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I Have No Friends: What to Do

I feel like I have no friends, and I don’t know what to do . . .

I’ve said this to myself during dark moments in my life. Chances are, you have too. The research data suggests that millions of people, of all ages, are struggling to find and keep friends. In our State of Mental Health survey, more than half (54%) of people reported they don’t have a friend they feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night for an emergency.1 And even when people report having friends, people are not opening up, being honest, or living vulnerable and truly connected lives. Without meaning to, we’ve created the loneliest generation in human history. And while I could write books on why, I want to focus on our lack of friends and what we can do about it.

Why Having Friends Is Important

Making new friends as an adult is hard. I’m a social guy, and even I hate the idea of starting new relationships and keeping them going long term. Making new friends can just be awkward and weird. Plus, making new friends after being hurt or taken advantage of feels downright frightening. Instead of feeling uncomfortable or risking rejection again, it’s easier to flip on Netflix, take on yet another work project, challenge some work colleagues to a video game, or have a few glasses of wine to numb out and fall sleep.  

But we need people. It’s not a luxury—friendships are a must. We need other people surrounding us and supporting us to live healthy, whole and fulfilling lives. Researchers note that loneliness has a more powerful negative effect on our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.2 Loneliness is killing us!

But friends are about so much more than hacks for good health and emergency response. Friendships and deep relationships make life worth living! A good friend joins you in the day-to-day trials and adventures of life, and they can add value in a lot of ways, like:  

  • They can lend a hand with practical life stuff, like house projects, childcare, yardwork and airport rides.
  • Friends help you see and remember the positive things about you—and call you out on the areas that need some work.
  • Friends bring laughter, levity and new ways to look at old problems.
  • Friends sit with you when everything falls apart. They take care of the lawn or make sure there’s food in the fridge. They grieve with you and make sure to bring nachos.
  • They cheer you on and celebrate wins and successes with you.
  • Friends may offer healthy influences and teach you to do new things, whether that’s a new workout routine, parenting skills, or being a better spouse. They may also push you to relax once in a while and just have the piece of pizza.
  • Friends make life memorable. You can share stories for years to come.

Reasons Why You Don’t Have Friends

There are multiple reasons why you might be struggling to connect with friends (and no, Facebook friends and TikTok followers don’t count). When you were a kid, friendship and connection with other people were forced upon you! You had to work on group projects, be on the kickball team, stand next to other kids in choir, or line up shoulder to shoulder in the school Christmas play. Everything in our lives was geared toward being with others (and even then, many people felt like outsiders).  


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But once adulthood hits, people move away. They get married and have babies. They go back to grad school. Navigating a cutthroat job and housing market is challenging. Adulthood hits us in the face, and we find ourselves increasingly alone. It gets harder and harder to connect with people—and social skills and confidence begin to wither. Explore the list below and honestly reflect on your own life. Are you experiencing any of the following challenges?

  • You moved to a new city, or your friends moved away.
  • Many of your high school or college friends are getting married, having babies, and pursuing careers, so time for hanging out has become scarce or nonexistent.
  • You’re dealing with some social anxiety that makes social situations feel unsafe or uncomfortable—so you opt out of parties and after-work gatherings. When you do go, you stay quiet and in the shadows.
  • Maybe you’ve been out of the workplace or working remotely for a while and your soft skills are a little rusty. Communication with new people might feel awkward. You do more and more things alone because it’s just easier.
  • You’ve experienced relational abuse or pain in the past, and you’ve found yourself, once again, surrounded by toxic relationships.
  • Maybe you’re trying hard to meet people, but you’re coming on too strong by being pushy, clingy or rude without realizing—and you’ve found yourself in need of updated emotional intelligence skills.
  • There’s so much distraction at home. You’d rather stay in and watch Netflix, play Fortnite, or scroll Pinterest than go out and start over making friends.
  • With a packed schedule of work and the gym and walking your dog, you think you don’t have time to make friends.
  • You’ve made peace with surface-level acquaintances (you’ve got plenty of those), and the thought of creating deeper relationships through vulnerability freaks you out. You never saw this modeled by your parents or siblings, and you wouldn’t know where to start even if you wanted to.
  • People and relationships just aren’t a priority. Friends are a waste of your time.
  • You have different interests than the people around you, so you feel isolated and different. You feel weird. You think no one would understand you anyway, so what’s the point?

