Meeting People

The top concern for a lot of anxious undergrads is the fear that meeting people will only get harder as they get older. It makes sense. On the surface, college is designed to facilitate your social life. You work, eat, and live with thousands of young, eager individuals. You have roommates. You are forced to do group projects. Clubs and social groups besiege you with invitations. Yet meeting intelligent, fun, perhaps datable people is still hard. So what do you think will happen when you’re living in an apartment, working full time, and eating lunch at your desk?

It will be tough, but with some thought, you can come out ahead in your post-college social life. Meeting people through common friends is of the utmost importance. A long-time friend of mine shared this concern. After graduating from MIT, she moved in with three friends from her sorority. Now, when they throw the occasional Friday-night party, they mingle with people from four different companies.

It’s hard to go wrong when you are throwing the party. Most people have the same problem, and they will be grateful for the opportunity to socialize. Throw different kinds of parties if you want to meet different kinds of people. Stereos and strobe lights for the people who miss college, wine and cheese for anyone whose middle name is Burchfield, and potlucks for those in between. Between birthdays, Knicks games, and weekends, there are plenty of occasions for breaking out the wine and sending a slew of text invites.

Though extremely rewarding, hosting can be tough. The simpler alternative is to organize nights out with your friends and their friends. If you live in New York, get meals and go to bars. If California, go to the beach and hike in the mountains. Reach out to those in the area, friends from high school and college, acquaintances from summer programs, people you know tangentially but were never close with. The cost of letting them crash your Wednesday night poker games is minimal. On the other hand, you may find that they open up a completely new group of friends.

Eventually it will pay off and you will get invited to play NBA Live with the cool kids, now you’re fifty percent of the way there. The other half involves actually capitalizing on the situation. Being friendly is your best asset. Introduce yourself to the stiff guy standing outside the circle of activity. Offer to pour a drink for him. Talk with the girl dancing on the table, and position yourself to catch her should she slip.

At a recent birthday party, one of my friends was having trouble meeting people. He was in a crowded room rife with conversation, drinking, and socializing, and he was standing at the edge talking with the friend he came with. Which was cool, but he could have stayed in his room and done that. Greeting the shy-looking girl a few steps away, I pulled her into the circle and asked “do you know my friend?” She didn’t, and she didn’t know me either, but she knew some of the same people we knew, and the conversation flowed naturally. Turned out she wasn’t shy at all.

As social creatures, our happiness depends in large part on our social lives. Our social and romantic lives in turn hinge on our ability to meet and befriend the people around us. With this ability, you gain the confidence to leave the people who stifle your growth and surround yourself with those who promote it. It is liberating, and it should be prioritized.