The data is clear—that being friendless isn’t an anomaly. So take a deep breath right now, and exhale the idea that you are inadequate or shameful because you lack friends. You are not alone if you are struggling to find genuine friendships! We have tips to help you thrive.
Disclaimer: We are so honored to help you find authentic connections! If you are struggling to find the help you need, please note that all content found on this website is not to be considered professional medical advice. It is always best to consult a doctor or licensed therapist with questions or concerns about your physical or mental health. For a good resource for therapists, you can check out Mental Health America’s helpful list.
“I Have No Friends.”
We are more “connected” than ever in human history, and yet, few of us seem to have friends.
Except on social media.
Doesn’t it seem like everyone is living their best life on social media?
But are they? When you’re facing the heavy weight of loneliness, it’s hard to remember that posts on social media are often heavily curated and even staged. Before we get started, be sure to stop comparing yourself to people on social media! It’s not real…now it’s time for some real tips.
If you have no friends, contrary to what you might feel, this is an exciting time. Your life is waiting. Are you ready to plunge into a potential you never dreamed was possible?
6 Fun Activities for People with No Friends
If having no friends keeps you stuck at home, it’s time to change that! There are fun activities you can do, even if you have no one to join you.
When you find joy and contentment regardless of your situation or environment, it’s liberating.
Try these fun activities, and who knows, you may meet some new friends along the way.
#1 Visit an art museum
Whether you have an art museum in your city or it involves a day trip, this solo activity is often economical and is a great starter activity to do on your own.
You may not be ready for solo dining, but viewing art is a contemplative activity that doesn’t require a friend or partner. Not only that, viewing skill activates your emotional brain (in a good way!) and lowers stress levels.
#2 Sign up to learn something new
Learning is great for your brain.
Every time you learn something new, it creates neurons in your brain. New neurons help to develop a stronger, healthier brain.
Ideas of new things to learn:
- Art classes (painting, drawing, pottery, basket weaving, needlepoint, etc.)
- Another language (in addition to lessons, look for language meetups)
- Deep water swimming
- Singing (after you get some voice lessons, try joining a singing club)
- Dancing (salsa, ballroom, line dancing, hip hop)
You can do all of these activities can be alone, but they also provide you with an opportunity to meet new people.
#3 Teach English to refugees
Did you know there are over 1 million refugees in the US and 82 million refugees globally? According to the data, around 72% of refugees are functionally illiterate, making assimilation and success difficult in America.
Refugees don’t have friends, and navigating a new culture in a new country is overwhelming. If you feel socially awkward, just imagine what they are going through!
Teaching English to refugees is an important skill to improve their quality of life. As you teach them English, you can share more about your culture while learning about theirs. If you find it difficult to interact with people from different cultures, this will help you develop empathy.
As you extend hospitality to displaced people, you may find your social skills blossoming without you even noticing it.
- If you live in a big city, look for nonprofits working with refugees; they should be able to connect you to a volunteer opportunity. You can also check bulletin boards with announcements offering refugee services.
- If you live in a smaller community, it may be harder to find a refugee community to get involved with. Contact churches (often Catholic and Lutheran churches are a good starting point as they have historically organized refugee care) or the Department of Human Services.
- Search by State on the UNHCR Office of Refugee Settlement.
#4 Help an adult learn to read
Why not be a friend to an adult who never acquired literacy?
Forty-three million Americans have low literacy skills. You’re the perfect person to help.
If you don’t have friends, you know what it feels like to be isolated or even dismissed by other people. It’s time to take the pain you’ve experienced and reach out with kindness to others.
No need to worry that you don’t have the skills necessary; literacy councils train you and provide the materials you need before sending you out.
Pro Tip: Ask your literacy council if they have a program working in jails or prisons. 3 out of 5 in prison can’t read.
#5 Volunteer for storytime at the library
There are a few reasons you need to do this:
- You’re awkward, and you need to practice being in front of people.
- Kids are often more accepting than adults, so this is a good starter task for you.
