If you think you have no friends, you aren’t alone. In this day and age, feeling lonely — even in a crowd — is a global phenomenon. Even in some of the most populous countries in the world people feel increasingly isolated. In fact, the problem is so serious in Japan and China that a new service has recently emerged — you can actually rent a friend to hang out with you!
We have an inherent need to feel connected to others. At least occasionally, we need someone to share our food with — someone we could talk to — and express our thoughts and feelings. Much has been written about building and maintaining romantic relationships, but when it comes to something as essential as simple friendships, there is this expectation that they should happen naturally, without any effort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that.
Why I have no friends?
There are several reasons why people may feel they have no friends, ranging from global to situational.
- Social media. According to a study, people with high social media use feel more isolated than those who use it less. While it may help build new contacts, it doesn’t help develop necessary communication skills for face-to-face interaction [source]
- Situational factors. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new city and suddenly found yourself alone. Or maybe you live in a rural area with very few opportunities to meet someone at all.
- Dispositional factors. Each person has their own unique personality and temperament. Some of us are more on an introverted side, and others may assume they prefer to be left alone. Or perhaps you are a little shy and don’t readily share your thoughts — others may assume you are not interested in connecting with them.
- Natural tendency to lose friends kicks in at the age of 25, according to this study.
- The age factor: Making new friends becomes increasingly harder once you are out of college.
I have no real friends
And then there are some of us with a lot of contacts and acquaintances, yet they still feel they have no real friends. They feel their relationships lack depth and meaning. Despite the fact that there are plenty of people around them, they still feel very lonely.
If you are one of these people who feel they have no true friends, consider this:
- Intimate friendships take time to develop, and they all start as acquaintances. You don’t naturally become very close with someone you’ve just met. Be patient and nurture your relationships. Give it time!
- Do you have unrealistic expectations of what a friendship should be? Some people have a romanticized notion of friendship, which causes them to feel like other people don’t put enough effort in the relationship and that they have to constantly reach out themselves to be a part of things.
But in reality friendships are rarely perfect — other people deal with their own issues and the last thing they want is a friend that demands their time and attention instead of being supportive.
What to do when you have no friends
Now that we’ve investigated some of the possible reasons why you have no friends and have gotten rid of unrealistic expectations of what friendships should look like, it’s time to make your very own action plan to develop more meaningful relationships with people around you.
Develop a better self-awareness
In the context of this article, self-awareness is knowledge of your own character and how you come across. First and foremost, you need to make sure you don’t send any contradicting signals. For example, you may appear unfriendly without knowing if you
- Turn down several invitations
- Don’t share much information about yourself — often for the fear of appearing too talkative!
- Overreact when your potential friends don’t behave the way you expected them to behave
- Avoid eye contact
- Have closed off body language
- Never look up from your phone
- Always wait for people to approach you
- Behave in a pretentious manner
- Gossip and generally don’t edit what you say
- Never listen to others
Be open to meeting new people
Because all friendships begin as acquaintances, you need to commit to meeting more people. Most of these contacts will never become your close friends, and it’s okay. Without meeting a lot of people, your chances of finding those special few are close to zero.
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As you meet more people, you may be tempted to dismiss some of them for one reason or another. For example, you may talk yourself out of following up with some people because they
- have a very different background,
- too career-oriented,
- too family-oriented,
- belong to a different race or ethnicity,
- too insecure,
- have a different marital status,
- better off / worse off financially than you,
- the list goes on.
Although you may not be able to immediately see it, some of these people may have a great potential to become your close friends. Unless you already have a lot of great relationships, in most cases there is no reason to reject them based on these little differences.
Of course you don’t have to force yourself to spend time with someone you absolutely can’t connect with, but being more flexible and giving people a chance certainly helps develop more meaningful friendships.
Now you may be thinking you don’t even have a chance to reject anyone because you don’t meet anyone in the first place. This is a valid concern, especially for people who aren’t in school or college anymore. As it was mentioned above, we naturally begin to lose friends after the age of 25 and the lack of school / college environment has a lot do with it.
Ways to meet new people
- Events, parties, gatherings. If you are invited somewhere, just go and figure out the rest later.
- Meetup groups. Check for Meetup groups in your area. Not only will you be able to meet new people, but you also will be able to connect with people who have similar interests.
- Attend classes. If you aren’t in school or college anymore, attending classes, such as language classes or something like money management seminars, is a great way to build more connections without feeling awkward.
- Sports. Sports is another great way to connect with others. Attend a gym or join walking / running groups on Meetup.com
- Walk your dog. Pets provide instant icebreakers, and walking your dog at a consistent time every day may provide opportunity to meet the same people and become more familiar with them.
- Use your kids. Another great way is to connect with others through your children. Taking your child to a sports class, to a park or attending a party with your child all provide great opportunities to meet other parents.
Research showed that cults prey on lonely people and use their need to belong to gain new followers. Newcomers will typically receive a warm welcome and develop friendships that may seem much more meaningful than they have ever experienced. Later, this can be used to manipulate people to stay in the cult. This topic is beyond the scope of this article, but be wise and avoid anything that looks like a cult or could be a cult.
Nurture your new relationships
Now that you know a lot more people, you need to nurture your relationships for them to have a chance to become close friendships. A lot of relationships never get off the ground because
- We don’t initiate contact consistently
- We think that the other person should initiate contact
- We don’t have time
- We aren’t sure our potential friends feel the same way about us
Overcoming our fear of rejection, being patient, initiating contact a little more often than we want to all help build quality relationships or, at the very least, improve our chances of transforming those friendly people into our friends.
Building friendships is a slow process, and rushing it can be counterproductive. If having no friends is too much to bear, it is a good idea to work with a counselor who can help you deal with loneliness and advise you on better ways to connect with other people. If you think about it, counselors are a little bit like Japanese friends for hire, except that they are more knowledgeable about inner workings of human relationships and can give you a better advice.