Making friends is one of the great things about being gay. But  it can also be one of the challenges.

Sometimes the attitudes surrounding us can lead us to hide who we really are from others. This can leave us feeling alone or misunderstood. Being ourselves and being accepted for who we are can help us to feel good. Finding and making friends with other gay people can help us to feel better about ourselves.

Not everyone finds it easy to make friends. For some people, shyness can get in the way of getting to know other people. Here are some ideas about how to meet people and deal with shyness.

We can make friends through our work, our family, through other friends, over the internet and by going out and socialising on our own. In wanting to meet other people to like us, we may forget who we really are or even try to hide ourselves from others. Here are some things to consider when you are looking for gay friends.

What interests you?

It can be useful to make a list of the sort of things that interest you and that you like to do. Knowing who you are and what you like is a good starting point for building friendships. It means you can work out where to look for other gay people who might share your interests. For example you might really like playing tennis and enjoy going to the cinema. Or maybe you are into fishing and buying collectables on ebay. Gay people have all kinds of interests and there will definitely be others out there who share yours.

What are your expectations of friendship?

We can have all sorts of ideas about what a friend should be and how they should treat us. Another question is what sort of friend are we going to be towards other people? Remember others can find it difficult to make friends as well.

What sort of relationship will you have with shyness?

If Shyness has been a part of your life for some time, it is probably not about to suddenly pack up and leave. What kind of relationship have you had with Shyness in the past? If Shyness continues to be around, what sort of relationship would you like to have with it? What purpose does Shyness serve in your life? In re-assessing your relationship with Shyness, maybe you will decide to strike a deal with it, manage it differently or take more responsibility for it. These are things you can speak with a counsellor about.

5 top tips for making friends
We asked some counsellors to provide their 5 top tips for making friends:

1. Talk to people. No one makes friends sitting alone in front of the TV. Engage with other people in person or over the net and see what happens.

2. When you meet someone face to face, try making eye contact and smiling. it might be hard at first but when you start to practice it, it will get easier.

3. Try to be reliable and trustworthy. If these are qualities you admire in others then put them into practice yourself. You will start to attract the right people.

4. Be open minded but don't compromise your values. Everyone is different so you are going to be surprised and perhaps shocked by the people you meet. You can accept others and be open to new experiences without having to sacrifice what is really important to you.

5. Some of the best advice comes from those old sayings we here time and time again. "You can't buy friends". "Be yourself". "Don't be a doormat". Remember you know a lot already.

If you have read this and feel you are struggling, take a look at our Being Different, Feeling Good section.

But if you are ready to meet some new people and make friends, take a look at our Where To Meet Other Gay People page.

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