With the rapid advancements in technology, and our society’s evolving lifestyle needs and wants, today’s workforce is a mobile one. I watch my friends and my children’s friends move from one town to the next, whether for work or for lifestyle changes, whereas people in the past would often grow up in the same house and stay in the same town for decades. What this means for us as individuals is that our emotional connections and support with other human beings are also changing.

When you move to a new town as an adult, it can be very tough to break into already existing friendships and cliques. One of the most important things you can do to help, is to reach out to people with similar interests and values. This requires you to override both your reticence and your shyness.

Great places to search for people with similar interests and values are places of worship, clubs, and classes. Going to gallery openings, music recitals lectures, and the gym can help you to connect with others of similar interests. Even volunteering, grocery shopping, or walking the dog can lead a friendly person to connect socially. There’s also the old fashioned way of connecting, which is meeting new people through old friends or connecting with alumni through alumni associations. And, of course, there’s the modern way of making friends in your new environment: through social media, such as local Facebook groups, Meetups, LinkedIn groups, and so on. My mother used to say to me when I was young, “Prince Charming is not going to ride up to your door on a white horse. You have to go out looking for him.” And the same is true of friendship.

Now, making friends doesn’t come as easily for everyone. Some people are genetically predisposed to shyness. We can now see that in the brain on CAT scans and MRIs. However, certain behavior modification techniques can help you deliberately override your shyness. Will you ever be a social butterfly? Maybe not. But, can you be socially adequate and make friends? Yes.

Two ways you can make new adult friends

Here’s a behavior modification technique I used when I found myself in a new place. I like to play tennis, so I made a list of other people I knew who played tennis. Every few days, I would go down the list and phone one of them to ask them if they wanted to play tennis. If they said no – and here’s the key – I did not take it personally, but recognized that it wasn’t about me. It was simply a conflict in timing. Then I’d move down the list to the next person, and so on until I found someone to play tennis with.

A second idea is to use icebreakers to enter social situations to help you have conversations that lead to connections. If you’re shy, you can practice and rehearse them when alone. Easy ice breakers include: asking someone what book they’re reading now, what hobbies they’re interested in, what work are they involved in, what charities they work with… it gives you a chance to learn how to be an active listener.

The message you give to a person when you listen, is that you appreciate and value what they

It’s all about pheromones: some are compatible… some are not. And it’s all okay.

Keep in mind, you have to be a friend to make a friend, and that friendship requires intimacy. A word of caution here: don’t spill your confidences to people you don’t know or trust. Trust is have to say, who they are and what are their passions. It also gives you good information to decide whether this person is the right kind of friend for you. Do you share common values, goals, interests and do you view the world in the same way? And most importantly, can you be your authentic self with them?

On the other hand, it’s important to recognize that you’re not going to like everyone. For instance, you may automatically move away from people simply based on your sense of smell. based on experience, and intimate relationships have to be built first. Yet the strongest bond in friendship will be those personal self-disclosures. They become the ties that bind as we get to know one another in an authentic and empathic way. No matter how often you move, you have the power to make those personal connections with others: as long as you put forth the effort.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.