Age Differences and Small Groups: How To Make Outsiders Feel Welcome

I have always enjoyed making friends with people who are older or younger than me. With a handful of exceptions, most of my friends are either a little bit older or a little bit younger than me. I am friends with people who were sophomores when I was a senior, people who were seniors when I was a junior. I’m friends with single ladies, married ladies, and 13-year-olds, and I love the diversity in my friend group.

Lately, I’ve been interacting with my parents community group from church. My parents are on the young side for the group, with the majority of members being couples who’ve been married ~40 years and have grown children, some of whom have their own children. 40 years! They have been married nearly twice as long as I’ve been alive!* This is a small group of the few conservatives in San Francisco, and it’s been fascinating to interact with them.

What probably amazes me the most from this group is how extraordinarily welcome I feel. Making people feel comfortable is the best way to grow your friends group, and these guys have it down. A few things I learned from hanging out with a different crowd.

  • Ask questions about them. What have you been up to? Read any good books lately? People love talking about themselves.  Someone is always sure to engage in conversation, which as the odd one out is always nice. I espeically appreciated when some of the earlier arrivals would talk with me as others came in. It allowed other members of the group to join in our conversation instead of me awkwardly joining their conversations.
  • Include them in the go-round. Invariably in medium-sized groups their winds up being a moment of everyone taking turns answering the same question. As always, but especially with new people, it’s great if other members of the group are able to pull them in by treating them the same as everyone else. What is everybody doing this summer? Everyone takes a turn and even a new person is included.
  • Have no pressure to them. If you bring up a topic that you can see as not being their favorite, let them know immediately that they don’t have to answer that. Either open up more the a larger group asking a related question or let them re-direct the conversation.
  • Let them go when they feel like it. Similar to the last one, this is just more with ending a conversation when it needs to be ended. Not everyone is comfortable pulling away from a conversation themselves, so it’s best to allow them more natural moments to leave. “Okay, we’re transitioning to {blank},” from a group leader. “Well, I’ll let you go.” You don’t need to give an excuse for leaving them either. I promise. In fact, it will be less awkward for both of you if you don’t.

So just like that, a handful of welcoming tips from a very welcoming group. How do you make newcomers feel welcome? What are some of your favorite conversation starters?

*I just need to stress that this is an explanation point of congratulations, not of shock.

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One thought on “Age Differences and Small Groups: How To Make Outsiders Feel Welcome

  1. If A is best friends with B and C, will B and C get along too? | Curious Monkey 247

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