So you want to make friends but aren't sure where to start? Maybe you want to meet people in a new city, overcome shyness or are heading off to a new college for the first time. Meeting new friends can seem daunting at first, but if you follow these tips, you'll find yourself a social butterfly in no time!

  1. Find common interests. Most towns and cities have organized groups, whether you like to run, craft, hike, play ultimate frisbee or read books. So, first, decide what you like to do for fun. has gained in popularity recently and is a great place to start, with groups around the country and based around virtually every interest. Best of all, its free to join, and almost all meetups are free to attend. (Some may require a small donation, though, usually going towards group activities or charity of choice)

    Common interests are a fundamental part of meeting new people, as you have built in conversation topics!

    If you love to learn, make new friends by taking a class at a local community college – most are low cost, as compared to private institutions or classes, and cover diverse topics. Try taking a language class – because the best way to learn a language is to speak it, you'll probably do a lot of group work, rather than just listening to a lecture. Fitness classes are also great alternatives. You could also get in touch with your local high school – most offer subsidized adult education classes as well.

    Other places to look for groups and meetups are your local newspaper or library. If you feel a little awkward attending a group by yourself, see if a family member will go with you. Barring that (say, you're new to a city), just remember that most people in the group will probably feel a little awkward, too.

    Shyness is nothing to be ashamed of; everyone feels it at sometime or another, so don't let that stop you!

    If you still are having problems making it to your first meetup, class, or group, remember – not only is shyness ok, but its actually built into your DNA! New and unfamiliar situations create the evolutionary feeling of "fight or flight," like our ancestors felt when entering an unknown forest. In new situations today, however, there most likely aren't any jaguars or elephants ready to jump out at you, so just try to remember that when you're feeling hesitation about trying new things, what you're really encountering is the evolutionary equivalent of the Dodo bird, not a defect on your part.

  2. A little Golden Rule goes a long way. To a very shy person, just the thought of going to a group or class may be too much at first. That's ok, you may just have to start small and go from there. Try thinking about how you like to be treated by other people. Do you like it when people say hi, hold the door for you or give you a compliment? Most likely – people would love those things to come from you, too! (And its much less of a commitment than joining a group or team)

    The next time you find yourself in an elevator, on a train or bus, or standing in line next to someone, try saying hi or paying them a compliment. (Make sure the compliment is sincere, though, people can see right through it if its not)

    Although a simple exchange like a compliment may not make you friends immediately, it counteracts the "fight or flight" feeling and leaves you with the confident feeling that, yes, you can talk to people and make new friends!

    Sometimes, when dealing with extreme shyness or new situations, its best to start small.

    Don't expect to make a gaggle of friends right away, but do expect to be courteous and treat people the way you would like to be treated. If you see that person again, they'll probably remember how kind and friendly you were and say "Hi" to you! Then you can start a conversation. Until then, congratulations! - a simple word is the best way to break the ice!

  3. Volunteer or take on a part-time or seasonal job. Try volunteering at your local soup kitchen or animal shelter, or take on a part-time job. The satisfaction of working toward a common goal is often enough on its own to break the ice. Simple questions, such as, "Have you been working/volunteering here long?," or "Do you work/volunteer anywhere else?" are great conversation starters. Talking over work takes a lot of the stress off, since you have the task at hand to be focused on, not just the conversation. Also, it makes periods of silence much easier – they're no awkward if you're just doing your job!

    Just as with previous tip, sometimes the best way to make friends is to start out without the expectation of making new friends.

    If you need a little extra cash, try working at a restaurant. No experience? See if you can get a hosting position. These are great jobs for meeting new people if you're a little shy, because you'll get tons of practice having short, simple conversations with new people. The conversations are more or less scripted, too (you'll say the same thing to almost everyone), which eases the stress of thinking of things to say. Restaurant workers are usually a social bunch as well – say yes if they invite you out with them after the shift! You probably won't be stumped for conversation, since you can talk about all of the nice/mean/strange customers you had that day! (And a little extra money never hurt anyone, either!)

Hopefully, these tips will help you break the ice whether you're in a new town, school or job, or just feeling a little (or very) shy.

Remember, don't set your expectations too high – take it one step at a time. If a "Hi" is all you can manage right now, that's great! Work on from there.

Try to have fun at the same time – new friends will come when you may not be looking for them, so choose an activity that you can enjoy in and of itself!

Don't forget to treat others the way you would like to be treated – a little kindness goes a long way.

Use the resources available to you – check the internet, library and schools for local meetup groups. Volunteering and part-time work are great, too.

Know that there is nothing wrong with shyness, its part of our evolutionary heritage. You are not a freak, you aren't abnormal, shyness is perfectly natural.

Keep in mind that you're not alone – in fact, this author has personally experienced extreme shyness in new jobs, new schools and new towns, and tried all of these methods with success. Its a work in progress and it takes time, but the reward is well worth the effort.

Best of luck and no matter what, keep trying (it may not happen overnight) – you'll eventually make new friends using the methods that work for you!