average, if you know a ton of people, you're going to be spending relatively more time doing activities that involve big groups. It's just one of the main ways you can keep up with a bunch of friends at once. If you're not into bigger crowds, or the partying activities that are often part of the package, knowing a lot of people may not be for you. I also find when you see a lot of people at once it's impossible to have a lot of quality contact with each person. You just don't have enough time, and have to either chat to a bunch of people quickly, or pick a few people to talk to in depth and neglect the others.
I've observed that if someone is the type that doesn't need a lot of friends, but they learn and apply the skills to make a bigger social circle anyways, then over time they'll revert back to their ideal number. They'll start hanging out a lot with the handful of new friends they really get along with, and won't really keep up with their other contacts and acquaintances.
Okay, now that I've spent all that time trying to steer you away from just wanting to make a lot of friends for its own sake, here are my actual suggestions:
Have half-decent social skills and a pretty good idea of how to make friends already
You don't need to be the smoothest person who ever walked to the earth to have a lot of friends. In some ways the biggest influence on your number of friends will be how much effort you put into finding and making them. Still, your people skills should be in fairly good shape. In particular you should have a good grasp of the basics of how to make friends and how to organize plans with people. Knowing how to make a lot of friends is a step up from those more fundamental skills. Obviously, if you're really shy and inhibited, or you have some bad social habits that put people off you, you'll have to have made some improvement in those areas. You have to be somewhat confident as well, and can't reek of desperation.
You've got to be fairly friendly and outgoing
When it comes to being more friendly and social, part of that involves doing certain behaviors (starting conversations with people, inviting others into the group), but it's also about having a disposition that leans in that direction. To some degree you'll need to be the kind of person who generally likes lots of other people and enjoys talking to them. If you find yourself somewhere where you don't know many people, you've got to be comfortable chatting to and trying to get to know them. Again, you don't need to be the most friendly, outgoing person who's ever lived, but at the same time you can't keep to yourself too much or be super choosy about who you want to associate with either.
This is one more reason why having a ton of friends isn't for everyone. Another thing is that you actually have to like all the people you're making friends with. This isn't really a process you can do soullessly and mechanically, because you think collecting a bunch of friends will give you some payoff. You can maybe accumulate a bunch of people's contact information that way, but most of the relationships won't go anywhere beyond that.
Be involved in multiple activities where you can meet a lot of people
To make a ton of friends you need to meet a lot of people. In my experience, the people with a lot of friends are involved in all kinds of activities which require spending time with a large group. They'll get to know many of the people they meet there, and pick up a bunch of new friends from each one. Over time it really adds up, especially since once they've gotten to know someone from, say, the camp they worked at one summer, they can then also potentially meet all of that friend's friends. Again, more sociable people naturally gravitate to doing this kind of stuff:
- They'll join a bunch of clubs or committees at school.
- They'll sign up for multiple sports teams.
- They'll have a job or two where there are lots of co-workers around their age, and they can also meet members of the public (e.g., bartending).
- They tend to take one-off summer jobs where they can also meet a bunch of new people (e.g., tree planting).
- They'll get involved with local theater groups, dance companies, or things like that.
- They'll volunteer at various organizations, including short-term stints like helping out a yearly music festival.
- They'll go traveling and pick up some new friends in each location they visit. Sure, they'll more be people they keep in touch with by email and maybe only visit every so often, but they're still friends.
People who have a variety of interests also have an advantage here, because the groups of potential friends they can access won't overlap with each other.
Get really plugged into your niche and take on a central role within it
You can make a good number of friends even if you're part of a niche that doesn't have a lot of mass appeal. What you need to do is find a way to take on a more central role within it. Doing things this means you'll be put into contact with most of the people in the area who are also in your subculture. For example, if you're really into tactical board games, don't be a Regular Joe who occasionally plays with the couple of friends. Instead you could organize a weekly gaming night at your local hobby store. You could start a local online forum, so the gaming enthusiasts in your city could all find each other. If a convention comes to town, you could volunteer to run a tournament for your favorite games.
Organize and attend lots of bigger get togethers
When you see people in smaller groups you're mainly hanging out with friends you already know. The bigger parties and gatherings are where you can meet new people. If you help throw a lot of bigger events yourself it can become a reliable way to meet new friends. For example, if you and two roommates share a townhouse, you could make it the place where everyone comes over to hang out.
Get to know other people who have a lot of friends
There's no way to guarantee any one particular well-connected person will want to be friends with you, but if you can get to know at least some people like that it can give you access to a lot more potential contacts. If they get involved in a bigger get together, they'll bring many of their friends as well.
If you can, have things about you that draw people to you
Some individuals with a lot of friends are in that position because many people want to get to know them.
- They could just be really charming and likable.
- They could hold some kind of important, high-status position.
- They could have skills or accomplishments that make people look up to them (e.g., talented local musician, the stereotypical captain of the football team).
- They may be much better looking than average.
- They may have access to things other people want (e.g., career opportunities, desirable contacts, a cottage, a car in high school, the ability to get into exclusive places, the ability to teach important skills, etc.)
If you're in this situation the plus side is you have to do a lot less work to meet people and start friendships with them. The downside, as some of the points above got at, is that sometimes people will want to hang out with you for the wrong reasons. They may want to bask in your reflected glory, or take advantage of the status knowing you gives them. They may want access to the things you have. If you're good looking they may simply want to hook up with you or your friends. Faced with this, a lot of people will get more particular about who they hang out with, or will be drawn to associate with friends who are on a more equal footing to them, or who obviously don't care about the rewards they have to offer.
Stay in the same area for quite a while
When you move somewhere new you have to start your social circle from scratch. I know several people with a lot of friends who have lived in the same decently sized city for most of their lives. They still hang out with a lot of people they knew from high school, and new relationships have kept accumulating on top of that base. Of course, sticking to one city isn't for everyone. In this situation people's social circles can also accumulate a fair number of dead weight 'legacy friends', who the person can feel obligated to keep in contact with even though they've grown in totally separate directions.