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Making Social Connections

When you’re feeling isolated, it can be hard to put yourself out there and engage with others. However, there are active steps that you can take to start new friendships and build on connections that you may already have.

Meet new people

Infographics showing ways to meet people

Meeting new people is an important part of expanding your social world. To get the chance to chat to others, you could try:

  • Societies & Groups: Join societies or groups on campus to help create a social network. Take a look at Social & Academic or Sports clubs at Wits for options. You could also join the CCDU groups on Adjusting to Campus or Healthy Relationships, which may be useful.
  • Volunteering: Helping others lets you meet new people and helps you to feel good about yourself, too.
  • Meetups: Look and see if there are any meetups or similar events in your area on something that you might be interested in.
  • Turn your online friends into real friends: Track down old or existing friends on social media, and arrange to meet up rather than just having an online conversation. If you are meeting people for the first time, be aware of safety concerns.
  • Just be friendly: Just being friendly towards people you interact with casually is a good first place to start.
Tips on connecting with someone new

Try and practice the following skills when you’re working on connecting with someone new:

  • Smile: Smiling at someone in a relaxed and open way helps them to feel more comfortable around you.
  • Eye contact: Eye contact varies across different cultures. Eye contact is expected as a sign of engaging in some cultures, but may be considered too forward in others. Rather than applying a blanket rule, follow the other person’s cues, and apply what you know is culturally appropriate.
  • Listening skills: Most people are looking for someone to listen to them. Ask questions to show that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
  • Look for things you have in common: For example, is the person studying the same course as you, do they look the same music or foods, what activities do they enjoy?
  • Be yourself: To have a good friendship, it’s important to be authentic. It’s no good starting up a friendship if you’re not being yourself. Don’t feel bullied or intimidated into do things that you feel uncomfortable with.
  • Practice the art of conversation: Ask open-ended questions and respond with information when you’re asked a question. For example, if someone says “Did you have a good weekend?”. Instead of just saying “Yeah,” , say “I had a fun time visiting my cousin in Pretoria. I got the chance to play with my baby niece who is really cute. What did you do?”. This second option opens up the conversation, rather than shutting it down.
  • Respect boundaries: Don’t bring up topics that are too personal. Also, if someone isn’t interested in connecting, then respect that.
Moving from an acquaintance to a friendship

Share slowly

To move a relationship into something deeper, try sharing small amounts of more personal information and seeing if the other person reciprocates. Don’t share your darkest secret, but start with something a little more personal to deepen the friendship. If the other person doesn’t reciprocate, then perhaps this person isn’t a good friendship candidate for you.

Extend invitations

Extend an invitation to someone you think could be a possible friend, and see what their response is. Start with something easygoing, like coffee or a movie, or meeting up after class. If they say no, remember that there may be a lot of other factors involved, such as their own stress and experiences.

Be a good friend

Part of making friendships is about being the friend you’d like to have. Listen to what people are saying, and take a genuine interest in them. Support others, and put in the effort to have empathy, connect with and understand how others are feeling.

Give people space

When you’re socially isolated, it can be easy to come on a little strong when you’re making new friends. Remember to give people space, so that you’re not seen as needy or clingy.


Just like any skill, meeting new people and making friends takes practice. If something hasn’t worked out, rather than simply blaming yourself, think through what didn’t work out and why.  There may be many reasons why things don’t work out – the person might be busy, or they may be stressed or be going through a difficult time.