Meeting People: why is it so hard?

So here’s the thing.

Deep breath. 

I’ve met someone.

It happened a few months back – I was at a meeting, they were at the meeting, our eyes met. We laughed at each other’s jokes. I didn’t really think any more of it.

Fast forward to the New Year and I was at an event where I didn’t know anyone. Except suddenly I looked up and – aha! – the day got significantly more interesting, especially when I overheard them telling someone how funny they thought I was (Although with hindsight, I hope it was meant in a good way, rather than, “God, she’s REALLY weird, isn’t she?”).

Through a bit of stalking that day and the following days I worked out the following:

  • We have several mutual friends, including members of my family
  • We both approve of DMs and Converse boots
  • We’re almost the same age – I’m a year older, depressingly, but we know the same bands and stuff. Which TOTALLY matters, right?
  • And… I’ve completely forgotten how to make new friends

It’s harder than actual dating, I think, which at least affords you the opportunity to get slightly drunk and launch yourself at a chap.

But put me in a situation where I meet a really funny, smart woman who I think would be a GREAT person to be friends with… and I’m clueless. What’s the etiquette here?

I do know her email address – but is emailing someone to invite them for coffee too impersonal? Should I get her phone number – or is that too stalker-y?

What if she thinks I’m making a pass at her? (I’m not, for the record) Or what if she turns me down?

Oh, God, the whole situation is just fraught with the potential for embarrassment.

The thing about making friends is you do it almost without knowing when you’re younger. Then there are NCT friends, who you’re forced to get to know because, honestly, nobody else is that interested in talking about your baby, and walking round the local park for four hours at a time with a cranky newborn. Most of my friends, I’ve known for years. A few friends I’ve made more recently through blogging which I’ve realised is a complete cheat’s way to make new friends because Tweeting your way to being friends is way easier than talking to an actual real-life stranger.

This stuff is so much easier for Flea who has recently announced that she has formed a “Best Friends’ Club” at school with three other girls she really likes. Apparently if you’re eight and want new friends, you just go to street dance together then buy them some Minnie Mouse “Best Friend” bath bubbles for Christmas.

I wish I was eight.

So – first of all, I’m in desperate need of assurances that I am not the only socially awkward adult woman who has entirely forgotten the process of how to make new friends. And second of all – advice! What would you do, if you were me?


Pic: Shutterstock 


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.


  1. 7th February 2014 / 9:28 am

    When I was younger I made friends really easily. Now, not so much. I prefer the quick friendships I’ve made on twitter and facebook.

    If I had to go out into the real world to make friends I’d be a wreck. I would love someone to come up to me though and invite me for a coffee and a chat I just hate making the first move.
    Daniella recently posted..Extended Rear Facing Car Seats (ERF)My Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:50 pm

      I don’t know. I need real world friends. I couldn’t exist with just online friends – although some of my loveliest real life friends started out as Twitter buddies. All the other friends, though, we met through some sort of common interest – work, NCT, toddler group – it’s HARD when your kids are older, isn’t it?

  2. 7th February 2014 / 9:32 am

    You are not alone!

    I am totally awkward in real life meeting new people. And some people who I consider my closest friends are those I have met through blogging and have yet to meet in real life!
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted..Goodbye January!My Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:51 pm

      I remember once having a debate with Kat from Housewife Confidential about whether someone you haven’t met can be a real friend – I am the sort of person who finds it hard to really feel like I know someone until I’ve met them in person – looked them in the eye, so to speak. Kat thought that was weird, though, which doesn’t bode well for me making new friends 😉

  3. 7th February 2014 / 9:35 am

    No advice from me Sally because I may actually match you on the socially awkward scale. I either hide in the corner, or start talking loudly and laughing at my own jokes (which are hilarious to be fair). But I’ll be reading the other replies and taking notes. Good luck anyway.

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:51 pm

      Laughing at your own jokes. Never a bad idea.

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:52 pm

      Pssht. That’s FAR too scary. And besides you then get the “did she get my email? did it go into spam? Maybe it didn’t go into spam, she just doesn’t want to reply” dilemma. Exhausting.

