Finding your people in New York City can feel impossible. As the founder of The Joy List, a weekly newsletter of events that New Yorkers can attend alone and leave with a new friend, I hear people’s stories of disconnection all the time. Here are a few that I’ve been told in the past month alone:
"I thought that making friends in NYC would be easy. There are so many people! But it's like everyone already has their group. I just want those people I can text at 4 PM on a Friday to get dinner."
"I have a partner, and I spend all my time with them. It feels impossible to make friends who are married. I'm in a relationship, but I feel disconnected."
"I feel embarrassed to say it, but I'm not really inspired by my friends. They're the same people I went to college with. It's like I've outgrown them, but I don't know how to start deepening my relationships with other people."
If you’ve thought something along these lines before, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. (Bummer, I know.) According to the American Sociological Review, the average American only has one close friend. To make matters worse, 75% of people aren’t satisfied with that relationship. In other words, most folks have one friend… who they don’t even like very much. Yikes.
Yet feeling disconnected isn’t just bad for our spiritual health. It’s also bad for our physical health. Your health teacher probably didn’t tell you this, but being lonely is just as bad for your life expectancy as being an excessive drinker, being obese, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s seven freakin’ years off your life. No bueno.
So, how the hell can you combat this? How can you go from feeling disconnected in NYC to finally having your people? Luckily, I’ve been studying how to create a healthy community since 2016. (I even wrote a book about it.) I’m here to bring all that research to you, in four simple ways to find your people in NYC.
PS. If you want to accelerate this process, and get support along the way, I’m running an in-person and online program for anyone who wants to find incredible friends. The NYC version starts on March 12, and the online version starts March 11! Tell me that Lightning Society sent you by March 10th for $50 off.
1. Our Homes Can Make Us Happy
So many people in New York City are desperate for housing and choose to live with anyone who seems mildly sane. Yet if you have the luxury of choosing who you live with, why not share space with someone who makes you a better person?
Moving in with roommates who care about me, and make an active effort to help me grow, has improved my quality of life like nothing else. Don’t assume you’ll find great relationships outside of your apartment. You sleep and eat your meals there. You should have some friendship as well!
Places like Lightning Society are an incredible gift because they allow you to drop into the community from your first moments in the city.
2. Don’t Consume, Collaborate
It’s easy to show up at an event and expect to be catered to. And sometimes that’s nice. Yet it’s often more rewarding to contribute to the space. This is why I always recommend that people volunteer at events. Not only will this save money, but it also allows them to meet the organizers and their fellow volunteers. You already have some shared values with those people, which means you’re likely to get along.
Volunteering also helps with social anxiety. When new people enter the room, you don’t have to stand there wondering what to do. You have a purpose—checking them in, serving food, taking their coat. This helps conversation move more naturally and gives you a sense of direction.
This rule applies for more informal gatherings, as well. You could just show up at someone’s brunch and expect to be fed. But the hosts will appreciate you—and you’ll feel more at ease—if you bring a bunch of ingredients to create a small dish like a fancy cheese plate. You have something to occupy your hands, a conversation starter, and instant gratitude from the hosts and guests right off the bat. Boom!
3. Find The Connectors
Every community has someone who absolutely loves connecting people to each other. You’ll recognize them by their insane amount of Facebook friends, a friendly grin, and the fact that at least three people have told you, “Wait, you haven’t met (insert name here) yet? They know everyone!”
If you have social media, locating these people is easy—especially if you’re about to move to a new city. Simply post something along the lines of:
“Hey everyone! I’m moving to Chicago and looking for connections to amazing people. Who should I meet?”
If you’re searching for more connections in your current area, simply remove the “I’m moving to Chicago” section. You’ll be surprised by how many people will be tagged. Folks love to help. You just need to give them permission to do their thing!
4. Be A Gatherer
New Yorkers love to say, “People are too busy. They won’t come to an event if I invite them.” I love you, but I’m going to call bullshit. SO many people are waiting to be invited. Even if they can’t go, or are too anxious to attend, they will be so thankful that you thought of them and reached out. It’s a gift to tell someone you’d like to spend time with them.
I think a lot of people are too passive in their social lives. And I get it. The fear of being rejected can prevent us from reaching out. Yet, I’m a firm believer in what Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, a Camp Grounded counselor, said in a memorial piece to its founder on Medium: “Some people spend their time living, some people spend their time creating the world they actually want to live in.” Which one do you want to be?
4 Weeks to Find Your People
Feeling overwhelmed? I totally understand. It took me years to find a community of people who I feel at home with in NYC. I wish I had a guide to help me expedite the process– which is exactly why I’m offering that service now.
4 Weeks To Find Your People is a month-long group, both online and in NYC, designed to help you deepen your relationship to yourself, your friends, and your community at large. In other words, it’s a crash course in finding belonging. It’s perfect for anyone who’s new to a city, in a moment of life transition, or just wants to bring some more kickass people into their life. There is both an in-person group in NYC and an online cohort. Online starts March 12, in-person starts March 14! The investment for our online program is $100, while our NYC group is $495. Sign up here and mention that Lightning Society sent you for $50 off! (Offer ends March 10.)
Jillian Richardson is the founder of The Joy List, a weekly newsletter of events that New Yorkers can attend alone and leave with a new friend. She's also the author of Unlonely Planet, and runs a month-long group for anyone to learn how to create the community they crave.