6 min read
01 May

Last week, The Next Half discussed why we all need a Friend Group. I’m excited and thankful to say that you, my lovely Readers, responded as asked and brilliantly contributed to the light-hearted list provided. Together we reached the goal of listing 20 reasons why we need a FG. What a great response! What a great list! What a great group! 

Today, let’s delve deeper into this topic. Let’s discuss why now is the perfect opportunity to re-examine our Friend Groups and explore a process to do this.  Let’s also provide helpful tips to address areas of concern raised by some of our readers. 

Perfect Opportunity for FG Re-evaluation 

50+ seems to be an opportune time when many chose to re-evaluate their Friendship Groups. Some of us may feel more friends are needed, but wonder how to possibly start this search? For others, maybe it’s time to purge the contact list, to evaluate quality over quantity, and to focus on select existing friends. Whatever your goal, the fact remains that now is an ideal time for FG re-evaluation. Psychologists classify friendships according to separate life stages, of which “later life” is one. Our 50+ age, coupled with the fact that we are finally emerging from the social isolation of Lockdown, provide us a perfect opportunity to reflect on the makeup and size of our ideal Friend Group. 

But where to start? 

Perfect Opportunity for Some Self-Reflection 

We all understand that mates are an integral part of a contented life and that the size and personality type of the ideal Friend Group varies according to individual taste. But do we recognise what we currently value to understand if our FGs are provide that? Let’s consider what’s important to us now knowing that it doesn’t have to be the same as it was in the past. Values and needs change with time. Where are we now? The process of our FG re-evaluation can start with some self-reflection. 

Let’s ask ourselves some probing questions: What attributes do we value in our friends and in ourselves? What interests and values do we prioritise? Do we need our FGs to be present and available? To provide us advice, counsel, or simply a laugh?

Perhaps a place to start is last week’s blog which highlighted some key reasons we need Friend Groups. Are these reasons important to you too? Does your FG fulfil these needs? 

Let’s also recognise the important attributes we bring to our friends. Are we a good listener, conversationalist, advisor, or problem solver? Are we fun to be with? Proactive? Energetic? Are we reliable? Kind? Gentle? What do we like about ourselves and what do others like about us? 

Once we’ve identified both what we are looking for in a Friend Group and what we bring to it, then we can re-examine our current FGs and decide if we are content with their size and make-up. 

Categorising The Friend List 

This process of putting friends into lists, called “social categorisation” in some science circles and an aspect of Friendology to academics, can be tricky. Where to start? 

During the last year, I’ve felt that the lockdown clarified my core FG. I’ve also found categorisation seems easier since the pandemic. There are people on the outer periphery of FGs - people I would theoretically hang out with normally leading my life outdoors - who making the effort of a video chat just didn’t feel right. Do I want to continue to invest the time to focus on them once the lockdown is fully lifted? Maybe. That’s an individual decision directly related to our own personal goals and values for our FG.

I have a suggestion of how to make this clearer for each of us. Let’s use a list-making strategy to categorise our FGs. This is the simple but effective: open your contact list and divide the names into “Yes, Neutral, Pass” categories. 

The “Yes” list includes names of people who help me be “The Best Me”. I believe we all must try to surround ourselves with positive, nurturing people, who share and identify with our individual values. This list can have one name or many on it. The key is they feel ideal to you. I consider my Yes List to be treasures whom I adore and appreciate and are critical to my happiness and fulfilment. These people comprise my core FGs. 

The “Neutral” list is next. This list is usually longer than the “Yes” list as it can be comprised of friends you see infrequently but still want to keep in your orbit. Some of us may even add people whose path we have crossed but we don’t really know. For example, the best friend you went to school with but haven’t seen for 30 years, or the individual you once worked with and enjoyed.

This “Neutral” list could be further subdivided for those that want to get fancy into “weak ties”. Some may include on their Neutral List the person you haven’t directly met but with whom you live in the same neighbourhood or meet frequently at the same local business. Mark Gravonetter, a Stanford sociologist, coined the term “weak ties” in 1973. I believe he thought that having an “an outer circle” Friend Group was just as important our inner circle FG, those people on our “Yes” list. Let’s expand on this to help clarify our “Neutral List”. Let’s ponder that the extent to which people were separated during the pandemic from their “Neutral” category’s moderate or weaker ties provides an opportunity for clarity on whom each of us can focus once “normalcy” returns. Who or which “weak tie” would we like to keep in your orbit? That’s our “Neutral” list.

The “Pass” list, the one for culling, would include friendships which have proven disappointing, dishonest, energy draining, or lacking a healthy balance. Let’s decide if it’s really worth our energy to focus here, if our time may be more fruitfully spent on the “Yes” or “Neutral” categories and adjust our attention accordingly.

After this self-reflection, it’s time to ask: are we satisfied with its depth and breadth? Some of us may feel content where we are, and that’s great. Others may choose to tweak their numbers. Reducing the size of your Friend Group is not meant to be mercenary or mean. It simply frees time to focus on our chosen friends. 

