Making New Friends As An Adult Is Hard, Here's What You Can Do
Last week’s article on ‘How to To Move To A New City And Conquer It’ has spurred some interesting conversations and insights. The question of “how do you actually make friends?” has been asked multiple times not surprisingly from men and women in their twenties and thirties.
As we transition out of emerging adulthood (ages 18-25), we’re no longer in situations that force us into groups of people like high school or university/TAFE. Plus if you’ve moved interstate, internationally - or maybe your interests have just changed - making friends when people are already in established groups and routines can be so freaking tough.
There’s no doubt that finding and fostering these friendships are difficult, but the more we don’t do it, the more at risk we are for loneliness, which is the number one health epidemic of our time — it’s even equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
It’s easy for us to want to snuggle and nest on weekends after an epic work week, but unfortunately sometimes you need to push yourself out of the house to make a connection with somebody. Here’s how:
Put yourself in situations where you’ll meet new people face to face. Although we are all homebodies, you have to know when to make the call and go outside. Choose something that you’re interested in:
Sporty: F45, boxing, run club, walking club, a team sport - think something that involves a group and communication. Although we love pilates and yoga, it doesn’t require interaction that you obviously need to make friends.
Reading: find a book club or a local author Q&A at your book store. Mingle with likeminded folks.
Creative: join a pottery class, jewellery making class, writing class, painting class, acting class and get the banter flowing between classmates.
All business: try a networking event, professional workshop or conference. Not only will you come away with knowledge that will move you forward in your career, but networking helps you to increase your list of contacts.
Going to one of these things just once isn’t going to cut it. Making an effort to show up to a class at least on a weekly basis AND having conversations is a must. This will build rapport with members and therefore can lead to a friendship. After a few times try asking someone out for a coffee (or wine) afterwards.
If you're introverted, you can look online for new connections. You can use your phone as an excuse to not meet new people and spend another night scrolling the ‘gram, or you can tap into the tools you need to find your people. Connecting with someone online may not bloom into a real friendship right away, but this may happen over time if you two decide to take it offline.
Accept the invite
If you get invited to coffee or lunch, say yes! Don’t limit yourself: they could be your next good friend. And if they aren’t, at least you’ve gotten the practice of hanging out with someone you don’t know that well, so it will be less nerve-wracking the next time you do it.
This also applies to group dinners, gatherings or parties. Next time a friend is celebrating a birthday, make it a point attend and talk to one new person at their party. Exchanging instagrams is a low commitment way of keeping in touch.
Show that you’re interested
This is the next step. You’re making the effort to go to a class or social gatherings, but you don’t want to come across as excessively keen or needy.
Show you’re interested in the person or conversation by asking meaningful questions. This expresses that you’re genuinely curious and fosters greater connection between individuals. Also bonds are made by individuals supporting each other. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk (a bit of human psychology tactics for you). Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection.
This doesn’t need to be super deep - you could ask for help at your fitness or pottery class with the person next to you (even if you secretly know what you’re doing). This will open up the conversation for the rest of the class.
Invest in your current relationships
Maybe you don’t need to make new friends, but actually reconnect with old ones.
Friendships require maintenance. This means regular conversations and hang-out sessions. We can all make the excuse of being busy, so schedule them way in advance if necessary. My friends and I add calendar invites into each other’s calendars so we know when we’re catching up.
If you want to stay close friends with someone, research suggests that it requires reciprocity (answer their damns texts!) and to be in touch at least every two weeks. If you need to remember to touch base with a friend, put it as an alarm reminder on your phone to call or have a standing time with them to chat or FaceTime.