“Sociologists have kind of identified the ingredients that need to be in place for us to make friends organically, and they are continuous unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability,” “But as we become adults, we have less and less environments where those ingredients are at play.”
When I first took over Toronto Dance Salsa in 2015, I never felt so lonely as I did then. It was insane. I had hundreds of people, wanting to dance with me, talk with me, and yet, I would walk home and I would just have this emptiness inside me.
I was like “there must be something wrong with me. What’s happening?”
Then I realized what the problem was…
Here are three things you can do to not feel lonely and make friends:
- Take a class: Dance classes are amazing but really any type of class. There’s something to be said when you can come in on a weekly basis to the same class, with the same people, and have a chance to actually build connections with. A chance to strike up conversations with, be comfortable with because you are all learning and going through the same experience. Now, a dance class is easy is an easy win. Not because I run a dance school that I say it but because it saved my life. When I first started doing dance, those classmates that I would go through the levels with became my friends. We would go out after class to grab drinks, go to Latin clubs, spend birthdays with. It was amazing. Now maybe dance isn’t something you are open to, cool…take rock climbing, archery, anything where you can attend weekly (this is important) and learn something. Not just get a gym membership…Take knitting, doesn’t matter.
- Be vulnerable: Sociologists find that you can’t just have conversations in adulthood to make friendships happen (any age really) you also need vulnerability. This was the thing that was missing in my life. I realized as I took over the dance school, I had hundreds of conversations but they were all just empty. “Hey what TV show are you watching?” “Hey, what music do you listen to?” “Hey, how’s your day going?” Honestly, that’s what we do, mostly day-to-day, at work, even with our family, we don’t really talk about things that we forget in 2 minutes. Remember we always remember how we felt doing something not what we did or what we said. So what I realized I had to change about myself was to genuinely be interested in the people I’m talking to and be interested in their life. Every time I would strike up a conversation it wouldn’t end with “Hey what do you do for fun?” and they would reply “Oh I like___ or I do ____” and then I would follow up. “What pulled you into that?” Then listen but it didn’t stop there. I began to talk about things that made me insecure, I would share my hopes and dreams…crazy I know. But suddenly I started to build meaningful connections, deep deep friendships, honestly, deeper friendships that I had when I was a student.
- Ask people for their contact: I wish I was told this tip to just exchange numbers, create WhatsApp groups, Facebook group etc…I was waiting for someone to pull me up. What I didn’t realize is everyone is waiting for someone do that. So why not you? Well yes, it’s scary, it’s so hard…are you kidding me. What if they so no, what if they reject you? Here’s the thing, if you never ask, it’s always a no. So trial and error, and sometimes people will say no and it’s okay. Trial and error, nothing is a failure if you don’t stop, it’s all just falling down. You can get up if you fall, no? You see, if you never ask, if you never try to build that, if you never put yourself out there, not only do you not give yourself a chance, but you miss out on all the shots you never took. I think the thing that I regret most is so many moments when great people walked out of my life simply because I was too scared to set something up to exchange a phone number. I’m not talking about romantic relationships, picking people up. I’m talking about people you get to call friends and someday call your family. Connections can’t happen if we don’t connect…exchange Instagram contact info, whatever.
So go take a class, on the regular, as you are in class, share, connect, no fluff talk, and finally exchange contacts. Set up movie nights, dance nights…ping pong nights. Whatever. I have learned in life that loneliness is a choice…I still feel lonely.
The choice is if I stay in it or I pick up a phone and call someone. Your choice is if you stay in the feeling or you take a chance and go and put yourself out there. It’s a numbers game and an hour’s game but that’s why I loved to dance.
It was fun, challenging, people want to do it, fun is built, week by week you come in and learn and grow together. You dance with people in 2’s (Salsa, Bachata) and build comradery.
Check out this study in the journal of social and personal relationships: Casual friendships emerge around 30 hr, followed by friendships around 50 hr. Good friendships begin to emerge after 140 hr. Best friendships do not emerge until after 300 hr of time spent.
So, it’s a numbers game family, hours in, a vulnerability in, contacts in given time. You make friends, we can all make friends.
If you have any questions you would like me to answer here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodanceSalsa), on Twitter (#torontodanceSalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].