Friendship is a quality and a skill. Qualities need to be cultivated and skills take practise to learn – this includes the need to make mistakes. Don’t give up practicing because of mistakes.
If you want a friend, be a friend. Take the initiative. Extend yourself to others without always expecting something in return. But it is also very important to know what your needs are, you can then go at least part way to meeting your own needs yourself and you will then know how to help meet those needs when you see them in others.
Who is it that feels lonely? Feelings of loneliness are generated by the parts of you which you have abandoned. Lack of distraction, such as when other people are not present, simply amplifies this and makes you more aware of your underlying feelings. What are the parts of yourself that you have not befriended? How do those parts of you feel about that? They are telling you through how you feel. If they feel isolated you will feel isolated.
Remove the blocks which prevent friendship; petty vengeance (“they did not do what they ‘should’ so I will ignore/avoid them”), self judgment (“I am no good at making friends”, “I don’t belong here”, “I am a fake”), and self pity (“nobody likes me”).
Loneliness is partly an attack on yourself. It is largely due to the thoughts you think when you are alone that happy alone time turns into loneliness. Write down your thought stream and you will see. It is also this negative thought stream which gets in the way of you making friends. This makes it self-perpetuating till you acknowledge and change your thought stream.
Really take time to listen to people. Ask them questions or show you heard them before rushing in to comment or give an opinion. Make eye contact. Friendship starts there especially if combined with a smile. Extend friendship whenever it is safe to do so – at the checkout, waiting in a queue or whatever. Let it become a habit, without getting pushy about it.
Shared victim hood is not friendship. Mutual support obviously has its place, but it is not the job of your friends to be unpaid therapists. Don’t squash budding friendships with heaviness or a compulsive need to “share your pain”. Friendship is supposed to be enjoyable not a chore, a duty, or a trade (“I’ve listened to your misery now you must listen to mine”).
Get into the habit of doing fun things on your own and then start to invite others along. For first arranged meeting, choose a place where both of you can easily exit after a short while (ie a café) so they know they can exit politely if they want (or vice versa).
Friendships takes time to develop and some people need more time than others. Don’t confuse Pacing Signals (“slow down”) with Stop Signals. If the other person becomes unavailable, let them. Wait a bit, send a friendly and short “hope you are okay” and move on if you don’t get much response. Always cultivate more than one friendship at a time as you don’t know which ones will grow and what they will grow into.