We commonly make connections through work or study, but when these aren’t options, it is hard to know how to meet new people. A tight budget is also not conducive to joining many groups. Community-funded support groups, which are focused around illness, may help some people find supportive companions, but for many, they fall short.
GLUE and TIME are two important elements that help you with meeting people and promoting relationships:
GLUE: The glue is what holds you together. Choose something that connects you to others, for example a common interest, hobby, life experience, values/beliefs, purpose, skills or knowledge. A strong connection with your chosen activity gives you a shared sense of purpose with other like-minded people. Having an interest in common makes it so much easier to get to know others in a non-threatening way.
TIME: People who meet regularly over time to work together on something usually find many opportunities to get to know each other well. It’s the repeat exposure that provides the space in which friendships can naturally evolve.
GLUE: Identifying your special interest
If you have given up hobbies or interests, this can seem like a huge stumbling block. Here are some tasks to get you thinking broadly.
List any past interests or hobbies. What did you love doing as a child, as a teenager, or as a young adult? How did you spend your time? Where did you love going on holidays? Is there any other way you could further this interest but in a slightly different way? An example is horse riding. You may not be able to do that now, but you still love animals. There may be a volunteer role for you at an animal shelter. Or you may be able to foster or adopt an animal, if funds permit. It is amazing how many people you can meet in your local neighbourhood while out walking a dog, which will help you feel more connected to your local community. I know someone who was out walking his black Labrador and actually married the woman he crossed paths with while she was also out walking her black Labrador.
List current interests or hobbies. Even passive hobbies such as watching movies, reading books or computer gaming can connect you with others. If you are struggling to generate a list, browse websites, such Discover a Hobby. Or visit the local craft, music, book or sporting shops. Take note of whatever piques your interest.
List your skills, knowledge and experience. If you have worked in the past, what knowledge or skills do you have as a result? Even if you haven’t worked, what are you good at or what have you done in the past? What role do you naturally take up in your family or past groups? Do you do the cooking, or the cleaning or the gardening? Are you the clown or the sensible one, do you provide counsel, or come up with ideas or collect facts? This may be a clue as to what you like doing or are good at. Is there something you do easily, or often, or have learned about in the past? It could be related to experiences life has thrown you. Do you like working with your hands? Are you energetic or do you prefer sedentary activities? Do you like to listen or talk? Are you creative?
Identify your values or things you believe in. Examples include justice, a fair go, respect, religion, or care for the environment, animals, and others. Observe your thoughts in response to the world around you, for they are a clue to what you care about. Think broadly in terms of global or local issues.
Once you have identified a few things that resonate most with you, the next thing is to find a group of like-minded people.
TIME: Finding long-term (and low-cost) groups
Join a club related to your interests and skills and take opportunities to get involved in helping out with events. Or initiate events yourself! Check out Meetup in your city. This is an amazing site that lists meetings arranged by enthusiastic volunteers around a common interest. You can get an idea of what the group is like by the feedback posts and descriptions.
Volunteering roles frequently offer ongoing exposure to others and there is usually no cost to you. Could any of your skills, knowledge, beliefs or passions be utilised in a volunteer capacity? How would you like to make a difference in your community? Our Community Group has a great listing of volunteer roles in your state or region. Have a look as you may be surprised by what is there. If you are in Melbourne, there is even a not-for-profit organisation (Darebin Volunteer Resource Centre) that helps place volunteers into roles they want.
Search your local community for any groups that meet over time. Contact community centres, churches and your local council. Also consider study options, for example, a subsidised TAFE course conducted over one or two part days per week with other folk of a similar demographic.
If still nothing clearly comes to mind that you would like to pursue, try something new. The journey may be fruitful.