Back in our early years, there were plenty of opportunities for us to make friends and build up friendships in Chicago. We had elementary years, high school years and college years; when people slightly younger and older than us gather around for classes, club activities and parties.
Then we all started working, suddenly the opportunities to make friends is not as much as before.
It’s no surprise as to why most adults’ friends are usually people from their childhood, college years, and workplace. This doesn’t mean that we can't make new friends in Chicago, it’s just that we no longer have plenty of free time to. Yes, it takes more effort to make new friends in Chicago as an adult.
But it’ll be worth it.
Here's how to make friends and meet new people in Chicago
1. Build Your Self-Confidence
Confidence is attractive. Confident people inspire others to live the life that they want and be comfortable with their own skin. Their presence simply emits positive energy. And who wouldn’t want to be around positive people? This is where you start.
Watch what you eat. This isn’t about completely letting go of unhealthy food, this is about discipline. Sure, you can eat those once in a while. But it’s better that you consume products that are good for your body, because it will also make you feel good about yourself. There are plenty of stores and restaurants in Chicago to get healthy eats.
Take time to sweat out. Often we barely have time to workout because hours of work have already exhausted our minds and body. The thing is, you shouldn’t let it stop you from taking care of yourself. 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every other day is enough to help your body get rid of toxins. Eventually you’ll not only get fit, but also get stronger mentally and physically.
Stop comparing yourself with others. Instead compare your present to your past because it’s the only way to see your progress. Look how far you’ve grown and improve on it. Remember that you make your life, that the person you can change is yourself; not other people. So there’s no point in comparing yourself with them.
2. Be Authentic
In Chicago, just like in any place, we’re always bombarded with how we should look, behave and live our life. It’s best to think of these things as suggestions. Not a must. Knowing what we want for ourselves and acting on it is one way of being authentic. Here are more ways to be one:
Set boundaries. Get to know yourself more.What are your interests? What are the things that repulse you? How do you want to be treated? These questions are important in knowing your boundaries. It'll be easier for you to set them. Other than that, you’ll end up having healthy and mature friendships.
Be honest. Whether something makes you feel uncomfortable or you need help, be honest to yourself and to other people. This will give you peace of mind. It will make people comfortable with you, and inspire them to be honest as well. Even though you’re aware of your boundaries, being dishonest will only make things worse for you.
Be consistent. When faced with any situation, you always have a choice on how to respond to it. Make sure that whichever you pick is consistent with your values and beliefs. That it’s what you actually want. This way people will come to respect you because it shows that you are reliable.
3. Take Initiative
You’ll come across fascinating people from all walks of life in Chicago. Applying the previous steps we have discussed should make it easier for you to start conversations with them. Remember when meeting new friends, you don’t always end up having long-term friendships with them. It’s better choose the ones that you’re compatible with. Taking the initiative is the way to get started, here’s how:
With a smile. There are very friendly people in Chicago. When your eyes get into contact with someone else’s and they don’t quickly turn away, give them a smile, a nod or a wave. Sometimes, these will be enough for them to come over towards you and start a conversation. If not, don’t worry about it. Who knows? You might bump into each other again somewhere.
Introduce yourself. Wherever you are, in the grocery store or at a party, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. It’s always nice to meet new faces around the block. This is effective when you’re helping someone or in need of one yourself. Just remember if it’s with a total stranger, look out for their body language. If they’re giving positive cues, start a small talk with them.
4. Join Groups
Even in Chicago, there are groups you can join in. Whatever your interests are, you can certainly find a group dedicated to it. Doesn’t it remind you of your younger years when you get to do something you’re passionate about with familiar and new faces? Here are some suggestions:
Become a volunteer. There are plenty of organizations or people looking for volunteers. You can also find them in your neighborhood, when some of your neighbors want to organize a block party. You can also find nearby projects in need of volunteers online, people in these groups are among the friendliest faces you could ever meet.
How about a Book Club? It’s fun to share what’s usually a solitary activity with others. It makes you learn about their perspective and other angles you may have not noticed when you read your favorite book. You can form theories together and also make the experience a lot more satisfying.
Fitness groups. This is perfect if you’re into running and cycling. These groups are very welcoming to new faces. If you aren’t that familiar with Chicago, these people can help you go about it and let you know which places are a no-go. Accidents can also happen during fun events, these people will surely come to your aid as they’re prepared for such situations.
5. Join Events
Another exciting way to make new friends in Chicago is going to fun events. People who join these events are usually very outgoing. If you’re also like that, then you’ll have an easier time meeting and having fun with people you’re highly compatible with.
Sports Events. Games are when we often connect with other people, especially back in our school days. Maybe to this day if you’re still actively playing. It’s also one of the things we build our first friendships over. So pick out the sports you’ve always been interested in, or the sport you want to try out, and attend its events.
Comic Con. Although it can get lonely attending comic con by yourself, don’t be afraid to socialize with people in the event and ask them about who they’re cosplaying and what show or game it is from. The line can get long, it would be pleasant to chat with someone while waiting.People would love to talk about these because it’s an escape from their everyday life too. Although you must keep in mind that often these people may come from faraway countries, you can still communicate with them online afterwards.
