I'm not going through an easy phase in life. I turned 25 recently and feel like I'm in a "quarter-life crisis" for lack of a better word.

Stumbling on this article on this website just exacerbated the way I'm feeling right now, which is an awareness of my lack of friends or any real support structure. I see classmates and acquaintances navigating their way through life after college and they have networks of friends to fall back on. Even if they're living in a new city or state, they have people they can call if things get really bad.

I've been a loner most of my life and for a while I took a certain pride in my belief that I didn't "need" other people. Spending my 25th birthday alone because I had no friends to spend it with was one of the things that dealt a blow to that big facade I've had in front of me for as long as I can remember. Having to hire movers to help me move out of my apartment because I didn't have anyone I could ask for help was insult to injury. Playing fantasy football in an online potluck league with people you've never met and never will meet just isn't as much fun.

I don't like the prospect of going to concerts alone and have only been to two in my life as a result. I've always wanted to go camping and never have, because I've never had anyone to go with. The list goes on.

My love life is equally barren. I haven't been on a date in three years and really have never had a serious girlfriend. I feel like I'm still 15 years old in that department in terms of competence and confidence. I've never had any friends to learn how to talk to girls from or to get advice on relationships from. And, at the end of the day, if there's not even anyone who'll be my friend, why would any girl want to date me?

I've been scouring the Internet looking for advice on how to form actual, substantive friendships. It all seems to be geared to people in high school and college. Advice to "get involved on campus" isn't much help to a 25 year-old who graduated more than three years ago. The military is a non-starter for me; it doesn't fit in with my career goals and, politics aside, I have no desire to risk life and limb for all the unnecessary wars that both Democrats and Republicans have started over the years.

At risk of making a Hangover reference, I've always been a lone wolf and never had a wolf pack to be part of. How do I find one? (Because I really don't want to one day find myself being the awkward bachelor party add-on who's only there at the behest of the bride).

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You don't have to be involved on campus ... but, you do have to be involved somewhere.  Nobody -- male or female -- is going to find you when you're sitting on your couch.


Don't go out looking for friends.  Go out looking for something worthwhile to do, and see who you meet when you get there.  You said you want to go camping.  So, what are you waiting for?  A great place to meet people who like camping ... is at a campsite.  Worst case scenario ... you don't meet anybody ... you still got to go camping/ fishing/ hunting/ whatever.  Zero downside.

You don't need to look for friends.  You need to look for fulfilling pass-times and organizations, during which people can find you.  You need to get your ass out of the house.  Join clubs, charities, church groups ... whatever.  Volunteer for something.  Go to tailgates.  Hang out at freaking sports bars at gametime (where you're bound to meet fantasy football enthusiasts).  Go somewhere that there will be people who will share an interest in something.

Online dating is a possibility for meeting women.  Worked well for my brother.


JB

I was in your situation, and older.  Today I'm married; I'm amazed; didn't think I'd have a love life, but I had bulldog determination to get one.

My friendship status is weaker.  I have a wolf pack -- my ManKind Project chapter (they were my bachelor party btw) -- but I don't see them much outside weekly meetings.  This is my standoffishness; they'd be delighted to see me, I think.  It needs working on, but you can't work on everything.

So my conclusion:  bulldog determination, and it's OK to be discouraged, because it can take a long time.  

You might search the forums here for previous discussions on friendship.

You're not alone, Bud:

7 reasons the 21st century is making you miserable

Around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, it was fairly normal for "stable" people to have around 30 friends of the quality that most people would now think of as BFFs. I've noticed a number of chaps here use the euphemism "friendzoned" to mean "dumped", the implication being that friends are very expendable (hmmm...but so are lovers it seems...).

Average friendship now lasts something like 2 years, and average marriage around 6.

The good news is that knowing this, you can resolve to do better. I won't give you advice regarding where and how to meet people, because others are likely to do so. I'll explain what to do when you are talking to them.

Here's your homework:

Play this game every day, when you're in public. It's called "What I like about you". Pick out a person ever few seconds. Think of a reason to like that person, or a reason to feel compassion for that person, and then feel the emotion--like or feel compassion for that person. Just pick random people, not just the ones your eyes are drawn to...you need some challenges. This will train your brain to be more empathetic.