- Kids have parents (or guardians), so you can talk to adults in a controlled setting.
- Remote storytime volunteer opportunities (do a quick Google search!) make this something you can do from the security of your home.
- We should all be investing in kids in some way.
- You can practice projecting your voice and speaking with authority.
- You can be silly.
#6 Visit a nursing home
An estimate of 60% of residents in nursing homes doesn’t receive visitors. That’s heartbreaking, and you can make a difference. Elderly people living in nursing homes won’t care if:
- You have no friends.
- Feel awkward in social situations.
- You don’t like how you look.
- Drive a car from the 90s.
- You usually avoid talking to anyone except your cat.
- You haven’t accomplished any of the societal expectations of success.
Many people are intimidated by the thought of visiting a nursing home. Don’t be.
This is the best way to practice your conversation skills with folks who would love to talk to you. It might be uncomfortable at first, but remember, each person in that nursing home is a person with hopes and dreams and feelings (yes, you can still have goals at 92!). Talk to them the way you’d like to have a conversation; you may have to repeat yourself or speak a little louder.
Ask your new friend questions, and then listen. Hanging out with older people is a great way to practice your listening and other people’s skills. When you have friends older than you, it broadens your perspective, that in turn helps you develop empathy. That empathy can cut down on ageism.
Nursing home visits aren’t just for younger people! If you’re closer to people in nursing homes, you know some of the physical and emotional struggles of aging.
- Ask the front desk if there is anyone who never gets visitors who you could visit (aim for once a month or more if you have the time).
- When you meet your new friend, introduce yourself and find out if they like to talk, want to be read to, or want to do an activity together.
- Bring your favorite book, and offer to read it to them, or ask them if they have an author they’d like you to read.
- If their diet allows it (ask the nurse on duty first), bring them a pastry or something nice to eat while you visit.
- If you’re musical, offer to sing or play the piano. Choose music from their generation, and even take music requests. Music is so essential for the mental and emotional well-being of seniors.
- Ask the activities coordinator if there are any crafts or activities you could help facilitate.
#7 Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter
Volunteering is a great way to shift your focus from what you lack to what you can give to the community. Whether working with people in need or volunteering at your local arts council, you’ll have the chance to do good and meet new people simultaneously.
Other volunteer opportunities you may not have heard of:
- Guardian ad Litem
- Sexual Assault Victim Advocate (contact your local crisis center)
- Baby Cuddler (contact your local hospital about providing cuddles to babies in NICU)
- Help Youtubers create better captions for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community
- Serve veterans (contact your local Disabled American Vets chapter or the local VA)
- Foster pets waiting for adoption or in need of extra care
What to Do When You Have No Friends
It may be small comfort, but ironically, if you don’t have friends, you’re in good company.
Not having friends might feel inherently shameful. But it’s not. Today, being friendless is more and more common. Whether it’s high-profile celebrities or other famous people, it’s challenging to develop and keep close friendships.
According to Dunbar, a British anthropologist, our relationships are comprised of layers based on our closeness to an individual. This is called Dunbar’s Number. The first layer is made up of your 5 closest friends and then expands into groups of 15, 50, and 150 people. As more people make up a group, the less close you are to them. Even for extroverts, the brain can only have a close relationship with a maximum of 5 people.
According to the American Sociological Review, our social circles are shrinking; the average of 5 close friends sounds more like magical social strata that most of us can only dream of. As social isolation increases, even the average of 2 to 3 close friends seems unattainable.
A study done by Harvard found that 36% of Americans report “serious loneliness,” while our survey of 3,164 participants revealed that 33% of people have no close friends.
If you’ve lost friends over the years, or never really connected with people around you, don’t despair! We have tips and action steps to help you overcome loneliness and thrive.
Ditch the Shame & Learn to Like Yourself
Letting go of false shame is vital to your emotional well-being; there is a direct correlation between shame and self-esteem.
That means when you absorb shame about your friendless status, your self-esteem plummets. A low sense of self-worth leads to a lack of belonging and sometimes a gnawing purpose of rejection.