  4. 7th February 2014 / 9:51 am

    Making friends is ridiculously hard so don’t beat yourself up about finding it tricky. I would email her and just say: Hi, it was was lovely to see you again at xx. I’m sure you’re mega busy but let me know if you’d like to meet up for a coffee some time. As a writer I end up talking to walls, which becomes a bit one directional. Not sure if you’ve tried xx coffee shop but I’ve heard they do brilliant xxx. Let me know if you’d like to join me.
    Melissa recently posted..Lost propertyMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:52 pm

      Look at you, you smooth talker, you!

  5. 7th February 2014 / 9:51 am

    I’d blag tickets for a gig for one of the bands you both like and then get in touch saying that you’ve a spare and would they be interested, that way it’s just a social laugh and with a point.

    I’m really shy at doing that whole ‘be my friend’ thing though.
    jo recently posted..Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014My Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:52 pm

      *tries to imagine a world where I am cool enough to blag tickets to a gig*

  6. 7th February 2014 / 10:05 am

    I can completely relate to this. Even three years after having moved to Italy I still don’t have many friends, especially not non-mum friends. It definitely gets harder and more awkward as you get older. I’d send an email with a invite to coffee or something similar, because at the end of the day, I’d be very happy to receive one myself.
    Eline @ Pasta & Patchwork recently posted..Tasty Thursday – Strudel-ish filo parcelsMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:53 pm

      Yes, I’d be delighted. Mostly. Unless it was someone weird. Or someone I wasn’t keen on. That would be uber-awkward.

  7. 7th February 2014 / 10:21 am

    (1) Definitely not. I think ‘socially awkward’ should be my middle names…
    (2) If it was me? Hmmm… I’d probably add them on FB via mutual friends (assuming they were there) to see if they accept me, and try to chat a bit that way, and try to bump into them again at somewhere we both happened to be and hope I didn’t look like a stalker. Or just mope! But if you’ve already talked and exchanged e-mail then I don’t think it’s odd to say hi and see if she wants to meet up. I’m rubbish at making friends though, so ignore me 😉
    Anne-Marie recently posted..Individuality in Picture BooksMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 1:07 pm

      #2 there is what I’d do… we have mutual friends, we’ve chattered etc in person a little, so add as a friend, then have a wee chat on there. Meet up for a coffee and see how it goes!
      That’s how I’ve expanded my circle of friends over the last year, and it’s been a good way to do it. 🙂
      Marylin recently posted..Taking Stock: January 2014My Profile

      • 7th February 2014 / 3:53 pm

        I shall simply have to stalk her on social media, obviously.

  8. 7th February 2014 / 10:56 am

    You are not alone. I’ve been living up here for 18 months now, and I still hardly know a soul. My children are too old for me to do the ‘hanging out at soft play looking hopeful’ thing, and I feel ancient compared to the mums in the playground who have children the age of my youngest. Add in having six children between us and working from home and it’s blooming difficult. Funnily enough, my next book is about just that… you’ll have to wait a year to read it though! Maybe I’ll have made some friends by then (oh god that sounds tragic – I just miss having friends near enough to pop round after school for a glass or three of wine and a gossip).
    Rachael Lucas recently posted..Book review – Fangirl by Rainbow RowellMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:54 pm

      Moving to a new town is REALLY hard – I’ve done it, and it was soul-destroyingly-isolating for a while – and then I made friends, the kids all went to different schools, and I had to pretty much start over. Luckily (cough) I am ADORABLE so I managed to identify a few people who felt sorry enough for me to be my new friends – but it’s hard when you don’t work together, or have some common activity, I think.

  9. Cherished By Me
    7th February 2014 / 12:01 pm

    This has been a real issue for me lately because I feel due to life changes etc I have grown apart/lost touch with some friends but where on earth do I meet new ones at my age when I spend most of my time indoors alone staring at a computer. So, I don’t have any advice because I am rubbish at that sort of thing but you are not the only one and reading the comments above it seems to be a common problem. Was going to say something mushy there but changed my mind!! Anyway, let me know if you find a solution. 😀

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:56 pm

      Oh, tell me about it – moving from one end of the country to the other without knowing anyone was really hard, not least because I found myself clinging like a limpet to people I would otherwise NEVER have been friends with in the early days – but life’s too short to be sitting in front of a computer, lovely Nova – I would TOTALLY be your friend, so if I have to be brave, so do you 🙂