Play this game too: Mindreader. Whenever you talk to someone, pretend that you can read that person's mind, if you try hard enough. Focus on what is that person thinking, and what is that person feeling emotionally. If it's anything negative, you have to think about why the person might be feeling that, and imagine their own perspective in a non-judmental way.

The point of these exercises is to make you more empathetic. It would also be worthwhile to learn something about building rapport. Igor, in the video, is talking about putting yourself in the right mood, but there are habits of language you could get into that would help. It would take to long to give you the bigger picture, so I'll just toss you a few important ones:

The agreement habit: emphasize agreement. "You're right, and...", "That's exactly what I was thinking too!". If you don't agree with everything someone says, pick up on what you do agree with. If you don't agree at all, agree with the "good intention" behind what they say:

"Children should be allowed to stay up as late as they want, even on school nights!"

"I agree that children need to feel like they have some control over their lives. My perspective is that..."

Follow a complement with a question: "What a great shot! Where did you learn how to shoot photographs?". But make them earn it. Don't flatter people or it "cheapens" the complement. Wait until they've done something to deserve it, but notice what other people are doing right.

There's one more thing but it's not easy to describe how to practice it in few words. It is to project joy. Light up the room with your cheerful nature. You know how people are unpleasant to be around when they are grumpy? Well, it works in reverse too: it's pleasant to be in the company of a warm, cheerful person. That conditions the people around you to associate you with good feelings, and then they find reasons to like you.

As you work on empathy-building skills, think of how you could make someone's day.

Great relationships to you!

You're not alone, Bud:

7 reasons the 21st century is making you miserable

Around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, it was fairly normal for "stable" people to have around 30 friends of the quality that most people would now think of as BFFs. I've noticed a number of chaps here use the euphemism "friendzoned" to mean "dumped", the implication being that friends are very expendable (hmmm...but so are lovers it seems...).

Average friendship now lasts something like 2 years, and average marriage around 6.

That is a kind of depressing article. It's true that in earlier times communities and extended family played a bigger role in people's lives. I feel like in my case I have the double-whammy of limited family life. I know some people who really don't have that many friends because they're very close to their siblings/cousins and hang out with them a lot. None of my mom's siblings ever had children, so no cousins there; my dad is estranged from his family for reasons even I don't completely get, so that's not an option (some of them have gone so far as to defriend me on Facebook or refuse my friend requests).

So lately it's basically been just me and my parents. It's really kind of pathetic that I spent Friday night eating pizza and watching reruns of 1980s sitcoms with them. Part of me is probably slowly dying inside. I should feel like a grown-up at this age but I don't. In a way, I never really got to be a kid - my parents were very overprotective of me and kept me pretty sheltered from people my age other than going to school. In high school and college, I rarely got invited to parties and don't have the memories of crazy drunken antics that most people do, so I didn't really experience that phase of life either. 

Light up the room with your cheerful nature. You know how people are unpleasant to be around when they are grumpy? Well, it works in reverse too: it's pleasant to be in the company of a warm, cheerful person. That conditions the people around you to associate you with good feelings, and then they find reasons to like you.

Therein lies the rest of my problem. I don't really have a cheerful nature. I've been told my personality is an acquired taste. I have a tendency to be kind of acerbic and sarcastic, and looking back on some of my interactions with people I can see how they may have viewed me as a mean person or someone who didn't like them. The few friends I've had in life have always been appreciative of it, but that, combined with my reserved temperament, means it takes a lot of time and effort for other people to get to know me. And most people just aren't willing to put in the time and effort to do that. There's not a whole lot I can do about that. I can't change my personality. How is that any different from changing who you are to get people to like you? (Isn't that what our parents and all those after-school specials said not to do?)

You can change your personality. You do it in small steps and it takes a long time.

You probably have trouble interacting with "new" people. You have to trick yourself into moving beyond it. I did it by hanging out at Truck Stops around dinner time. What happens is. . . people go in and out and conversations begin and end because of it. The people that come in are looking for a person to talk to face to face. Conversations get going and eventually you just have to jump in.

