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5 ways to expand your social circle

Posted by Karyn Polewaczyk  November 1, 2013 12:50 PM

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Now that we’ve got another World Series under our belt, you don’t have to look far for a vitriolic piece slamming Boston, the Little Big City People Love to Hate. The writers have their reasons (I won’t get into the sports stuff), but one thing that resurfaces time and time again is how cold and unfriendly we are, which tapers off of a complaint I hear often: it’s hard to make friends here.

Maybe it’s because I’m from New England, but I call BS. I’ve been to other cities that are notorious for being cold, if not rude—Paris, London, New York—and have found that, cultural differences and geography aside, it’s more of the same. In other words, we’re all just trying to figure it out; and yes, we want to make friends. There are exceptions, but what we perceive as a bad attitude is often a front for insecurity.

I moved here seven years ago not knowing many people, and over the course of that time, I’ve seen my own social circle shift as life changes. One thing that’s stayed consistent, though, is that I’m constantly meeting new people. (I won’t bore you with my thoughts on attraction and vulnerability; if you’re interested in learning more about that, check out Brené Brown’s TED talk.) Sure, some people don’t stick, and after a few friend “dates,” it becomes obvious that things won’t develop beyond the occasional cup of coffee. But some of those random encounters—saying hi to a stranger on a nearby towel at the beach; going to a birthday party for a friend of a friend even though I didn’t really feel like it at the time—have turned into some of my closest friends.

Here are the tactics, if you want to call them that, that have served me well. Of course, you can always stick to a tried-and-true method of sitting at home, alone, and complaining about how much Boston sucks. But that’s your call.

1. Schedule it

Look, we’re all busy. Using that as an excuse as to why you haven’t made new friends since college or how you’re so dedicated to your routine of going to the gym after work is just that—an excuse. And no one wants to hear about it.

I recommend a paper calendar, so that you can mark off the days of when you’ll be busy meeting new people. (Busy doing what? That’s for you to decide. Need suggestions? Keep reading.) Then, your commitments to yourself are staring you right in the face, a friendly but stubborn reminder to stay away from the couch.

2. Volunteer

I’m certainly not the first one to acknowledge the magic of volunteering—it feels amazing to give back, sure, but you’ll also be surrounded by like-minded people who care about the same cause(s) as you. I’ve been involved with several non-profits in Boston during my tenure in the city and have met some wonderful people along the way; if you’re drawing a blank on where to you can always use a site like VolunteerMatch.

3. Go out alone

I know, I know. I’m harping yet again on the glorious benefits of going out alone. But seriously: it’s worth it. Whether you’re new to Boston or you’ve outgrown your existing clique, going out alone increases the chances of meeting people. Why? Because when you’re not surrounded by a crew, you’re more approachable, romantically and platonically. Plus, if wherever you decided to go doesn’t fit the bill, there’s no need to check with multiple people if it’s okay to leave.

4. Join a professional organization

Like volunteering, joining a professional group will expose you to people who are like-minded, and probably also on similar career paths. Before you drop the “N” word—networking—I’ll say this: don’t view it as a merely way to climb the career ladder. It’s behavior that’s not only extremely shallow, but it’s transparent—smart people will see right through it. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet. Everything else, whether it’s plans to meet again for dinner or a job opportunity, will follow in time.

5. Use social media to your advantage

Social media can be a great way to connect with people—as long as you eventually emerge from behind the screen. I’ve used Facebook to reignite old friendships that have fallen by the wayside, and Twitter to spur friendships that eventually transferred offline. (What’s that? I met people from the Internet and I’ve crapped on online dating? Oh, I decided to join. For real. More about that in next week's post about how to get over your fear of dating online.) Just make sure you're following proper etiquette, a handy guide to which you can find here.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Karyn Polewaczyk lives and writes in Boston, and believes that heading out into that good night, like any adventure, begins with the first step. Let's Go Out is a conversation about dating and nightlife in our notoriously chilly city, with first-hand tips from the trenches. Karyn's writing, which focuses largely on women's lifestyle topics, has appeared in the Weekly Dig, Jezebel, xoJane, Northshore Magazine and, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @KarynPolewaczyk.

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