4 Ways To Break In to a New Community

If you’ve ever been the new kid on the block, then you know, it’s not always easy connecting with new people- especially in settings where relationships are well established and you are someone coming in as a new and unknown outsider. A few years ago, when we moved from sunny Southern California to ‘cloud city’ Seattle, it was hard pushing past what the locals referred to as ‘the Seattle freeze.’ But, with time and a little effort, soon we found our place in this new city. Sure, it can be hard to ‘break in’ to a new community or group you want to be a part of, but there are ways to ease the transition.

Here are 5 ways to break into a new community.

Assume the best. People lead busy lives. They have demanding careers, sick kids, ailing parents, and all kinds of other sources of stress and exhaustion in their lives. Don’t assume that people won’t make the effort or don’t want to make the effort to get to know you. If they haven’t noticed you it might just be that they’re busy and distracted. When you are the one feeling left out, it can feel as if people are doing so intentionally, but I have found this is very, very rarely the case. Reach out, and you’d be surprised that people more often than not will welcome and receive you.

Make (Facebook) friends. If you’re new to town, the neighborhood, or to your kids’ school, this is a great way to keep track of all the folks you meet. After you’ve met new people, find them on Facebook and friend them. I LOVE this approach because you can easily keep track of people’s names, learn a little bit more about them when they show up in your feed, and take the time to remember what you learned. Sometimes, people get a little squeamish when I suggest this approach to meeting new people. Here’s the thing, don’t be a stalker. Don’t start liking their posts from 2010 and commenting on everything they’ve said. Just friend them and Facebook as a tool to remembering their name and some basics about them.

Tell someone (you’re lonely.) You’d be surprised how inviting people can be if they just know where you’re coming from. Often, I’ve found that people feel nervous to invite and include. They’re not sure you like them. They don’t want to feel foolish or be rejected. Just saying, ‘I need people. I need friends’ can go a long way toward helping you connect with new people.
Be flexible. If you want to make friends you have to be open to new experiences. You have to be willing to eat lunch at 12:30pm instead of 1:30pm if you’re invited out with the group at that time. You have to be willing to see you a romantic comedy even though you’d rather see a thriller. You have to be open to dropping what you had planned to be in community with other people, that’s just how it works. When you’re invited- say yes. Even if in the beginning it’s inconvenient for you. Not all of the time, but some of the time- you need to be flexible.
Pay it forward. When and if you do make those first few friends, don’t forget what it felt like to be an outsider. Continue to invite people into the inner circle. Open your eyes and ears to those who seem lonely or may be struggling around you and welcome and include them just as other did for you.
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