More along with J.B.    . . .  develop your passions or hobbies. . . you have to be interested to be interesting. 

As F.J. Shark says. . . put the smile on your face first. If you are out alone and your having a good time, people want to be a part of it. It's something that is rare and they can't imagine being able to that themselves.

Brian is right; you can not only change your personality, but you can change it in a way that you yourself will appreciate.

You can be a happier, more positive person.

Not alone at all, you are.

Most of Brett's articles make me want to put my head in an oven! 

You have lots of good advice here, and you already sound like an interesting fellow with a character that, with a tweak here and there, could be cool as hell. My favorite people are a bit acerbic and sarcastic. There is so much forced cheerfulness out there it's a breath of fresh air. But you need to use it in measured amounts as no one likes a grump.

I urge you to act immediately, because the clock is ticking. Your peers are diving in careers and families and the time available to them to get to know people on a friendship level is dropping. There was an article kicking around here from the NYT website on the near-impossiblity of making male friends in middle age and it rang so true.

 

Buddy, everything happens for a reason, and it sounds like there were reasons things turned out the way they did.

You can't change the past, but you can learn from it and take action in the present moment that will determine your future.

Work on empathy and rapport-building just as an exercise, but don't push yourself to make friends; the pressure it would put on you would be unfair to you.

Instead, invest in yourself, and friends will naturally follow. When you see this for yourself, you will be amazed. Here's where I suggest investing in yourself:

Learn how to "choose to be happy". That's what many people call it. Some people call it "positive thinking", but unfortunately that is often construed as cockeyed optimism, which is NOT what I am endorsing. Bad stuff DOES happen. It's how you interpret it that makes a difference in how well you can recover from it.

I wish I could refer you to a book on the subject, but I am not aware of any. John Grinder and Richard Bandler had a book, long out of print, called "Reframing", but it was about reframing OTHER PEOPLE as a therapist. That's how I learned how to do it, but what I found was that I was benefitting more than the clients!!! It works best when you learn how to reframe your OWN experiences.

Everything we believe about the world is interpreted into existence. The world just is as it is, and then we impose our own concepts on it. For example, we might claim that a pile of manure is "disgusting", but to a fly it's yummy and a delightful place to raise a family! None of those qualities are in the thing itself; we interpret them into existence.

Our thoughts about reality hide a lot of unconscious assumptions. For example, I've heard people say things like:

"I can never get a good job, because I never went to college."

Those people are assuming:

Only college graduates have good jobs. (false)
If I didn't go to college during my "college years", I can never go now or in the future. (false)

Only college graduates have good jobs is false through and through; there are counter-examples of people with no college and amazing careers. The person might have a reason he thinks he can't go to college now or in the future, but that reason is susceptible to the same kinds of hidden assumptions. When you find all the hidden assumptions, you find workarounds, and it makes you more resourceful.

When you have a problem--that is, a reason to be unhappy--you need to look for those hidden assumptions that might keep you trapped in that problem.

Sometimes the solution to a problem is to accept it. But when you truly accept it, you stop wasting time trying to solve it, and open up your mind to new possibilities...some of which may render the old problem obsolete!!

For example, let's say that you did meet a potential friend, and you were both looking forward to a really fun activity together. Then let's say your plans had to be cancelled.

You might feel deeply disappointed. But look for the hidden assumptions:

"I can only be happy by doing this particular activity with this particular prospective friend at this time."

When you accept the situation, you can come up with another use for your time...and many times I have turned disappointments into absolutely enchanting times because that's what I decided to do.

You need to keep these questions always in the back of your mind:

how can I turn this around?
how can I make the best of it?
how can I cut my losses?
Is there a way to benefit from my loss?
Can I get what I want a different way?
Can I reallocate my time and attention to a new goal that will be satisfying?

Like I said, I wish I could point you to a book or other resource to teach you how to do it in a systematic way. If you want, you can PM me offline with a list of "problems" and we can work through looking for the hidden assumptions, to get a feel for it.

