How to make friends when you have no friends

Scarcity can give you tunnel vision. When you feel deeply deprived of social connection, tunnel vision can lead you to make choices that could sabotage your chances at friendship. So, focus on all your needs, those that are met and those that aren't. This can give you the perspective you need to make rational choices that get you to a better place.

Good friends are hard to find. If you have no friends already, finding good friendship can feel even harder.

According to research, it doesn’t just feel harder. It actually is harder. The more deprived you feel of social connection, the harder time you’ll have connecting.

This is because of the scarcity trap: when something you really need is scarce, your brain hyper-focuses on that one thing at the expense of other equally important things. This happens if you have no money, no food, no time, no friendship, no love. Whatever is sorely needed but deeply lacking will become the focus of your fixation. Everything else begins to matter less than it should. And you end up making choices that lead to self-sabotage.

Someone with no social connections is likely to hyper-focus on how lonely they are. Their desire for friendship can become a fixation. In social situations (like parties or a coffee date), this fixation can cause them to push hard to feel a connection - which they do, for a moment, because they're so forceful in obtaining it (they need it that badly).

But their behavior presents as forceful and over-eager, which leaves others feeling awkward and wanting to pull away. This leaves the lonely person feeling lonelier (and more rejected) in the long run. In an effort to satisfy their hunger for friendship, they've snatched a momentary "snack" but are left starving even more.

The same can happen when the scarcity you experience is around romantic love or sex: you may come on too strong and lose your shot. It also happens when you badly crave to be heard or understood: you may try so hard to be seen by others that you force your thoughts too hard, pushing people away.

Scarcity can beget more scarcity if you’re not careful.

Don’t let scarcity creep up on you, surprise you, and freak you out. Take control by paying attention. Set aside time and energy to slow down and take note of all the things you need but aren’t getting. Make a list of your all needs, not just the ones you feel deprived of: financial, emotional, intellectual, social, physical, and whatever else is relevant. Then, ask yourself, “What conditions need to be in place for all my needs to be met?” Next, list out what has to happen for those conditions to become realized, and then work to make those conditions real.

This exercise can do two things. First, it puts you in your head, removing you from the emotional fear, worry, or pain that comes with scarcity, emotions that lead to sabotaging impulsive behavior. Second, it forces you to look at all your needs, overriding scarcity’s tendency to focus your brain on only one or two.

Revisiting your list regularly (monthly even) isn’t a bad idea. The more you rationally think about meeting all your needs, rather than impulsively meeting just one or two, the better off you’ll be overall.

There’s also another side to this scarcity story. The next time you meet someone who comes on too strong, or pushes too intensely to be close, try to refrain from judging them for that behavior. It might be their situation, and not their character, that’s driving them. Keep your boundaries, and be cautious. But unless there’s something creepy going on, stay open to the possibility that they’re hurting. We all could use a little more compassion. Recognizing when scarcity is driving odd behavior might just offer others enough of what they need to feel stable again.

Read about how scarcity can impact your financial decision-making as well.