  10. 7th February 2014 / 12:28 pm

    This is something I am starting to worry about as my kids grow up. What if the wonderful friendships I’ve made through having children start to get more distant as the kids move to different schools and the mums end up working more or going back to work and we just don’t see each other any more. Will I need to make new friends? I hope not as I have no idea how to.
    As for what you should do I think either befriend her on Facebook and just get casually chatting that way. Or just bite the bullet and email her. I bet she’d be thrilled. Think about it the other way. What would you think if she emailed you wanting to meet up? You would be very happy about it. What have you got to lose?
    PhotoPuddle recently posted..‘If you had just one more day’ by islandgirlsjMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:56 pm

      I had that thing about kids going to different schools and it does break up some friendships simply because it’s a lot harder to find time to hang out and the kids grow apart which means they’re less keen to go and play with those children. But I did make new friends, through work, and blogging and some community stuff like Beavers and Cubs etc.

  11. 7th February 2014 / 12:53 pm

    You need to friend her on Facebook- then you can just put it out there that you’re going to XYZ- would any local friends want to join you? Tag a couple of locals folks (hell tag me) and wham bam thank you a coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks date is set. It’s what I do- works a charm!
    Lindy recently posted..The face of an ImmigrantMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:57 pm

      You are my new social secretary. It’s an unpaid role, naturally.

  12. 7th February 2014 / 2:00 pm

    Why is it that we reach adulthood and suddenly go all insecure and self-conscious? Sounds like you should be asking Flea for advice, not other middle-aged women who have no idea on social etiquette or how to make friends! In all seriousness, I would hunt her down on FB, request her as a ‘friend’ and if she ignores you then you know that she thinks you’re a stalker, if she accepts then I would say ‘all systems go’!

    • 7th February 2014 / 3:57 pm

      We’re middle aged??? Oh God, I’ll come back and reply more fully later, when the tears have stopped.

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:05 pm

      Nice. It’s good to have friends with a high threshold for such things.

  13. 7th February 2014 / 5:13 pm

    Email her…..what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll ignore it but you would have tried!

    I’m really shy in real life and tend to keep myself to myself unless I either know someone then I feel braver or an drunk then I love everyone 🙁

    Making friend used to be so easy but now I’m in my 30’s I tend to over think too much and worry too much.

    Do it!
    Emmys Mummy recently posted..What I’m thankful for this weekMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:05 pm

      Over-thinking – that’s it in a nutshell!

  14. 7th February 2014 / 5:53 pm

    I think Melissa’s suggestion is just right: email this woman and ask if she’d like to go out for coffee. If she doesn’t know that you are indeed straight (and you want to ensure she doesn’t think you are coming on to her) maybe mention any school run commitments that you have to work around in terms of meeting in the morning/afternoon. It’s not a sure way of showing that you are straight but it helps. And good luck. Goodness knows it is hard to make new friends, especially when you don’t commute to an office to work!

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:06 pm

      You make friends on the commute? I thought the commute was when you studiously avoided making eye contact with anyone? Or is that just London?

  15. Snafflesmummy
    7th February 2014 / 5:53 pm

    You are not alone. Making new friends is hard.
    Here is what you should do,
    1. Stalk her social media and ensure she doesn’t refer to weird new person she has met, assuming she hasn’t then
    2. Text or email her inviting her for a drink, this allows her time to think and not feel obliged to say yesa no means you don’t have to look disappointed if she says no.
    If you don’t ask you will never know. And if she says no you haven’t really lost anything.
    Good luck

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:06 pm

      Excellent. Stalking is such a good basis for a new friendship 😉

  16. 7th February 2014 / 6:06 pm

    I find this super hard as well!! We’ve moved to a new city this year and I have found myself really missing having people around who already know (and love) me.

    I agree with the Facebook requests. Seems like an easy way to put it out there.

    (Lovely to finally meet you, by the way!!)
    Alison Chino recently posted..In The Pipeline + Keep on Walkin’My Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:07 pm

      Moving is hard isn’t it?!

      Facebook does make this stuff easier, although sometimes the challenge with Facebook is it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone of being Facebook friends – I’m a huge believer that sometimes, especially with the job I do, you kinda need to leave the house and talk to real people 🙂

      It was great to meet you, too – can’t wait for May!

