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How to make new friends in your neighborhood

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Neighborly love

Neighborhoods aren't like they used to be. Sometimes neighbors are complete strangers, even after years of living yards away. Believe it or, neighborhoods were once tight-knit communities full of supportive, friendly and familiar faces. Can they be that way again?

women having coffee

You don't have to be an experienced social director to build bonds in your neighborhood. If you're not happy with the social dynamic in your community, start making a change today.

Social (networking) dynamic

The term "social life" has taken on new meaning, especially for our kids. What was once defined as actual interaction (as in, face-to-face) now often refers to the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers we can collect. Our social lives have essentially turned inside out, with the focus now being on cyber-space rather than on reality. "Children play indoors instead of out; most don't even take walks through their streets anymore," says Jaymes Ian Woode, a relationship counselor and author of 101 Behaviors a Guy Needs to Understand About His Woman. "Most have grown accustomed to living without meaningful friendships."

General distrust

You know the drill: Garage door rolls up, car full of family pulls out, garage door rolls down. Then, an hour later, the garage door rolls back up, car full of family pulls into the garage and the garage door rolls back down. Obviously, it's pretty hard to develop relationships when this is the typical scenario. "The media have made people afraid of their neighbors," says Woode. "Thoughts of wondering who looks suspicious are at the forefront of minds. Who knows who they may really trust anymore?" While it's a good idea to be cautious, there's no better way to dispel distrust than to really get to know somebody.

Be the spark

Change has to start somewhere, and most neighborhoods don't have an official party planner. "To create change in neighborhoods, it often only takes one person who is willing to reach out," says Woode. "One person can knock on a neighbor's door and find those who also want to open up. As most salespeople know, after enough knocks, you are bound to make a sale." Yes, it takes courage and you'll probably have to overcome some skepticism towards your friendly attitude, but it will be worth it when you actually learn the names of the people who live around you.

Practical tips

Susanne Alexander, a relationship coach, recounts some of the ways she has successfully connected with her neighbors in recent years. "I feel safer and less isolated knowing that I have at least some connection to the people who live near me," she says. Perhaps her experience will inspire you:

  • Meet neighbors at civic events or start an in-home spiritual group.
  • Connect over yard advice or repairs that need cooperation.
  • Exchange numbers with elderly neighbors in case of an emergency.
  • Bring the Sunday comics over to cheer up a neighbor going through a hard time.

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