Shame and rejection are kryptonite to your ability to thrive.
Rejection often takes the shape of a self-fulfilling prophecy. First, you feel rejected and lonely.
Next, waves of loneliness cause you to conclude no one wants to be your friend.
You fear you’ll always be alone.
Then, you unwittingly act in a way that encourages others to reject you. Or, you simply perceive rejection when it wasn’t there originally.
This, in turn, confirms your belief that no one wants to be your friend.
Confirmation bias creates a pretty vicious cycle.
So what can you do? It’s time for you to reject rejection and learn how to like yourself.
Over the years, you’ve absorbed limiting beliefs that keep you from interacting with others and experiencing the good around you. Those limiting beliefs are there for a reason. So yes, reject the limiting beliefs, but remember you need to find the root of what created that limiting the view in the first place.
For example, if you believe you’re unlovable and no one would ever want to be your friend, that’s a limiting belief. But that belief didn’t descend into your brain out of thin air!
A root cause might be a friendship where you experienced betrayal and rejection. Or perhaps, the limiting belief came from painful experiences as a child.
Whatever it is, you can overcome these negative beliefs and develop healthy self-love.
It doesn’t matter what age you are—learning to love and care about yourself will help you thrive.
- Get started with our guide to becoming more confident.
- Spend time discovering things you love. Got a childhood passion? Try starting a hobby you are interested in or find a new one.
- Identify what you are good at and write those things down. You can try asking your friends or family for help.
- Write down the things you are passionate about (these might be things of personal interest or activities that make you feel alive).
- Explore how to get more involved in doing things that combine your interests and passions. For example, if you love writing and are passionate about human trafficking, you could volunteer to be an ambassador for your favorite human trafficking NGO. Or, say you love home repair and also feel passionate about helping struggling single moms, you could volunteer your skills to enable a single mom to make repairs around her house.
- As you connect your interests and passions, you’ll see how much you have to offer others.
- Identify limiting beliefs and explore what the roots of those may be. Try writing down your negative thoughts and identifying what causes them to get to the heart of it.
- Work with a therapist or coach to process through deeper problems.
Pro Tip: Research has discovered limiting beliefs are verbal, usually taking place as inner dialogue.
To break those habitual thought patterns, start to take back control by questioning the ideas you hear and asking if it’s the truth. It isn’t enough to question or reject the thought. Fill that void with a new habit of speaking positively about yourself or replacing the negative review with positive (but accurate) thinking. Try…
- I am a wonderful friend.
- I have a lot to offer the world.
- I am worthy of loving and being loved.
Be Less Awkward
Friendship is like any other human interaction. It takes practice to get good at it.
Not every conversation, lunch, or outing has to lead to a closer relationship. It’s a bit like dating; it’s unrealistic to expect something serious to develop with every person you go on a casual date with.
Reading more about the science of making friends is like developing a romantic relationship.
It’s OK to view interactions with other people as practice. Think about these two scenarios:
- I’m going to have coffee with someone to practice my social skills.
- I’m going to have coffee with a potential friend that will lead to a lifelong friendship of epic proportions.
Scenario b is a pretty high-stakes meeting and creates a challenging environment to build your social skills! When you remove some of the pressure, you will feel more relaxed and, as a result, less awkward.
This is true for any interaction. What are some of the things you’re worried about when interacting with others? Those worries will pressure you to succeed and make achieving even harder!
Vanessa teaches 10 skills to focus your social energy in the right places.
- Write down 3 things that scare you about social interactions. Is there a way to overcome those things? For example, if you’re afraid you won’t know what to say at the start of a conversation, you could practice a couple of these conversation starters. Or, maybe you’re terrified of awkward silences. If so, read this article to avoid awkward silences.
- Try to interact with 1 person a day or week to improve your communication skills. We recommend working through the skills in Captivate one at a time to get you moving forward on this.
