How to find some potential friends

To make friends you first have to find some possible candidates. There are two main ways to do this:

Draw on your current contacts

This won't apply to people who have just moved to a new area and don't know anyone, but often you'll already have the seeds of a social life around you. You don't necessarily have to go out and meet ten strangers to have one. It's often easier to turn existing contacts into full-fledged friends than it is to meet new ones.
There are probably a handful of people you already know who could end up becoming part of a new social circle. I'm talking about people like:
  • Acquaintances you're friendly with when you run into each other, but who you never see otherwise.
  • People at work or in your classes who you get along with.
  • Friends of people you know who you've gotten along with in the past.
  • Someone who has shown an interest in being your friend but you never really took up the offer.
  • People you very occasionally hang out with, who you could see more often.
  • Friends you've gradually lost contact with who you could get back in touch with.
  • For some people, cousins who are close to your age.

Meet some new people

Getting more out of your current relationships can go a long way, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes you're at a point where you need to meet entirely new people. Not having easy access to potential new friends is a big barrier for many people in creating a social circle. I go into more detail here: How To Meet People.
Overall, I'd say the easiest things to do are:
  • Put yourself in a situation where lots of potential friends are around, and you naturally have to get to know them through your day-to-day interactions. Work and school are the two big ones.
  • Meet one or two good people and then getting to know all their friends. If you hang out with fifteen people, you shouldn't have to have met them all individually.
  • Get into hobbies or communities where you'll naturally meet a lot of people, ones you already have something common with and a built-in activity/conversation opportunity to do with them.
Overall, meeting new people may require making an effort to pull out of your day-to-day routine. If most of your hobbies are solitary you might also need to add some more people-oriented ones to the mix. Also, the easiest way to naturally meet a lot of people is just to live a full, interesting life and run into lots of potential friends as a side effect.
Once you're in a situation with some prospective friends around, you need to strike up conversations and try to get to know them. You won't form a connection with everyone you interact with, but if you chat to enough people you'll find you like and get along pretty well with some of them. Once you've done that you could say you're now at the Friendly Acquaintance stage, or that they're context-specific contacts (e.g., work "friends").
If you have trouble with successfully meeting, chatting to, and getting to know people, you may want to check out the site's sections on shyness, fears, and insecurity and on making conversation.
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