You’ve bonded with somebody in line for
Pink Drinks or in the Deuxmoi comments section and exchanged numbers — and now the iMessage window lies empty, waiting for you to say, well, anything. Without all the inside jokes and favorite .gifs of a long-term friendship, how do you start to text a new friend?
“Rest assured that you are not the only one having these thoughts, and that alone will alleviate some of your anxiety,”
Rachel Hoffman Ph.D. , head therapist at Real, tells Bustle. People having conversations with new friends in-person commonly stress about whether they’ll have anything to talk about, how to fill awkward silences, and even how to make eye contact in a not-weird way, she says. These worries can crop up whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. While you may feel that WhatsApping back and forth is a bit less socially taxing than an in-person brunch, thinking of things to text a new friend is an exercise in creativity.
“Go at your own pace,”
Charmain Jackman, Ph.D., a psychologist, tells Bustle. If sending more than two messages at a time, or responding within five minutes, feels too intense for you, take the conversation slowly. Running dry on things to say? Here are 11 ideas to take the conversation to the next level. “Hey, [Mutual Friend], What Do You Think?”
Going one on one can be a lot of pressure. If you’ve got a mutual friend — maybe someone who introduced you —
ask them to start the chat so you can both riff off them. “When there is another person in the circle or in the space it takes away some of the pressure to fill the silence,” Hoffman says. If there are a few mutuals, Jackman recommends picking one who has an easy time starting conversations and helps out during pauses. “I’m Always Awkward Over Text”
“Bring up the elephant in the room,” Hoffman says. “Expressing that you feel
nervous or uncomfortable in a social situation can be a great icebreaker.” Being self-effacing may make them feel more comfortable too. Jon Levy, a behavioral psychologist adds that being vulnerable can actually make people feel more trusting towards you, because it shows you’re willing to let your guard down a little. “So You’re Into XYZ — What’s That Like?”
“If you experience any anxiety in social situations, it’s very helpful to get the person you are engaging with talking,” Hoffman says. Asking questions has the added bonus of making the other person feel comfortable. Express real interest in their life and what they like. Don’t know much about them? Levy tells Bustle that finding points of commonality can help you bond quickly with others — he even has a
Get To Know You Bingo game where you can find random questions to ask (“what’s your dream exotic pet?” is an example). “I’m Super Excited To Do XYZ This Weekend — What About You?”
“Try to bring up
topics that you feel excited to talk about,” Hoffman says. Your enthusiasm can be infectious and give them an open invitation to ask questions or supply their own stories about how they’re spending their time. Letting them in on your plans also creates a feeling of intimacy. “So How Did You Meet XYZ? Any Good Stories?”
If you do have somebody in common, that’s a potential bonding point. And if the mutual friend isn’t in the group chat, you can share that embarrassing time in middle school when they mushed apple sauce in your hair.
“Do You Want To Play/Watch/Do XYZ?”
If you’re really not feeling
the plain conversation angle, consider sending them something cool to do instead. “Choose an activity that requires you to be engaged fully or that will take the pressure off having to engage in sustained dialogue,” Jackman suggests. Send an article for them to read, or a TikTok to watch, that you can then discuss over coffee. “The Wildest Thing Happened At Work Today”
Share a ridiculous or out-of-the-ordinary anecdote about your own recent life, to let them feel they’re seeing a more intimate side of you. It could also spur them to share their own experiences of similar things (“Oh my god, my photocopier sprayed toner on me too!”)
“I’m Trying XYZ For The First Time, I’ll Keep You Posted”
Giving them a running commentary of a first-time attempt at something — particularly if it’s an activity that they mentioned, like cooking a pasta sauce or
playing — can be a good way to start a conversation. They can give you tips, and you can revel in your victories (or share your minor failures). Mass Effect “What Do You Think About X We Both Saw?”
“My number one recommendation is to revolve the social interaction around an experience,” Hoffman says. If you know you’ve both seen or
experienced something similar recently — a movie, a TV show, a new coffee at a café you both like — ask how they felt about it. If you have different opinions, that’s an opportunity to nudge further. “What Are Your Recs For XYZ?”
Nothing works like flattery — and
asking for somebody’s expertise on something they really like is a great way to get them talking. Are they really into red wine? Obscure French films? Sustainable fashion? Social justice organizations that need donations? Ask them for their best tips. “Dream Vacation, Any Budget, Go”
Daydreaming together can be a fun bonding activity — particularly when it comes to sharing aspirations you could do together one day. Pick up on something they’ve previously mentioned; if they’re into books, ask what author they’d love to have dinner with, for instance.
Experts: Rachel Hoffman Ph.D. Charmain Jackman Ph.D. Jon Levy