- Practice interacting with people at the grocery store or department store. Compliment what someone is wearing or say something friendly to the cashier. When the cashier says, “Did you find everything OK?” try answering with, “Yes, thank you! Have you ever tried X product? I always look at it, but then I never buy it!” If that seems complicated, try phoning customer support or messaging a stranger on an online forum and work your way up.
Remember, you’re not seeking lifelong friendships with these casual interactions. You’re just practicing! When you interact with people in a low-stakes environment, it will help you build confidence. Plus, you may brighten someone’s day without even knowing it.
If someone responds negatively, just shake it off. Their unkindness has nothing to do with you.
Be More Open
For some, being open is an even more significant barrier to friendship than being awkward. If that’s the case for you, there’s good news.
You get to choose how much you disclose to the people around you.
Often, the problem comes when someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer. If this sends you into a withdrawal panic, there is a solution.
- Think about the questions that are hard for you to answer and plan a response. Spend time contemplating your answer ahead of time to avoid having to overthink when someone asks you.
- Practice in front of a mirror giving your answer so you can get comfortable confidently saying the words.
- Know that it’s possible to answer a question without giving all the details.
- When you hesitate to answer a question, you appear closed or even deceptive. That’s why it’s essential to plan out in advance what you’re comfortable sharing.
- Think about your sensitive topics in the same way as you would an elevator pitch. Keep it concise, and don’t add unnecessary information.
- If you don’t want to answer a question, it’s OK not to! You can say, “Thank you for asking that question, but I’d prefer not to answer right now.” and immediately segue into a new topic.
Doing these things will make you feel safer and prepared for going into conversations.
Once you’ve identified what you struggle to talk about, look for topics you can comfortably share. Perhaps you can talk about a project you’re working on or something you’re just learning. If you’re very private, start small. Connection comes when you can be open with other people.
And remember, you don’t have to be open with everyone. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable or you’re not sure if you can trust them, trust your gut. It’s appropriate and natural to share different things with different people.
Pro Tip: Do you feel open, but others perceive you as closed? Your body language could be giving people the wrong message. Check these nonverbal cues to understand what your body language is communicating.
If you want to develop friendships, start reaching out to the people you like. Other people may feel just as lonely and uncertain as you do!
New friends could be hiding anywhere! Whether you’re standing in line at the grocery store or waiting at the DMV, there are opportunities for you to interact with other people. But you have to be proactive. This isn’t easy for those of you who are introverts, but it is possible.
Unlock the secrets of charisma
Control and leverage the tiny signals you’re sending—from your stance and facial expressions to your word choice and vocal tone—to improve your personal and professional relationships.
- Is there someone you’ve admired from a distance or someone that always brightens your day? Next time you see them, ask if they’d like to get coffee with you.
- Strike up a conversation with people you come across in your day.
- When standing in line at the grocery store, try, “That ___ (food item) looks great! How do you prepare it?”
- When waiting in a waiting room, “What are your favorite restaurants around here?”
- When attending an event, “How do you know the host?” or “Working on any passion projects lately?”
- When a stranger starts a conversation, keep it going with, “Did you see that viral ___ YouTube video?” or, “Tell me more about….”
You may unintentionally push people away with your body language. Do you respond to conversations with crossed arms, monosyllabic replies, and an expressionless face? It’s time for a nonverbal reset.
It may seem like being sociable comes naturally to other people, but the truth is you can practice and learn this skill! Learn how to be friendlier with science-backed steps.
In this video, Vanessa talks about the 10 steps to becoming more sociable.
- Next time someone strikes up a conversation with you, respond with open body language and show interest by nodding and using appropriate facial expressions.
- Put in more effort. Developing and maintaining any relationship takes work! If you want to connect more with people, get into a habit of checking on others and keeping open communication.
- Once a week, pick 1-3 people to send a text to. It can be as simple as, “Hey, just thinking of you. How are you doing?” or, “Hope you have a great week!”
- Set reminders on your phone to text or call people on their birthday or other important dates like anniversaries.
