This post on how to turn acquaintances into friends was written by Timon from Techlecticism.com.
In the twelve years I’ve lived on my own, I’ve lived in 6 different cities. If I didn’t want to be forever alone, I had to learn to make friends. Luckily, it worked out. But as Rob can testify, it can be difficult, even weird, as you grow older – especially if you still ask people to build LEGO castles with you (it doesn’t work so well anymore). After leaving the parental nest, moving out for college, or grinding away in your 9-5, it takes a different kind of skill set. But the essence is still the same – if you want to build lasting relationships and turn acquaintances into friends, you need to open up to people and spend time with them.
You probably have acquaintances in your life, like that colleague you get coffee with or that “friend” that you catch up with every two months. But are these people good friends? Do you share your deepest secrets with them? Do you two actually “get” each other. If not, they aren’t a truly good friend. We often have relationships that are casual and superficial, but not very meaningful.
They could be good friends though.
So how do you take the relationship to the next level? Just ask someone to be a better friend? Funny idea, but it won’t work. Try following the organic process of making your acquaintances friends instead. Rather than forcing the relationship, you guide it.
Guiding the friend making process takes time. On average it takes about 50 hours of hanging out to go from acquaintance to casual friend. Becoming genuine friends takes around 90 hours of doing things together. But if you want to become besties, you need to spend 200 wholesome hours of fun time together!
These are just rough numbers though. Some activities (like asking the right questions) will build a friendship faster than others. But it relays an obvious truth – you’ve gotta put in the time.
So ask yourself, who do you want to be friends with? You can’t invest 200 hours of sweet friendship making with everyone. Choose the right people to befriend. If at any stage you think, hmmmm, this guy/gal is an ass, don’t be afraid to stop! There’s no use befriending toxic people. Don’t befriend people just because you’ve already invested some time, do it because you like someone.
That means not being a drag yourself as well! If you want to draw people closer, embrace positivity. Be upbeat and energetic. Nobody wants to hang out with a depressing source of constant complaints. Don’t be arrogant either, no matter how intelligent you are. Just like you, people want to have fun. Hanging out with you should have a certain levity. People want to be uplifted by you, not dragged down.
The irony might be that you want friends around you to feel better. But the first order of business is to start enjoying your life, pronto! Do things that you truly love. If you’re positive first, making friends will follow. So hone and cultivate your positive side. Show that you enjoy life, and share that enthusiasm!
(Too hard? Fine! Bond over your mutual hate of things and find enjoyment in that.)
Have fun as you slowly become friends, and don’t overanalyze all your actions. But do think in advance of the two processes of making new friends: opening up and spending time together, the two intertwined mechanisms of bonding. Let’s elaborate.
Making someone your buddy means creating an intimate bond. A bond between two people is not one link. Imagine it more as many small threads binding you to someone else. All these small threads create a strong bond. Being a bit acquainted means you have a few links. Being best buds is an unbreakable matrix of threads linking you.
Creating these links is done by opening up, creating connections, and finding out where you already link. Also, you need to accept others as they open up to you.
What do I mean by opening up? You share something that you wouldn’t tell to just anyone. You offer to help them. You show interest and your true thoughts, leaving yourself vulnerable.
Help someone out by doing them a favor. Invite them for a beer after work. If you open up and extend the invitation, you open the opportunity for friendship. If they accept, a small link is made.
In a fluid, friend-forging process, people will start returning the favor by opening up to you. Accept their offerings and make them feel welcome and comfortable.
Over time, you go from small gestures to bigger ones. If you try too hard though, you chase people away. Then you come off as too needy, which feels weird and icky. So don’t help the girl from sales with her taxes after meeting twice since you barely know her! Though she might be glad for the help – it won’t help create a lasting connection. Instead, try to be open and relaxed. Accept the vulnerability and put yourself on the line.
Another way to open up is through sharing – like sharing your french fries or buying someone a coffee. Small gestures can have great significance. You can even share your car or your place for a buddy to stay over.
Don’t be too hung up about keeping count of who shares more. In a healthy setting, it will sort itself out.
Besides stuff, share your thoughts and stories. Sharing what you think and like. Tell them what captivates you. And express your humor. Don’t wait for them to say something funny. When you make people think or laugh, you bond. Later, move on to the more vulnerable and sensitive stories.
It’s important to be authentic. Show your genuine interest. Show your curiosity by asking questions you actually care about, like their FORD themes (Family, Occupation, Relaxation & Dreams). But move beyond the basics as well. Think about what would you like to know about them? Ask them exactly that. And ask them why they feel that way.
Find out what you have in common! How do they spend their free time? What questions are on their mind? Slowly move to deeper and more emotional questions over time.
If you are interested and share your emotions and thoughts as well, people will feel appreciated and comfortable. You’ll start connecting on a deeper level. But it’s not just about the emotional connection, you need to do activities with each other too.
Do Stuff Together
In addition to opening up, you should simply do things together. This means you have to ask your acquaintances to hang out.
I mentioned the hours (200 for best friends, hot damn!), so get out there! Goofing around at the office builds friendships, but ever so slowly. Rock climbing, grabbing some brewskies or a sweet campaign of DnD is much more effective.
If you want to turn acquaintances into friends, go do something exciting and fun with them!
Easy! You kinda know your casual contact, since you’ve been opening up already. You’ve connected with them. You just need to have some guts and ask:
“Would you like to do [x] sometime?”
“I’m doing [y] later. Want to come with?”
Boom! Simple as that! You can use these exact words – no copyright here. If they agree, follow up to set up a time. Make sure you get a date and schedule it.
If you don’t succeed at first, try a few more times. People are busy, so they might decline. That doesn’t mean they are rejecting you. But if they continue declining, you can slow down or stop with the invites. It’s cool, there are plenty of other people are interested in making new friends, so try again with them.
So, what do you invite them to anyway?
Well, you‘ve talked, right? So you might have a pretty good idea of what things you have in common. Go do that! Or if you have something in mind you really like, share that experience! Grab a bite with your gym buddy or down some cafe-lattes with your neighbor. Take your new friend to that nature reserve you love.
Sharing an experience, especially with strong emotions, is fundamental to building a friendship.
And creating a challenge full of hardship once in awhile can be absolutely great. Undertake that 6-hour hike and grab a beer afterward to wallow in your muscle aches together. Sharing how hard and awesome the challenge was will greatly strengthen your connection.
Get Started Now
So what are you going to do? Invest time in people and be relentlessly positive! Undertake activities together and open up to them by sharing, helping, and showing interest. Repeat them ad infinitum.
Just keep on making that connection and doing stuff together. You will see that putting in the hours makes for awesome friendships.