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Make new friends

You get on well with one of the girls from your book club/language class/gym, but could it be more? Follow our tips on how to take your acquaintances to the next level

by Psychologies

1. Break it down

‘If you aren’t sure of the territory, an open-ended invitation is always a good idea,’ says Anjula Mutanda, psychologist, ambassador for Relate and author of How To Do Relationships (Vermilion, £6.99). ‘Rather than giving times, dates or locations, simply ask, “Would you like to grab a coffee some time?” That way, you can gauge how interested they are. If they say yes, you can take it to the next stage and set up the specifics. If they say, “Sorry no, I’m too busy”, your self-esteem remains intact.’

2. Use the power of body language

Make sure your body language sends the right signal. Don’t fidget or cross your arms, as it signals nervousness, but try touching their arm. ‘People who are tactile are often more popular than people who never touch others. Touch enables us to voluntarily and involuntarily get closer to each other,’ says Diana Mather, author of Secrets Of Confident Communicators (Hodder & Stoughton, £5.99).

3. Build on common ground

‘If you are fellow book club members, why not invite your friend prospect to an author-led discussion or a book signing?’ says Sophia Ledingham, relationship psychologist and author of The Date Night Manifesto (Matador, £8.99). ‘This way, you are affirming your joint interest and common ground, so you’re halfway there. If you’re neighbours, ask if they’re going to a local community event and suggest you go together.’

4. Capitalise on convenience

‘If you know each other from gym class, suggest a juice after your workout,’ says Ledingham. ‘The convenience factor can easily swing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’. A woman from my Pilates class asked me out for coffee: I was ready to decline, but she suggested we meet at my local café, a mere 100 metres from my house, so I couldn’t really refuse. We ended up being the best of pals.’

5. Reach for your cash

Ledingham suggests picking up the tab. ‘Show your generous spirit by paying – if it’s just coffee, it’s hardly going to break the bank, and gaining a new friend is worth the investment. If you get resistance, offer that they pay next time. Kindness has a proven reciprocity effect – it prompts the other to return the gesture. So by picking up the bill, you’re improving your odds of a second date.’

6. Don’t take it personally

‘Look at the context of the situation; if you get on well, but your first offer gets turned down, that’s fine and normal,’ says Mutanda. She suggests asking again after a few days. ‘Perhaps ask along a few more people or suggest seeing a film you heard them mention,’ she says. ‘If you’ve only met a few times but just think you’ll get along, your offer of spending time together may come a bit out of the blue. Putting it into context will help you think clearly and stop those “I’m not good enough” feelings.’

7. Check them out

‘Think of it as a “get to know you”, as opposed to the start of a lifelong friendship,’ says Ledingham. ‘In this way, you’ll be less precious about the outing and more relaxed. It’s also a chance for you to check them out. Perhaps you’ll feel uncomfortable with their politics, find them high-maintenance, or simply see that they’re just not that interested in you. Remember, as with dating, you need to kiss a few frogs!’

Photograph: iStock

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