- Send follow-up texts to people who share something negative they’ve been going through. Ask questions like, “Have you seen any improvements with the situation at work?” or, “How are you feeling since we last talked?” or, “I know you’ve been dealing with a lot lately. I hope things start improving soon.”
Why Do I Have No Friends?
The reason you have no friends may be because you are shy, uncomfortable interacting with others, or simply don’t go places that would lead to meeting new people. You don’t have friends may have a lot to do with your mindset. If you’re used to viewing the world as a hostile environment that you’d like to avoid, you’re not going to make friends easily.
More reasons you don’t have friends:
- Old friends have moved away.
- You’ve moved away and haven’t connected to anyone in your new community.
- You’ve lost friends to disease, accidents, and aging.
- All your friends are married with kids while you’re still single, making you feel like the odd one out.
- You lived overseas for a time, and most of your friends are in different countries. You’ve struggled to connect with old friends or make new ones when you returned home after living elsewhere.
- You’re prone to making friends with toxic people because you feel you can help them.
- You had one perfect friend that took all your time and focus. Now that you’re no longer friends, you don’t have anyone else around.
- You have no idea how to talk to people, so you avoid interactions.
- A betrayal in the past makes it hard for you to trust new people.
- You have physical or emotional limitations that make it hard to get out of the house and be in social settings.
Sometimes difficulty with new friends is setting boundaries. As you interact with new people, be sure you are setting boundaries that will help you develop healthy relationships and avoid resentment.
- Next time you’re about to say “yes” when you mean “no,” pause and say, “I’ll get back to you.”
- If an acquaintance or new friend is pushing for the personal information you don’t want to share, try saying, “I’d prefer not to talk about that.”
- Do you feel pressured constantly to answer calls or text messages right away? Next time, wait to answer until after you’ve finished what you were doing. If that makes you anxious, send a text saying, “Hey! I’m just in the middle of something. I’ll get back to you in a bit.”
Is It OK to Not Have Friends?
It’s OK not to have friends during specific periods of your life. If you’re in a period with no friends, take this time to look at your own life.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I need space to grieve the loss of a friendship or other relationship?
- What can I improve about myself?
- What is unique about me that I haven’t valued in the past?
- Are there goals I’ve been too distracted to accomplish?
- Are there things from the past I’m still holding onto?
- What friend made the most significant positive impact on my life?
- What friend most negatively impacted me? Is that holding me back from making new friends?
- What kind of friend do I need? How can I become that friend to other people?
- How can I healthily connect with my family during this time of feeling alone?
As you work through those things that hold you back, you’ll find a fresh perspective on what friendship should and can be in your life.
This is also an exciting time to redefine who you are! If you don’t have friends right now, you can move forward without the constraints of old friends or acquaintances who viewed you as awkward, shy, or didn’t value or appreciate you.
Just don’t stay in this season too long. As you understand yourself, actively reach out to people around you. No rule says you must have X amount of friends to be cool or desirable. The truth is we all need people in our life. Discover what that looks like for you, and don’t compare it to what you see on social media.
As you begin to transition out of your season of having no friends, ask yourself:
- Are there people I’ve dismissed in the past who would make good friends?
- Who can I mentor?
- How can I offer friendship to people in my community who are lonely? (e.g., elderly neighbors, other people with no friends, people in nursing homes that don’t get visitors, refugees, etc.)
- Having no friends isn’t shameful.
- If you have no friends, it’s not because there is something inherently lacking in you.
- This season in your life is a beautiful opportunity to grow.
- Work on your people skills so you can interact more effectively with others.
- Be the first to reach out. Other people are lonely, too.
- Get involved in local activities and volunteer your time to connect with others.
Life is beautiful.
Even if you’re an introvert, other people are a gift. So enjoy the people and things around you, and you’ll connect to others in a meaningful way you may have missed out on in the past.
You are also a gift. You can overcome the pain and isolation of loneliness to thrive!
Ready to start looking for friends? Try out the 13 friendship apps!