  17. 7th February 2014 / 6:13 pm

    I’d cherish the thought of just finding a potential friend. Since moving 12 months ago across the country I still haven’t met a friend. Being self employed and kids too old to do school run is isolating. If you find the answer to walking up to complete strangers and starting a friendship please let me know. Oh the joy of being a self employed singleton!

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:09 pm

      Oh Candace – that’s really tough and believe me, I’ve been there having done the “moving to a town where we don’t know anyone” thing. What worked for me was joining everything when Flea was young. As she got older, the old trick of volunteering has been great – I am an assistant leader with the local beaver scout group, a member of the local health club, and I help out at various events, which has been great for meeting people. Apart from that, I think it’s important to step out of your comfort zone a bit and meet some of those people you meet online – some of my loveliest friends now are people I met online, but we always make the effort still to meet up for lunch, coffee, a movie, or an evening at home. Best of luck!

  18. 7th February 2014 / 7:39 pm

    I have serious issues with this, too. I do the Facebook thing and I have grown friendlier with some that way – it does mean you aren’t lost for words when you bump into each other (“Oh, did you get your boiler fixed?”, “How’s the rabbit?”, “So, should you really be living in the 1980s, or do you think you’d be happier in the 1920s?”). But sometimes it means you have this weird thing of feeling closer to someone than you really are. I think of a lot of nearby Facebook friends as close friends, but only have a handful of their numbers (mostly for the purposes of our children’s play dates) and there’s not many I’d phone up to chat to if I were feeling down or to share some exciting (which is what I used to do with friends way back when). That is almost certainly more down to me than them, though. I’m not very good at phoning people. I’m pretty brilliant at it for work purposes now and my calendar is overflowing with conference calls these days, but ask me to sit and chat about ‘stuff’ and there’s only maybe three people I can comfortably do that with.

    So, yeah, you’re not the only one. Does that make you feel better? Do you want to have a coffee some time? 😉
    Tasha Goddard recently posted..You ChooseMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:10 pm

      Yes – Facebook is lovely but I think you can get stuck in a rut of talking online, and I don’t it satisfies that social itch as much as a couple of hours spent chatting over coffee – and I think that’s really how you get to know people, not trading quips on Twitter, as fun as that is, obviously.

      I am ALL about the coffee. And lunches. My Northern bloggy lunches are one of my favourite ways to skive, every few months 🙂

  19. Justine
    7th February 2014 / 7:40 pm

    It is so much easier when you’re little. We recently moved (in fact, I think I might be living very near you!) up here from the South of England and I do feel like I’m wearing a “please be my friend” badge most of the time. In fact, I might suggest a “friendship bench” for parents in the school playground at pick up! I’ve taken the bull by the horns though and through the odd catching their eye, quick smile (this really does sound dating doesn’t it?!), got their mobile number and now made some really lovely mummy friends. Go for it I say!

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:12 pm

      It really IS like dating isn’t it? Except harder because there’s no alcohol. Mostly.

      When I moved back up North after 14 years away, it was incredibly hard and it really, really did take time to find people I felt I connected with, and then when the kids started schools, I sort of had to start again. I’m curious now, though, where do you live?

  20. 7th February 2014 / 8:20 pm

    I’d definitely ask them if they wanted to meet for coffee sometime, or cinema?

    I’m quite lucky as every time one of my kids start school there’s a new influx of people wanting to make friends which is nice, but I’m not looking forward to what happens after that. I’m only socially good after alcohol 🙂
    Emma recently posted..Super Baobab SmoothieMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:14 pm

      Lucky you – I’m lucky that Flea goes to quite a nice school but I’m very definitely in the minority as a working parent, so school isn’t a particularly rich source of new friends – although, ironically, I’m friends with one other Mum who is also a working Mum and we most often bump into each other on the train platform waiting for the morning train down to London (although she’s a chief executive so she gets to travel first class, while I’m back in oik class). Most of the Mums who are good friends there go to the Friends of the School lunches, riding after the morning drop-off etc. I’m the wastrel who dashes in to late room at 5pm because I got stuck on a conference call 🙂

  21. 7th February 2014 / 8:30 pm

    You could always at least ASK her if she likes streetdance. You never know, right?
    Failing that, sending a tweet saying “We must catch up, how about I come over to yours for some food.” seemed to work really well for Annie Spratt when she decided I would be her friend!
    Actually Mummy… recently posted..What to get a nine year old for her birthday!My Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:14 pm

      But I’m rubbish at Street Dance. She’d disown me cos, like, I got no moves.

