Things You Should Never Say When Trying To Make New Friends

Things You Should Never Say When Trying To Make New Friends

Making friends as an adult is hard! We all want to come across as likeable, but sometimes our well-meaning efforts fall flat. The desire to connect is strong, but there are certain conversational landmines that scare off potential pals. Think of this as your guide to avoiding those cringe-inducing phrases that sabotage your chances before they even begin.

1. “You seem cool, we should hang out sometime!” (And other vague non-invitations)

It sounds friendly, but it puts the burden on them to follow up, which rarely happens. Be specific! “Love your sneakers! Ever check out that vintage store on Main Street? Maybe we could go this weekend?” Concrete plans are more likely to materialize than vague promises. Of course, it sucks when you’re the only person making those plans, but try not to be too resentful, Inc. advises. Things should even out the more you get to know them.

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2. Launching into your entire life story within 5 minutes

Oversharing repels people (well, most of them, anyway). Early conversations should be light – hobbies, funny anecdotes about your pets, etc. Don’t unload all your relationship drama or detailed medical history onto someone you just met. Deeper bonds form organically over time, and you don’t want to overwhelm them right out of the gate.

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3. Dominating the conversation, barely letting them get a word in

Enthusiasm is great, but it becomes exhausting if it’s a one-sided infodump. Watch for cues: if the other person seems glazed over, keeps trying to change the subject, or their responses get shorter, it’s time to dial it back. Ask questions and actually listen to their answers. Good friendships involve balanced give and take, even in the early stages.

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4. One-upping every story they share with your own epic tale

Did they go to Hawaii? You went to Bora Bora. They got a promotion? You just launched your own business. This turns friendly exchange into a weird competition. Genuinely celebrating their stuff makes you more likeable, not trying to always be the most impressive one in the room. Plus, asking follow-up questions about their experiences shows genuine interest, which ultimately creates a stronger connection.

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5. Complaining endlessly, especially about other people in your circle

Negativity is contagious. Everyone vents occasionally, but if your default mode is gripe-fest, it paints you as someone who drains the fun out of everything. And if you trash-talk existing friends to someone new, they assume you’ll do the same about them later, which erodes trust.

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6. Giving unsolicited advice, even if you mean well

Unless they ask, leaping in with solutions for their problems feels intrusive. It suggests you don’t think they’re capable of solving things themselves. Sometimes, people just want to vent, to feel heard, not receive a 10-step plan for fixing their life. Offering support goes further: “That sucks, do you want to just rant, or are you looking for help brainstorming solutions?”

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7. Asking overly personal questions too soon

“When are you getting married?”, “Why did you get divorced?”, etc., are nosy, not friendly. Build trust first! Deep stuff comes later, once you aren’t basically strangers. Small talk exists for a reason, it builds comfort before you get to the real heart-to-heart conversations.

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8. Making comments about their appearance, even if intended as compliments

“You’ve lost weight!” seems positive, but can be triggering if they’re struggling with health issues, body image, etc. Compliment their work, their sense of humor, something that’s about THEM, not merely a judgment on how they look. This builds stronger connections because it’s about WHO they are, not the external package.

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9. Asking, “So what do you do?” as the default opening icebreaker

It’s boring AND puts some people on the defensive (if they’re unemployed, hate their job, or feel their career doesn’t define their worth). Ask about their favorite weekend hobby, the last great show they binged, if they’ve read any good books lately — something more lighthearted and interesting than work-related pressures.

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10. Immediately delving into heavy topics – politics, religion, etc.

Unless you’re at an event specifically for those discussions, keep early chats neutral. Strong opinions are great, but lobbing verbal grenades into casual conversation shuts things down. You can discuss deeper stuff once you’ve established a rapport, and have a better sense of where common ground might lie.

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11. Self-deprecating too much and using the “fishing for compliments” trap

“I look terrible today,” or “I’m SO awkward,” begs them to disagree, which feels manipulative, Verywell Mind explains. A bit of lighthearted humor about a universal struggle (“The struggle to find matching socks is real…”) is fine, but constant negativity disguised as humility gets old FAST. Let your good qualities shine through, they’ll notice without you pointing out flaws.

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12. Immediately launching into gossip

Talking about people not in the room is tempting, creates artificial intimacy. But if that’s your go-to, they’ll worry you spread gossip about them too. Focus on shared interests instead, building a positive foundation before you even THINK about dishing dirt. Plus, learning about the stuff they’re genuinely passionate about is way more engaging than trading rumors!

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13. Pretending to agree with everything they say to seem agreeable

happy woman with friends on adventure

Being a people-pleaser backfires. Respectful disagreement shows you have your own mind, it’s far more interesting than being a conversational echo! “That’s cool! I have a slightly different take…” sparks actual discussion, not blandness. It also shows you’re confident enough to hold your own opinions, which is an attractive quality.

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14. Immediately focusing on what you have in common, ignoring differences

“OMG, me too!” every time they mention a preference gets repetitive. Some healthy curiosity about things you don’t share builds rapport too. Asking questions about their unique hobbies or passions broadens your own horizons, and shows you’re interested in them as a whole person, not just seeking a potential twin.

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15. Trying to come across as “mysterious” with vague answers.

Intrigue is powerful, but being weirdly evasive just makes you seem like you’re hiding something unpleasant. A little playful dodge is fine (“Guess what I did last weekend…” ), but flat-out refusing to answer basic get-to-know-you questions sets off red flags. They might be intrigued initially, but eventually, it just gets frustrating.

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16. Checking your phone constantly, or apologizing for a quick glance

Even if your intent is “just to check the time,” it sends a message: whoever’s on that screen is more important than them. Unless it’s a genuine emergency, keep your phone tucked away during a new interaction. They deserve your genuine focus, at least initially. Plus, being fully present makes you a better listener, and leads to better conversations!

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.