If you’re like me, several of the points in that list ring true. There could be any number of reasons why you’ve found yourself with no friends—but it’s important to not stay there.

10 Things To Do When You Have No Friends

Even if you’ve thought about giving up hope for finding real friends, I think you’re trying in your own ways to connect. It’s just gotten messy out there. Consider this: People have three times more social media accounts than groups they belong to in real life.3 Meaning, we’re outsourcing human connection to algorithms, tech companies and curated digital images—and we’re feeling lonelier than ever. So while I think it’s safe to admit that we do want connction, we also have to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working.

Before we get going, I want you to go find a mirror. I want you to make a fist in your right hand and bury it into your chest. Repeat after me: I need friends, and I’m worth being friends with. Yes, go ahead and roll your eyes. This exercise is cheesy, but if you do it every day for a season, it will change your life. I’m a wannabe tough guy and hunter from Texas who has a bunch of tattoos and an obsession with old punk rock. I rolled my eyes at this exercise too, but after I did it for a while, it changed my life. That’s how I know it will work for you too.

Questions for Humans: Friends

Starting up a good conversation with new (or old) friends can be hard in this digital age. But it doesn’t have to be! Mental health expert Dr. John Delony wants to help you navigate conversations to eliminate the awkwardness! That’s why he developed Questions for Humans—to help you have a fun conversation with a friend or a group of friends.

Some of you won’t be able to even mutter the words because you don’t believe them. If this is you, I strongly suggest you do this every day until you can say the words and truly mean them. We can’t do life alone. This is not up for debate. I don’t care if you’re an introvert, what your Enneagram number is, or what your ACES score is. You need other people. Period.

If this truth scares or paralyzes you, I want to strongly encourage you to find a therapist, pastor or mentor you trust. These trustworthy people can help you learn the skills of going first and opening up to people. At some point, you’ll have to make the first move to put yourself out there and connect with someone—even if that’s just smiling and saying hello to the cashier in the grocery story. Listen, I know initiating connection can be a terrifying thought and even bring on some anxiety. But I’m fully confident you can take some of these steps on your own. If you don’t believe in yourself like I do, call a trusted professional or mentor.

When you’re ready to get out there and practice making friends, there are some super practical steps you can take. Other steps I’m going to describe here are a little more philosophical. Hang with me, though. It will be weird and awkward at first. But with time, connecting with new people will begin to radically change your world. Here are 10 tips to help you connect with others and put an end to living life without friends.

1. Understand that friendship is a skill you practice.

Don’t let the idea of extrovert versus introvert or Enneagram numbers or Myers-Briggs personality types make you believe you can’t get along with people. Friendship and human connection are skills to learn and practice, like learning how to speak Spanish, play the guitar, or knit. Cut yourself some slack when the process of getting to know folks gets a little messy, scary or uncomfortable—because it will.

2. Just show up where you can.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. You won’t feel like you know what you’re doing or that you have the right words to say. Show up anyway. Sometimes the most impactful way to be a friend is to just be there with them and not say anything. Listen. Give them a hug. Bring tacos. Smile. Forget about having the right words to say and just show up.

3. Consider other people before yourself.

Do you see someone in your community having a hard time? Maybe there’s a single mom at your church who’s struggling to buy groceries for her kids. If it’s in your means to do so, find any opportunity you can to help someone out. And I don’t just mean writing a check—you can also give your time and your talents to help others out. You’re not buying their friendship. You’re practicing generosity and care, which are two essential qualities for healthy relationships. And when you continually put yourself in a position of service, you increase the chance that you’ll cross paths with other like-minded, big-hearted people.

4. Start a conversation.

The barista. The librarian. The front-desk guy at your gym. Think about the people you see on a regular basis and get to know them. Say hello. Ask their name (and use it the next time you see them). Ask how they like their job or where they’re from. I can guarantee they’ll appreciate being seen and acknowledged. You’ll begin to feel good about the interactions too.