  22. 7th February 2014 / 8:43 pm

    My approach to endearing myself to women who I am interested in befriending isn’t altogether that successful. I start by making crap jokes, follow it up with some brutal brain mouth connection fails, and generally finish by offering cake. The cake may be why I actually have any friends!
    Purplemum recently posted..Book review – Waiting For Summer by Anna-Maria AthanasiouMy Profile

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:15 pm

      Cake should never be underestimated as a social lubricant. I can’t cook, so I rely on meeting people who are easily pleased by my sarcasm.

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:15 pm

      I think that’s excellent and really brave – I sort of wish I could do that, it’s not that I’m scared per se, perhaps just too self-conscious for my own good!

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:16 pm

      Really? Well, Becky, you must come and join us at a Northern Bloggy Lunch and make some real friends, because we are all completely amazing and you’ll love us. I am ESPECIALLY adorable.

  23. 7th February 2014 / 9:53 pm

    Ok, so if you have mutual friends then why don’t you try to arrange something for all of you? You’ll have a chance to get to know her better then without the pressure of it being just the two of you?

    It is definitely harder as you get older. When I was a young woman I made friends so easily. Now, not only has everyone got more baggage and become more cautious, but I am also far more picky. I just don’t meet people I click with instantly very often any more.

    So yeah. I’d go with the group thing first. Then you can always ask her for her number and go from there.

    • 7th February 2014 / 10:17 pm

      I am VERY picky and I’m so much less tolerant in some ways – but like you I don’t often meet people (especially living in a small town) who I really think, “Oooh, she’s REALLY fun!” I have to sort of restrain myself from flinging myself at them and refusing to let go until they agree to be my friend. Neediness like that can be rather off-putting, apparently…

  24. 8th February 2014 / 3:56 pm

    Oh this is such a great post – and no, you are totally 10000% not alone. Its so hard. I find that as I am getting older I am struggling more and more to make friends, it just doesn’t seem to work like it used to. I would just keep doing what you are doing, maybe the other woman feels the same way?

    I love that you are so honest about it… my husband thinks I’m crazy when I say i find it hard to make friends as I am a really chatty person, but just because I click with someone or chat to them, doesn’t mean it goes to the next step of exchanging numbers or going for drinks… how the hell do you even get there anyway!!!

    Harriet x
    Harriet recently posted..Breastfeeding in Public: What is the big deal?My Profile

  25. 9th February 2014 / 10:10 pm

    Add her on Facebook!

    I made a new friend only a few weeks ago! She added me on FB (out of curiosity as I used to date her husband). I sent her a few PM’s on chat, saying I’d love to get to know her better, and did she want to meet for a beer one evening. She said yes. Since then, I’ve met up with her several times, helped her paint her hallway, been to a dinner party with her and her husband, been out for drinks, taken her to pick up her Asda order, and she came to Manchester with me and watched the twins while I went in to a blogger event for two hours. We talk every day on FB or text. One night, when I was uncomfortable at work, she not only loaned me a skirt, but she walked to my work and brought it to me at 1am!

    It’s bizarre, but she was the unlikeliest of friends and it turns out, that she and I are very alike. I felt very silly, when I sent that first message, asking if she wanted to go for beers, but now I’m so pleased I did.
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  26. 16th February 2014 / 7:59 am

    My heart is gladdened by such warm, sweet and considered replies. I feel a mere husk of a person in comparison when I say the key is; meet up, get really drunk together, tell her all…equals……A BOND THAT IS STRONGER THAN BLOOD!

  27. Catherine
    20th February 2014 / 3:18 pm

    You’re so right, it’s near-impossible to make new friends the second you get out of education! I reckon you should send her an email. What’s the worst that can happen? If she says no or ignores you, you’re in the same situation as you would be if you didn’t email at all!

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