Worries People Often Have About Making Friends And Plans
People who are trying to make new friends sometimes have insecurities about the process. In particular, they can worry about inviting people out and making plans with them. I'll address the ones I've commonly heard below.
If you're uncomfortable with these things then what I have to say below may ease your mind a bit and make you more likely to act. However, if people are really nervous about something often all the reassurance and reframing in the world won't remove their anxiety. What they really need to do is slowly face their fears and get real world feedback that they can handle them. That means pushing yourself to try to make friends even if you're not feeling totally secure deep down.
You'll notice a common theme in the points below, that a lot of insecurities come down to a person's attitude about what certain things mean. I realize viewing things through a particular lens can be easier said than done though. That's why a second ago I mentioned the importance of just doing it, regardless of attitude.
"Asking people to hang out makes me feel lame, needy, and desperate"
There's nothing inherently lame or desperate about asking someone to hang out with you or trying to be friends with them. If someone feels this way they're projecting their own mental state onto the act of trying to make friends. They're lonely and down on themselves, and in their mind the act of inviting someone out does have an undertone of neediness or desperation behind it.
That doesn't mean that's the real message behind inviting someone out though. It's really just a day-to-day thing that everyone does. Even the most popular, charismatic people try to make friends. You could just as easily say the opposite about it, that trying to make friends means you're a friendly, sociable person who just wants to invite other people into the fun you're having. By inviting someone out you may be doing them a favor by getting them in on a get together they may have otherwise missed. As you get more social experience that's how you'll naturally start to think about it.
"I'm worried I'll come across as overeager and desperate and turn people off."
Along with feeling desperate, people can worry about looking desperate. They may avoid doing totally normal things, like saying hi to someone or responding to their text message, in an attempt to play it cool and not seem too keen. They may worry that if they don't phrase an everyday text or invitation in the exact right way then they'll come across as creepy. No one is going to see you as desperate if you use everyday behaviors for starting and growing friendships like:
- Starting friendly conversations with people you don't know
- Saying hello to a new acquaintance you see in the hall
- Chatting with someone to catch up
- Texting someone to have a conversation or share a one-off remark with them that you think they'll like
- Responding to someone's text soon after you get it, and continuing the interaction
- Inviting someone to hang out
- Showing that you like their company and want to be friends with them
If you try to be friends with someone in this typical way they may not be receptive, but they'll hardly think you're desperate. Trying to get to know people and make friends is a normal, social thing to do. You'll only be seen as desperate and clingy if you blatantly come across that way:
- Actually telling people how desperate and lonely you are (it's fine to offhandedly mention you're looking for new friends, but you don't need to overshare your problems)
- Trying to be friends with someone after they've given clear signs they're not interested (e.g., they've turned down your last five invitations and haven't made any attempt to arrange something themselves)
- Learning someone's routine and then showing up everywhere they go
- Replying to someone's every text within seconds
- Sending a bunch of frantic 'u there' texts when they don't reply right away
- Texting someone way, way more than they text you
- Always sending them a message on social networking sites the moment they go online
- Laughing too hard at all their jokes, changing your opinions to match theirs, and generally seeming too eager to please
- Always being available to hang out, and being willing to cancel plans to spend time with them
- Giving them way too many compliments
- Acting as if you're super close, intimate friends when you've only known them a short time (e.g., trying to hang out several times a week, casually telling them your deepest secrets, making random declarations about how much their friendship means to you)
- Asking them if they're mad at you when you haven't spoken in two days
- Being overly controlling in an attempt to force someone to be friends with you and keep them from 'hurting you like everyone else does' (e.g., insisting they give you an answer to their invitations immediately)
Don't be too hard on yourself if you've done some of these things in the past. Many people have. They had good intentions and just didn't realize at the time they were coming on a bit too strong.
"Asking someone to hang out makes me feel like I'm 'one down'"
This is a little related to the first point in that it contains the idea that trying to make friends with people means you're desperate and be a chaser. The underlying belief here is that if you invite someone out, you're not as good as them, that the inviter is lower on the totem pole. People who have this insecurity think that if someone is likable and worthy that others should be coming to them with invitations.
This isn't really true. Inviting someone to hang out doesn't automatically mean a person is lame, or that they're pathetically chasing others for some shred of companionship. Again, inviting people out is something we all do. There's no inherent meaning to it. Someone who is lame, whatever that means, could invite someone out. Someone who's likable could do the exact same thing.
Most people who extend invitations are just seen as regular sociable types who are trying to arrange a fun get together. It's pretty rare that someone gets asked to hang out and thinks, "Oh wow, that guy's so desperate he's lowered himself to inviting me to something?!? What a loser!" If anything they're happy or flattered to get the invitation.
The other way this worry breaks down is that often the best events are ones you organize yourself, or with a few friends, and then bring other people on board to make them even better. If the only way we could have social lives was by taking up other people's offers to do something we'd miss out on all those good times.