5. Make time for people in your schedule.

I guarantee you can find an hour in your week to get together with someone for lunch, join a class, or volunteer. But you’ll probably have to turn off the computer, miss the latest series, tell your coworker you can’t cover for them this time, or even ask a friend at church if they can watch your kids for the evening. Whatever you have to do, you’ve got to start being intentional about how you spend your time. (If you really don’t know where to find people to socialize with, check out websites like Meetup or your community rec center for schedules of events.)

6. Accept an apology—or give one.

Do you have a nagging regret? Still feel bad about saying something the wrong way or missing an important event, even years later? Are you holding a grudge against someone else? Do the hard, right thing of swallowing your pride. Accept an apology and forgive them or give an apology and forgive yourself. You’d be amazed how much this can bring down the walls in a relationship, no matter how much time has passed.

7. Get out of your home.

You’ll never make new friends if you stay inside your house all day. I know, it’s safe and full of snacks—but no growth or adventure happens when you stay in your cave. Is leaving your safe space a risk? Of course. But it’s maybe more dangerous to stay hidden away. Start spending time in places where people are. Make the choice and physically go. Join a league. Join a team. Go to a coffee shop. If you normally sleep in on Sundays, choose to attend your neighborhood church service. If you normally put on your headphones and block out the world at the gym, take a ju-jitsu or Zumba class instead. Choose differently this time. Put yourself in the places where people are.

8. Ask your neighbor for a favor.

Instead of immediately jumping on Amazon to buy something you need, go next door and ask your neighbor if you can borrow a hammer or cup of sugar—like people did in the good old days. They’ll often be both relieved and proud to help. You can use this as an opportunity to get to know them better and to find out ways you can serve them in the future.

9. Call someone you’ve lost touch with.

Maybe you haven’t talked to your college roommate in years. Or maybe it’s been a few weekends too many since you checked in on your grandma. Whoever it is, and however long it’s been, have the courage and courtesy to reach out and check in. I’ve tried this over the past few years, and it’s been an extraordinary way to reconnect with amazing folks.

10. Go first: Invite someone over for dinner or coffee. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

We live in a culture of performance hosting (which, with just the right lighting, looks good on social media). But I’m asking for you to practice hospitality. Drop the show and the costumes. I don’t care if there’s a basket of laundry on the floor or toys covering every inch of the living room—open your home to people. Invite folks over to meet the real, everyday you! Have neighbors and coworkers over for dinner or coffee. Invite them into your life. Forget about fancy China and linen napkins. It’s the company and connection that count.

Again, You’re Worth Having Friends

If you don’t have friends, you’re not broken. Our current culture actually makes it really hard to meaningfully connect. But acknowledging the reality about your loneliness is the first step you need to take to start getting out of your comfort zone and practicing getting to know people.

It won’t be easy, and it might take a long time and involve a lot of trial and error. But I encourage you to choose the discomfort of putting yourself out there. Choose to do the work of feeling scared, and then doing it anyway. Don’t accept loneliness as a way of life.

Next Steps

  • Identify the main reason why you don’t have friends. Is it because of your schedule, environment, social skills or something else?
  • Practice connecting with others by using my Questions for Humans conversation starters.
  • Take my free anxiety test to learn what might be causing feelings of stress and anxiety, especially in your relationships.

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Dr. John Delony

About the author

Dr. John Delony

Dr. John Delony is a mental health expert with two PhDs from Texas Tech University—one in counselor education and supervision and the other in higher education administration. Before joining Ramsey Solutions in 2020, John spent two decades in crisis response, walking with people through severe trauma. Now at Ramsey Solutions, John writes, speaks and teaches on relationships, mental health, anxiety and wellness. He hosts The Dr. John Delony Show and also serves as co-host of The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. In 2022, John’s book Own Your Past, Change Your Future instantly became a #1 national bestseller. You can also find John featured on DailyMailTV, Fox Business and The Minimalists Podcast. Learn More.

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