If we wish to expand our Friend Group, let’s understand that we are not alone. It is statistically normal at this age to experience a dip in friend levels. But, why? 

Why a Dearth of Friends? 

Our age group often faces a dearth of friends, and so even the most brave and social 50+ may find themselves short of buddies. Here are some top factors which may collide to shrink our ideal friend base: 

  • Our besties move away. Or we do.
  • We no longer can make friends at the school gate because our kids got older, and we thus aren’t needed at the gate.
  • Divorce, which has the highest rate in people our age, can cause friends to choose the partner with whom they will align, often resulting in a freeze out of the other one in the former couple.  
  • End of a career means work friends are seen less regularly. 

When this is analysed, it is understandable why many wish to top up their Friend Group. This dearth of friends provides a perfect opportunity for self-reflection and prioritisation of what we value in ourselves and in friends. Once we understand that, we can strategize on how to find more friends.

How to Find New Friends 

Two more points to ponder

Several readers have reached out looking for ways to make new friends. All of the plans suggested below require searching inside ourselves to enhance our self-belief and proactivity levels. I know this is difficult for some. On this note, I would like to mention two “points to ponder” before introducing the how-to list.

One: Some readers have shared their issues with self-belief and fear of rejection. Thank you for having the courage to share this. In this blog, I suggested we may wish start our FG re-examination process by first writing a list of all that we recognise as amazing about ourselves. I believe remembering that list - even reciting it every morning and night - plays an important role in enhancing self-belief. Try it please. Let’s remember that knowing and believing in yourself is the first proactive step to finding more friends. 

Two: I firmly believe in the importance of being proactive whilst also recognising that we each control the speed of our proactivity. This pace must stay within a zone we are comfortable with, and not faster or slower than that.  Let’s recognise that being proactive starts with pondering the issue and becoming focused on moving towards the goal. We dictate the pace. Let’s take comfort in that. 

Tips on How to Find New Friends 

And now, here are some helpful tips on how to find more mates:  

1. Start with your current list. Look at the “Yes” list you created. Dedicate more time to reach out to these people and make plans. Email, text, call, Skype them. Be proactive. Tell them you’d like to see them more and suggest dates and activities.

2. Ask for an Acquaintance’s contact number:  If you have someone who you have just met and like a lot, ask for their number! Invite them for a walk or cup of tea and get to know them. You never know where that may lead and what a compliment that is to receive. The world is full of people looking for another buddy.

Note: If they say no, let’s remind ourselves that maybe they are simply too busy now, not that they don’t want to meet us. You’re amazing and so feel it. If you believe in what you can offer a friendship, they will see and feel that too.

3. Use the internet! As some readers may remember, I’m a big fan of the benefits of social media, if used with caution. The internet provides many ways of finding new friends:

  • Join a Facebook Group based on an interest or skill: there are so many covering almost every topic you could think of. Identify an interest and search for a Group. Examples are endless and include, dog walking, cooking, gardening, painting, writing, travel… 
  • Take an on-line, live course which provides the opportunity to mix with others. I took a great course on learning more about social media and another Finding My Mojo and in both I found some fabulous, like-minded new buddies. 
  • Research some meet-up websites devoted to matching friends. I don’t have any personal knowledge or experience with these but know people who say they have been helpful.

 4. Join a local gym class or exercise group.  Don’t be shy! Find a local gym you like or an exercise Group (in person or online). If you can’t find an exercise group, perhaps start one! Be proactive. Walking groups are every popular.

5. Identify/ Explore Personal Interests and Hobbies:

  • Join a local Club: Many communities have social clubs or clubs specialising in hobbies such as bridge, painting, comedy, etc. Find recommendations, join one which fits you, and start a conversation with someone you may meet. See Suggestion 2.
  • Start A Club. Reach out to some acquaintances you like to see if they’d like to join a Group based on your shared interests. Starting a Book Club is a popular way to gather.  You’ll be surprised how many people are looking to join one. Other ideas could include crafts and arts, cooking or recipe sharing, visits to museums or cinemas, even travel.

6. Join Local Woman’s Group or Woman’s Institution. They exist all over the world with different names. Here in the UK they are called WI. Investigate joining your local one. Help modernise it if needed, such as offering to join a committee to increase membership.

7. Volunteer. This can provide fertile opportunity to meet others. Pursue your interest and volunteer, whether it be in local politics, schools, GP’s office, library, charity shop, place of worship.

Today we have covered lots of ground. We've discussed reasons to re-examine our FGs,  introduced a process to do so and provided some helpful tips to address a few areas of concern which have been raised.

I hope you have found this topic interesting. Have these suggestions made you think? What has resonated with you?  What else would you like to discuss about Friend Groups? 

I always appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments. Please continue to write! Please also share The Next Half with your friends. 

I love that our Readers are now communicating with each other on topics raised in these blogs. 

Let's continue the discussions.

 Next week, we are taking a turn to another topic: Invisibility. Stay tuned.

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