I think this belief has roots in this stereotype of a popular person, maybe someone in high school or college, who is so well-liked that they're constantly having invitations thrown at them, and never have to put any effort into making plans on the weekend. But if you follow this movie trope image a little more you'll realize that these people are often doing lots of inviting themselves. They're the ones who throw the big parties everyone wants to go to and whatnot.
"It feels weird to try to ask around to see what people's weekend plans are"
In the main article I wrote on making plans I mentioned that one way people do it is by asking around to see what their social circle is up to on, say, Friday night, and then getting on board if they hear something they like ("Oh, you're going to Greg's party? Yeah, that sounds fun. I'm totally up for that.") Like with the points above, someone may feel doing this is weak and needy and that they're pestering people.
Asking around like this is completely normal, typical behavior. When you do it you're speaking to your friends. It's assumed to be okay to ask them what they're up to or join a group outing they're planning to attend. It's two equals sharing information and figuring out something to do together, not a social leper leeching off their better.
"If I ask around to see what people's plans are I'll reveal I have nothing going on."
People who don't have much of a social life, or who have a handle on going out during the weekdays, but never have plans on weekend nights, are often ashamed of this fact and feel it's something they have to hide. Ironically, this often just perpetuates their problem.
There's nothing wrong with not having plans for later in the week. It's not an unusual position at all for someone to be in. Being open about having no plans is something people do all the time. More socially active people don't really think to be ashamed of it. Their thought process is, "Oh, it's Friday and I didn't think to organize anything yet. I better see what my friends are up to."
"Asking around to see what your social circle's plans are is fine if they're actually your friends. But I want to hang out with some people I don't know that well. It would be inappropriate to ask them what they're up to."
There are a few possible ways to address this problem. The first would be to take a social risk and try asking some more casual acquaintances what their plans are, even though it might not work out perfectly. Another may be to play it safer and try to get to know them a little better first, and then take a crack at making plans. A third idea may be to generally try to make other friends if you feel your current acquaintances aren't good prospects for turning into something deeper.
"What if people say no when I invite them out?"
This one is more about a simple fear of rejection. If you invite people out you will get turned down some of the time. If you're arranging a larger activity it's almost a given some people won't be able to come. It's something you have to get used to. It can sting, but most people find it to be a comparatively easy kind of rejection to get over. It doesn't hurt nearly as badly as being turned down romantically, for example.
What's at the heart of this is the idea that if someone turns down your invitation it means they don't like you as a person. Yes, sometimes people decline because they don't think they'd click with you as a friend, but there are other explanations. Here are some common reasons people turn down plans:
- They're not up for the activity you suggested. There are a million reasons they may not be feeling it. Like if you invite someone who hates electronic music to a dance club, they probably won't want to go, even if they like you. If they're more of a 'big group' person, they may only agree to the occasional one-on-one coffee meet up. You have to work with what your friends feel like doing. Or if you really want to do something, go with whoever is actually interested, rather than feeling everyone should attend.
- They just don't feel like going out that day. Someone can invite them to a fun event, but if they're feeling tired and like having a lazy night they may still not go.
- They've already made plans with other people, but would have been up for it otherwise.
- They've got other things they have to do, like study for exams or see family who's in town for the weekend.
- The logistics of the event are a pain. The idea may seem interesting, but if it's going to take an hour and a half to get there they may not want to bother.
- Money is tight and they can't afford to attend.
- They don't know most of the other people who are going. Sometimes it's fun to meet new people, but sometimes they're not up for the extra effort that requires.
- They like your company, but not in that situation. For example, some people may be interesting to talk to over drinks, but not dynamic enough at a big party - or the other way around: fun at a bar, but not someone you'd want to have a philosophical discussion with.
- They like your current level of friendship, but don't think you'd be compatible for something more. Like they may enjoy having you in the mix when everyone hangs out in a group, but not think you have enough common ground to be closer one-on-one buddies.
Basically, whenever you try to organize something a ton of factors aren't under your control. Even in the cases where people do turn down invitations because it is due to the person asking, it's nearly always that they like them as an individual just fine, but just don't think they would be a good match as a friend. Maybe they know their own worldview is too liberal for the other person, or they aren't into the same hobbies, or their senses of humor aren't compatible. Even then, under the right circumstances they'd still be open to spending time with them, because there's no real dislike. I think in only a small percentage of cases will someone turn down an invitation because they truly can't stand the person who asked.
"What if I try to arrange something and only a few people show up?"
There are a couple of fears here. One is that the person organizing it will look lame for getting such a low turnout. The second is that if only a few people show up to an event that was ideally supposed to be bigger, then things will be awkward.
First, I think when some people first start trying to make friends and organize plans with people they think they should only try to arrange big events. There's nothing wrong with something smaller.
Second, try to get away from thinking 'This has to be a big event.' Like I said, there's a lot you can't control when you make plans with people, so think more along the lines of, "I want to get as many people out to this as I can. I'll let everyone know. Whoever can make it can make it. If a lot of people show up, great. If not it'll still be fun, but more low key."