The bottom line is, when you figure out how to do this, your baseline happiness level will increase, which will make it easier for you to make friends in the first place.

You might think that friends would make you happier, but the causal connection is the other way around; you get friends by being a happy, cheerful person. There's a bootstrap problem! So you have to accept the situation the way it is for now, and resolve to fix it by working on being a happier person. The good news is that not only would being a happier person make it easier for you to make friends in the first place, it would also help you deal with a lot of the problems and frustrations that relationships can go through. If you are happy without needing someone to make you happy, then you tend to be more tolerant of their imperfect behaviors, and your own reactions to those behaviors will be more rational and more helpful than it would be if your happiness depended on them behaving any particular way.

One more thing, Bud: what do you think about your own self-esteem? Have you thought about this? What is your take?

Sorry for the weird formatting. For some reason in some contexts, the formatting buttons are missing, and this was one of those times. The software "ate" all the extra white spacing I typed in, which isn't surprising given it's HTML.

The language that you do your "self-talk" in makes a difference in your thought patterns, which is another way of looking at "reframing" your experiences.

Tony Robbins has written about this at length. I'm not sure how effective his tips are, especially since I was already familiar with reframing before I ever read anything by him. His anecdotes are not particularly inspiring to me; for one thing most of them are obviously fictional (a common technique in the biz; it's not peculiar to him), though to someone else this might not be a stumbling block.

Anyone else have an opinion?

One more thing, Bud: what do you think about your own self-esteem? Have you thought about this? What is your take?

I've always feared being rejected and/or disliked by others. I think on some level I preemptively try to reject other people so that I am not the one rejected.

I've never felt like I was good enough for other people. I've never been smart enough, funny enough, rich enough, popular enough, athletic enough, handsome enough, and have always had a lingering sense of inadequacy as a result. There's always been a gap between the person I am and the person I want to be and I've never been able to bridge it.

I've been a loner most of my life and for a while I took a certain pride in my belief that I didn't "need" other people. Spending my 25th birthday alone because I had no friends to spend it with was one of the things that dealt a blow to that big facade I've had in front of me for as long as I can remember.

 ...

I've always wanted to go camping and never have, because I've never had anyone to go with. The list goes on.

...

I've always been a lone wolf and never had a wolf pack to be part of. How do I find one?

 

So, to synopsize, you're now looking for people to follow, to tag along behind and who, when you beg to be their friend, are willing to accept you.

 

You have deeper issues than a lack of friends.

 

Let's start with basic socialization.  Hello.  My name is Chuck.  It's nice to make your acquaintance.  

 

How do you respond?

 

Therein lies the rest of my problem. I don't really have a cheerful nature. I've been told my personality is an acquired taste. I have a tendency to be kind of acerbic and sarcastic, and looking back on some of my interactions with people I can see how they may have viewed me as a mean person or someone who didn't like them. The few friends I've had in life have always been appreciative of it, but that, combined with my reserved temperament, means it takes a lot of time and effort for other people to get to know me. And most people just aren't willing to put in the time and effort to do that. There's not a whole lot I can do about that. 

 

Actually, like so many things in life, there is nature and there is nurture.  There is a LOT you can do about it.

 

You have two choices.  Be yourself, or change yourself.  Given your current dissatisfaction, neither will be an easy choice, but you need to make one.

 

If you choose to remain the same, then embrace it.  According to your own description, you're a grumpy, sour person who very few people find worth the trouble...but very few is not zero.  As you said, you have had friends.  And I'd be willing to bet they were close friends.  People who put in that sort of effort tend to become like extended family.  Quality is more important than quantity, when it comes to worthwhile friendships.

 

If you choose to change, try to demonstrate some interest in others.  And, make an effort to go out of the house, and speak with people.  There are countless opportunities for social interaction, every day, and consequently there is no excuse for solitude, unless you desire it.

  

Just out of curiosity, everything you said revolved around you.  Others should have to make an effort to get to know you, and so forth.  Why shouldn't you have to make an effort to meet and get to know others?

 

It's a two-way street.

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