Concerts. People bond over music and love it.When in a concert, sing along with the crowd and smile. There will be people you can have conversations with about your favorite band. Prepare to have drinks at hand and some extra t-shirts, because concerts can get too exciting that you might find yourself showered with alcohol.
6. Join Parties
People in Chicago also love to celebrate life. Parties can often happen unlike the events mentioned previously. Whether it’s a casual party or not, it’s a great opportunity to get to know people and their culture. It can also get intimate especially if there are only a few people in the party, or only friends of friends can be invited. Here are some of them:
Birthday Parties. As we grow older, we meet other people and so do our childhood friends. Birthday parties are when we get to meet the friends they’ve made along the way and ours too. It’s also where people can bond and build long-term friendships over having a common friend. So go ahead and introduce yourself and share the fun moments you’ve had with your common friend with them.
Neighborhood Parties. Whether you’re going to live permanently in Chicago or not, it doesn’t hurt to join neighborhood parties as much as you can. Not only are you participating in fostering a great neighborhood, you also get the chance to meet the people you share the block with. These are also people you can build friendship with and who can immediately come for your help during emergencies.
7. Be Persistent
Friendships don’t happen in a day in Chicago. It happens through a number of moments you’ve shared with them. Being persistent means taking the time and effort to meet them once in awhile and have fun with them. How else would they get to know you better, right? And for you to be able to follow up, here are the things you can do:
Invite them for… coffee, book reading or a party. Having the initiative in inviting them to do something fun the next time shows that you’re interested in making friends with them. If they accept it, then you can start building your friendship. You can say something along these lines: “Hey, would you like to join me for a coffee?” or “I’d love for you to come to that event next week, would you come?”.
Connect with them on Social Media. Some people like adding new friends on their social media. Some take time to warm up to that idea. Don’t think much about it, it doesn’t hurt to exchange social media accounts. This shows that you’re making an effort to connect with them, and who knows right?
8.Avoid These Mistakes
When making new friends, we make mistakes that could be off putting to others. Although there are people in Chicago who can be really chill about it, it’s best to be informed ahead to make your journey much smoother.
Getting too personal. Slow down. When making new friends, you’d want to start with small talk or a casual conversation. This way you can access if the person is compatible with you. If not, you can easily move on to the next person without leading them on. Some people can get overwhelmed if you’re getting too personal way early, they want to be comfortable with you first before engaging in a deeper conversation.
Dominating the conversation. Stop talking.People love to talk about themselves, but some people can overdo it. Avoid it by listening more, and ask them open-ended questions about what they were talking about so the conversation can go on. This way you can each get to know each other well, and have an equal chance of talking.
Not reading their body language. Some people may smile or wave back at you, but it doesn’t mean they’d want to have a conversation. Don’t take it personally, they may be having a bad day or may be quite busy thinking about something that they want to be left alone at the moment. Watch out for negative cues like crossed arms, legs fidgeting and faces turned away from you.
Expecting people to get close with you immediately. It can be challenging to trust people right away as an adult. We’ve had bad experiences growing up, and there are people who are up to no good.Take your time in building your friendships with them. Remember to be honest and consistent all throughout to make it easier for them to trust you.
Applying these steps can go along way in Chicago.
Making friends and meeting new people in Chicago, and building friendships with them can be quite a challenge as a working adult. It’s important to respect their time and yours, so make conversations with people you know you’re compatible with. Adult friendships aren’t like childhood ones. If you don’t get to meet the right people immediately, don’t worry about it. They are out there. Remember to start making friends with yourself before moving to the next steps, and you’ll be good to go.
6 apps for making friends in Chicago, IL
If you are looking to make friends and meet new people in Chicago, these apps can help you find them.
Meet new neighbors, share and exchange items, introduce your pets, have drink nights, all under OneRoof.
Ready to take your friendship game to the next level? Download BumbleBFF now and discover new friends in your city.
Nextdoor is a social app that helps you communicate with your neighbors and stay up to date with what's going on in the neighborhood.
Meetup is an app to join a group in your area to meet new people, make friends, find support, and more.
We3 is an app to make like-minded new friends. In groups of 3.
Peanut is the social network for mothers throughout all stages of motherhood.
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Where to meet people in Chicago
Once you have made friends ad met new people here are some great local places where you can go together.
Brandon is an attorney at Moss & Moss LLP, where he handles complex real estate litigation matters, and Co-Founder of ListAcross, a one-stop-shop for selling your stuff across peer-to-peer marketplaces (launching soon!).
All of the above is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor should it be construed as such. If you’d like to get in touch with Brandon, drop him a note at email@example.com. Also check out ListAcross, Brandon’s startup (launching soon!) to help you sell your stuff across multiple peer-to-peer marketplaces like Facebook, eBay, Etsy, and more!
Paul Sanders is an author, coach, and founder of GetTheFriendsYouWant.com. He has been writing and coaching on loneliness, shyness, social skills, conversation, friendship, and social life since 2011. He helped thousands of people change their social lives.
Paul is the author of the widely distributed eBook, Get The Friends You Want, as well as various audio and video training courses, and live seminars. Paul has been featured in various podcasts, and interviews.
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