Whether you're new to a city or want to strengthen your connections in your hometown, these tips can help.
Whether you have lived in your city forever or are brand new to a place, creating community is one of the best things you can do to improve your quality of life. It can feel intimidating to set out with the intention of making friends and finding people to spend time with; however, these efforts are always worth it. We need human interaction and connection. Rather than waiting for it to come to you, why not be the person who takes the initiative to create it?
Here are four tips to find and create a community that works for you, wherever you live:
1. Try new things.
Finding people with whom you want to make lasting connections can be a challenge. Branch out a bit and try new things! Similar to college preview week or a career fair, take the time to explore some options. Find out what organizations in your cities do volunteer days, and sign up for a few. If you’re the sporty type, sign up for an adult kickball or softball team. Go to a Meet-Up, which has a group for literally any interest you can imagine. Try a few fitness classes or that dance class you’ve been wanting to take! Think about the life you’re trying to create and the sort of friends you’re looking to attract, and go do things in that wheelhouse. You never know who you might meet while pursuing your own interests.
2. Find a “third place.”
Coffee shops employ the theory of having a “third place” — an idea that we have a home and a job, but we all need a “third place” where we go regularly to hang out. Your third place might be a coffee shop, a yoga studio or a library. Find a few places that feel good and commit to spending time there! If your third place is a church or temple, a yoga studio, or somewhere that offers workshops, sign up for one that interests you. Learning with new people can be a great way to make some personal connections with like-minded folks, and to actually have the chance to talk and connect beyond a quick hello.
3. Be the organizer!
Part of building community is being willing to be vulnerable. In truth, most people want to be included but haven’t been invited yet. Why not be the person who invites others instead of waiting around to be invited? If you have some people in your social network who are on the cusp between acquaintances and real friends, why not invite them to do something with you? Organize a game night or a party, and ask them to come and encourage them to bring their spouse or a friend — widen the circle even more. If you’re part of a volunteer group or a class meeting time at a gym, set up a Facebook event and suggest a meal after an event. If you’re starting with just a person or two from work or another situation, get their number and follow through with a text inviting them to hang out. Be proactive!
4. Be the community you want to see.
Life is busy, and it’s easy to make excuses as to why you’re not going to birthday parties or showing up to classes or reading your book club book and going to meetings. Break the spell of the couch and Netflix, and get out of the house! Go watch your co-worker’s band one Friday night. Take your acquaintance’s yoga class. Scan the Facebook invites you usually ignore and pick an event each week to attend. When you show up, not only do you put yourself in a position to meet new people and build the community around you, you also communicate to others that you care about them and your relationship. Effort begets effort, and the next time you’re trying to rally your people, it is likely they’ll be eager to show up for you. Don’t just do the big things: say hello to new people! Wish your acquaintances a happy birthday (Facebook counts!). If a community is a priority, you need to act like it is, and community-building is like a muscle: it gets stronger the more you use it.