Want to Make New Friends? Meet, Greet & Don’t Make the Conversation all About You

We hear all the time that people at our older ages have a harder time making new friends. We’ve suggested many ways of doing so in prior blogs—taking a class of any kind, signing up to do volunteer work, joining a house of worship, getting a part-time job, finding a book club that has openings which may be at a library or community center. 

In our quest to find new friends, one of the cardinal rules we’ve learned to have people become interested in us—there’s no certainty they’ll like us, is to show interest in them. 

This is so basic, yet so many miss the mark (with old friends, too). 

Here’s how we recommend proceeding if you like the person you meet, want to get to know them better and maybe become friends. Remember, it takes a while to develop a real friendship. Instantaneous ones often go up in smoke. It’s better to build it slowly so it glows for the long term. 

Here are some steps to point you in the right direction: 

  1. Focus on them, enough about you. Ask some questions. This can be tricky. You don’t want to ask too many, so they feel you’ve put them on the witness stand with you as the prosecuting attorney. Ask a few to show your interest and get them to open up. Be sincere in your inquiries and don’t sound nosey. This first meeting is a dance of back and forth, like a tango. 
  2. Make the questions ones that will help shed light on what they careabout and not the ones that talk about their financial situation or status. For example, ask how they spend their time (not their money) it might be work still or a hobby or with grandkids if they’re lucky. Don’t ask where they grew up, went to college or grad school, summer camp since they may not have gone or even where they live now. That type of information can come later since it doesn’t really shed light on who they are inside and their core. 
  3. Give them space to talk and don’t interrupt with another question and another question before they’ve answered the prior one. This isn’t speed dating, shifting from one person to another and also from one topic to the next. 
  4. Bag the really personal questions(until you know them better and have formed a connection) about their parents, siblings, kids, a partner or spouse—they may not like any of their relatives or have any. These are topics that may come out in more conversation. Patience is key. For those of us who are naturally curious, like us, this is a hard dictum to follow. 
  5. Initially, try to steer clear of religion and politics, too. Those topics can become very heated as most of us know. Again, if they practice a religion or care deeply--pro or con about a political party or candidate it will come out if you get to know each other better. 
  6. Find some noncontroversial or prosaic topics to talk about—maybe restaurants if you met standing online at a grocery store or restaurant line or vacation spots can be good fodder though some may talk ad nauseum about their expensive trips around the globe. Barbara recently met a neighbor because he was wearing a T-shirt from a lobster pound in Maine, a favorite destination of hers and her family. She inquired where it was, and one thing led to another. A longish initial pleasant conversation led to an exchange of names and emails. She then met another at a Pilates studio; she commented on the woman’s wonderful red socks, and lo and behold they began chattering and made a date to have dinner with their husband/partner, and had so much fun they quickly made another date. 
  7. Pick up on clues. If they’ve been talking the entire time and forget to “toss the ball back” to ask about you, you may take note. Many don’t know to do this and that may kill your interest in a potential friendship. But know they may simply be shy socially and need more time to engage you, or they may pick up on how you handle the banter and follow suit and ask about you. The early encounters are a time to play friendship detective without bringing out your Peter Falk raincoat and other tools of the trade. 
  8. Decide if you want to pursue the possibility of friendship more. Maybe friendship date No. 2 you go for a casual coffee or glass of wine. Throw out the idea and see the reaction. If they’re always too busy or have an excuse about why they cannot meet, that will be an obvious clue that this is not a friendship match. If you do, it’s best to take it slowly with new friends, so you’re sure you’re the start of a good match. No need to rush even at our advanced ages. 
  9. Know that every random encounter may not land on the side of a win and possible friendship. But you’ll learn how easy it becomes to try, get in the groove and we bet some will become strong possibilities, not necessarily besties forever but casual friends. And at this age, that’s a winning start. 
  10. Maybe the first meeting went well, you get together again and find you have little in common. Too many gaps in the conversation or you are diametrically opposed politically can be the friendship’s death knell. Perhaps politics is one topic that can be avoided if you really like the new friend for perhaps their kindness and style, great wit or vast knowledge about a topic such as art or music. And you learn to ignore that topic or engage in a respectful discourse and hear each other out. 

Finding new friends is both an art and a science. Finess your skills (the art). Whether there’s good chemistry is part of the science. Most important, be true to yourself ; don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. That isn’t true friendship and who needs this kind of stress at our older ages, anyway.



  • Vicki Rashbaum Horowitz

    Really like this topic. Going through this right now since we moved over one year ago to a new state, new section of US and in a different type of living environment. I liked your article a lot. Thanks a lot.

  • Carol

    Great ideas and suggestions. Especially in today’s highly fractured and siloed world. Oh, the answer is of course, Walden!

  • Debbie

    Great tips! But hard to avoid the “where are you from” question.
    (Hey girls, what high school did you go to 😉?)

  • Audrey Steuer

    Excellent advice! Perfect for relocating or even for trying to make new friends in our own communities.

  • Bruce

    Spot on – could be required reading for people like me who could use these great tips

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