People will put together outings that have a big turnout, but it was really just a matter of everyone being available all at once and wanting to go. It didn't have a lot to do with them. Previously they may have tried arranging the same thing and only had a handful of people come, because everyone else was out of town, busy, tied up with school, or whatnot.
Third, think Win-Win when it comes to turnout. If a lot of people show up, then you get to have a big, crazy time. If only a few people come then you get to do something more toned down. There will be more chances for conversation and you'll have an opportunity to get to know everyone in more depth. If you've just met someone that can often be just as important to strengthening the friendship as arranging some big pub night.
Fourth, just because you'd like to have a bigger get together doesn't mean you have to advertise it that way. If you tell everyone you're throwing a giant, zany party and only three people attend then that does frame it as a dud. However, if you let everyone know you're having some people over on Friday, and the more the merrier, then you can't lose face if only a few people drop by since you never claimed it was going to be huge.
Lastly, in these days of Facebook and texting it's not like people try to organize an event and then blindly wait to see how many friends show up to it. At least some people will get back to you and tell you if they can make it or not. Often if you've got a handful of people who are confirmed, you can go ahead and take or leave anyone else who decides to come or not. If worse comes to worst you can just not go ahead with the event, or postpone it at the last second. This is another thing that's relatively common, even among regular, likable people. Sometimes plans fall apart at the last moment, or no one bites on them.
"What if I try to arrange something and no one shows up?"
I pretty much covered this in the last point. Basically, if you try to arrange something and don't get a response, just scrap it and try again some other time. Or change up your approach. Try suggesting a different kind of activity, or invite everyone out in a different manner (e.g., contacting people individually and building the plan one person at a time vs. sending out a mass Facebook email). Plenty of solid social circles have some proposed events from their early days that fizzled out.
"What if things are awkward?"
I mentioned a fear of things being awkward in the "What if not a lot of people show up?" point, but skipped fully getting to it until now. Concern about an event being awkward is often just a run of the mill 'what if, what if, what if' worry, and everything will go fine once it's underway. It's a pretty natural thing for people to fret about when they're hanging out with someone new. It usually works out. I think if you've clicked with someone enough to want to invite them to hang out in the first place, and they've accepted, then a lot of the uncertainty is accounted for.
Even if things are awkward chalk it up as a chance to get some social experience, and see if you can learn from any mistakes you make. Also, sometimes even the most socially adjusted people will have an awkward time with new friends. It happens. We can't gel with everyone. Finally, if things truly are awkward, don't be too quick to be hard on yourself and take all the blame for it. The other person/people could have contributed to it as well.
"I want to invite someone to hang out but have no idea what to do with them"
This seems to be a fairly common stumbling block. I talk about it here:
"I want to invite another guy to hang out one-on-one, but what if it's weird?"
I've gotten this question a few times as well. I talk about it in this short article:Is It Okay To Hang Out With Another Guy One-On-One?
"I don't know the other person well enough to be inviting them to hang out"
This one comes up when someone knows a person from school or a club, and wants to do something with them, but feels they haven't really talked to them enough for the invitation to be justified yet. They feel it would be weird to ask someone they've hardly spoken to.
In this case I'd say use your judgment. If you really only have exchanged a few sentences with another student in your class it may not be appropriate to ask them to have coffee with you. You may need to put in a little more time getting to know them. That can try your patience a little if you're eager to get the whole 'creating a social life' thing off the ground ASAP, but what can you do?
On the other hand, we can often become friends with someone faster than we think, and inviting them out early in the 'getting to know you' process can be a way to do that. You don't always have to get to know someone for weeks before you can hang out with them. Often we'll click with people pretty quickly and can take things from there. Traveling is good about teaching you this. In fact, in some ways inviting people out when you haven't known them for long can feel more right, because at that stage it can come off as more open and spontaneous, and the 'rules' for how you should act around each other haven't been set in stone yet.
I find it depends on the activity you're proposing here as well. Inviting someone to dinner may be a little too intimate, but it may not take much to say, "I'm meeting my friends for a drink or two after class. Come join us if you want."
"I feel like I'm always the one chasing down my friends to arrange things with them. They never invite me out."
I got asked about this one enough that I made a separate article about it:
"I feel discouraged. I tried to get some people to come out to the bar, and hardly anyone came. Then Ashley proposed the exact same thing a few weeks later and twenty people fell all over themselves to be there"
This one can sting. What I'd say is worry about your own social life and don't go crazy comparing your plan making success to other people's. The fact is that some people may be more popular than you, or have more clout in your social circle to get everyone to come out to events. It is what it is. Maybe you can actually learn a thing or two from them about how they organize outings. Maybe you'll be in their spot one day, but for now focus on your own social life. What's important is that you have a social circle that makes you happy. It's not that important that you may have to work slightly harder for it than some people at first.
Related reading: This article was on more general worries about making friends and setting up plans, which anyone could have. Here's a more specific one on the worries people face when they don't currently have a social circle: