For many years now I’ve been coaching people struggling with low self-esteem and social anxiety that were lacking a good friend circle. AJ and Johnny got word of me through a mutual friend.
Long story short, they want me to come to Los Angeles, so I can coach for The Art of Charm.
“Sure,” I said.
And so I jumped on a plane, headed towards Hollywood.
3 PM, June 20th, 2018
“I’ve just landed. After sitting in my seat for 12 hours, I’m dying to get my feet moving again.
It’s my first time on American soil, and as I step out of the plane, I’m filled with nervous anticipation. What will Hollywood be like? What about AJ and Johnny? The house?
I’m full of questions.
Now if only I could figure out where I can get my damn luggage… ”
Two Mindsets for Close Relationships
In 1938, researchers from Harvard Medical School set out to study human development.
They wanted to learn what makes a happy, healthy, long-lasting life, and so they enlisted 268 students (one of which, the one and only J.F.K.), and studied them rigorously.
Every two years, the researchers would track them down, and inquire about their life, their career, their mental health, their physical health, their relationships, their successes, and failures, and everything in-between.
The first assessment began 80 years ago, and here’s the kicker:
The study is still up and running today!
In the 1970s, researchers expanded their list of participants by 456 boys from the poor inner-city Boston area, and eventually, they began studying the participant’s wives and children as well.
After following these people from all walks of life for a whole lifetime, researchers now know the single most critical factor to a happy, healthy, long-lasting experience.
More than IQ, social class, money, confidence, genes or any other factor, it’s close relationships that make a good life. The quality of your relationships is the most reliable predictor of your quality of life.
As Robert Waldinger, the fourth and current director of the study, said “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
That’s why it’s so important to have a solid friend circle.
I’ve never been to the U.S. before, much less have any sort of friend circle in L.A.
But now that I was going to live in the states for half a year, I had a choice to make. Either I find a group of like-minded people, who I can connect with and feel close to, or I would go mad!
Sure, I have my friends and family back at home, but real intimacy is not lived through Whatsapp and occasional Skype calls. Instead, it’s lived in real-life, face-to-face, with the occasional hug in-between, from people who understand and care.
If I wanted to thrive in L.A. (and stay sane), I had to build new friendships, and invest in my social life.
Which brings me to the first mindset of building a new friend circle.
Mindset #1 Make Building Relationships Your Priority
It’s easy to get distracted by the business of the day, and to be so burned out, that you have little energy left for socializing.
But if you want to have friends who you can call in the middle of the night, (and not having to spend your Friday eves home alone), you have to make relationships your priority.
As Jeffrey Hall, professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, says: “Many adults don’t feel they have a lot of time, but these [close] relationships are not going to develop just by wanting them. You have to prioritize time with people.”
Because this is precisely the ground on which relationships can flourish: Time spent together.
You don’t just go out one night, build a close friendship, and then – after the deed is done – go home again, crossing that “relationship thing” off your to-do list.
Instead, close relationships take time.
According to a study by Jeff Hall, it takes about 50 hours of time spent together to move from acquaintance to casual friend, about 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend, and more than 200 hours to become best buds.
Which brings me to the second mindset of building a new friend circle:
Mindset #2 Close Relationships Take Time (And Effort)
Without the proper time-investment, there’s no ground for closeness to arise naturally.
When I think about my closest friendships, I have one friend who I immediately hit it off with, I have another friend who I initially felt merely “meh” about, and I have another close friend whose guts I HATED when I first met him.
And chances are, my friends had similar feelings when they first met me.
Only the passage of time allowed us to look past our first impressions, and develop genuine feelings of closeness for each other.
How (And Where) to Find Like-Minded People
It’s time to get practical.
After we’re clear on the importance of relationships, and that relationships don’t just arise “magically” but actually need your time and effort, we can start talking about tactics.
And it all starts by analyzing your own interests.
Action Step #1 What Are Your Interests?
The first step to finding like-minded people for your friend circle, is to inquire about your own mind.
What are you good at? What are you passionate about? And what would you like to learn?
Take some time to write down any topic that you would like to explore.
It can be about football, it can be about medieval sword fighting, heck, it can even be about knitting sweaters for your pet kitten. The point is that you write your interests down – the more, the better.
Take a minute, and write down all of your interests.
Here’s what my personal list looked like.
As you can see, I’ve picked a range of completely entirely, unrelated topics.
Next, we want to identify the gems in your list. Pick your 3-4 of your most favorite topics, and put a mark next to them.
As a rule of thumb, choose topics that are a) popular and b) social. The more popular your topic, the likelier that you’ll find people with the same interests. Likewise, the more inherently social your topic is, the more plausible that you’ll get in contact with lots of new people.
Personally, I’ve decided on improv comedy, salsa dancing, and yoga.
Action Step #2 Research Your City
The next step is to go online, and find out where people with your interests hang out.
Take your list of 3-4 interests, and look for events, meetups, and classes on those interests in your city.
Type in the name of your city and your interest, and voila… magic!
Keep in mind that depending on your interests and standards, this can be tedious work. But remember, you only have to do it once, and build that friend circle will pay off for a long time.
Personally, I like to aim for classes.
Good relationships take time to develop, and classes bring together the same people on a regular basis (thus creating the context for closeness to develop).
Also, classes are less stressful, and you don’t immediately have to go into social butterfly mode. Instead, you can take your time and slowly get to know people first.
After you did some research and found events on your interests, it’s time for the next step.
Action Step #3 Schedule Events
Now that you have identified your primary interests, and researched your city for events, we want to get serious.
Block out (at least) two time slots every week for a social event.
If you’re completely new to your city, and don’t know anyone at all, you might even go for four events each week.
Regardless how many events you choose, make sure you understand that once they are in your calendar, they are non-negotiable. Once it’s in your calendar, you go.
While I was living in the Netherlands, I joined an improv class, which was about 2 hours away. Every Wednesday for eight weeks, I would take two hours to get there, spend two hours doing improv, and then again take two hours to get back. It took me six hours in total, and I used the commute to get some work done.
Did it suck at times? You bet it did. Did I often want to stay home, because of the long commute? Almost every single time. Did I go anyway and end up meeting a lot of great friends? You betcha!
The first steps towards building a new friend circle are set.
Now, it’s up to you (and me) to actually go to these social events and meet new people.
Maybe you’ll enjoy the classes and events. Or maybe you won’t. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the people you’ll meet there. Perhaps you won’t.
There are no guarantees. But building close relationships is a daring adventure, and sometimes it requires a step into the unknown.
5 PM, June 20th, 2018
“The traffic in LA is insane. After taking a cab from the airport, I arrive an hour late at the house.
Johnny immediately greets me with a big, warm welcome hug, and he proceeds by giving me a tour of the house.
Huge villa, full fridge, and whirlpool in the garden – I might just like it here.”