When it comes to making friends, obviously the best thing to do is to go to lots of social events and talk to lots of people and be really charming and make a great impression on them. But if that's something you feel comfortable doing, then you probably don't need friend-making advice from my blog.
The truth is that talking to new people is difficult, awkward, and tiring. And making great first impressions is a skill that most people are never going to have. And if making friends required charming the pants off of total strangers, then we'd all be completely out of luck.
However, I've found that charm is really not a requirement. All you need to do in order to make friends is to find a social scene and keep showing up to the events that it throws. That's all. Just show up. If you show up long enough, people will talk to you. They will recognize you. Then they will start to be happy to see you. And they will invite you to other things. And at that point your friendmaking problems will be over, and you can forget all about the nerve-wracking anxiety that you experienced at those first eight social gatherings, and eventually your introduction to those people begins, someday far in the future, to seem fortuitous and magical and completely unrepeatable.
Now, I'm sure that there is someone out there who is so socially awkward and anxiety-wracked that my "just show up" advice won't work for them, but I also think you'd be surprised. I have known some pretty awkward and anxious and quiet individuals who've gotten pretty far by just showing up.
Anyway, this is all stuff that I've said before. But what I wanted to write about today was a practical application of this advice. Which is that once you've shown up, it's okay to leave. I do this all the time. I pop in to some strange new party where I know zero people. Then I talk to two or three. And when the anxiety and isolation get to be too much, I make an early exit. And it doesn't feel amazing. It does feel a bit like retreating. But I've done it often enough to know that the next time I see those people, it'll be easier (and very probably one or two of them will remember meeting me).
So if you're worried about going someplace where no one knows you, just give yourself permission to leave after an hour or two. It's totally fine.
Another thing I sometimes do is that I'll go to the party right when it starts, when I know that almost no one will be there. And, of course, I feel like an out of place fool, because the few people who're there don't know me. However, when you come early to a party, you benefit in four ways:
A) Oftentimes, the only person that you know at a party is the host. And arriving early is the only way that you're going to be able to talk to them, because once the party is in full swing they're going to be too busy.
B) If you know the host, then they can introduce you to new guests as they arrive. That way, you have an intro right off the bat. And you also have social proof. You look like someone who's standing around, talking, having fun. Whereas if you arrive later, then you have to stand around by yourself and give off the "I am a very lonely man" vibe to everyone.
C) If you arrive early, then people have no choice but to talk to you. I mean, you should make it a little easier by looking at them and greeting them and shaking their hand and doing all that stuff. But if you're early, then your aloneness will be too big and blunt for anyone to ignore.
D) People are also much more willing to talk to you because no one they know is there yet. Oftentimes, parties are more about socializing with people you already know. Which is why it's hard for new people to worm their way in. But if you're early, then most people don't yet have a long-lost friend to greet.
E) In some cases, the hosts may be worried about turnout for their event and, since people typically tend not to arrive until an hour or more after the posted start time, they can often end up staring at an empty room while they stew upon the possibility that their party will be a complete flop. Thus, they're often pretty happy when someone--anyone--actually shows up.