Making Friends as an Adult
Childhood activities tend to be geared towards structured socialization - we want kids to learn how to be social, so we arrange play groups, after school activities, and other opportunities for them to interact with others in a safe space. Provided you felt comfortable in the company of other kids, making friends in childhood was probably a lot easier than it is today.
Many people report shrinking circles of friends after their college years, but a robust circle of friends is crucial to long-term health and well-being. Whether you’re looking to build a bigger support network, or just trying to find a social life in a city you just moved to, or a job you just started, here are a few things to try in your adult search for friends.
Find Small Moments of Connection
Building and maintaining friendships takes time, which can be in short supply as you get older. Between jobs, long-term relationships, families, and a thousand other things, when are you supposed to find the space for a social life?
Thankfully time spent on friendships can be cumulative, and all of us can find a few moments in the day to reach out to someone and start building trust and common ground. Strike up a conversation with a coworker while waiting for a meeting to start. Get to know your local barista or bartender by name when you’re grabbing your morning or evening drink. Greet your neighbors on your way out the door. These moments can be small and simple as just saying hello, and while the initial encounters may be a little awkward, over time you may find your conversations growing longer as you discover what you have in common. Even if you don’t gel with these particular people, they may introduce you to others who can expand your friendship circle even farther.
Be Open and Optimistic
We can become more selective about the kinds of people we want to spend time with as we age, which can be good and bad. On a positive note, we may seek out friendships with people who share important values and goals with us, or who have the same interests and hobbies. However, this can get us stuck in a friendship “rut” where we hang out with the same kinds of people all the time, and avoid connecting with those who are different from us. It’s important to spend time with people who won’t undermine or disrespect the goals and values that are important to us, and it’s equally important to be open and optimistic about where a friendship with a person who is wildly different from us might lead. New friends don’t have to be the same gender, age, or race as we are, especially in adulthood when we can appreciate another person’s unique life experiences. Think about the people who are already in your life and consider whether you may be putting up boundaries because you don’t expect to connect with them. You may share a lot of unexpected things in common! Be as open and honest as you can about who you are, share your interests readily, and you’ll be surprised by how many people you didn’t expect a connection with like and understand you.
Join A Club, Team, or Class
This is perhaps the most effective way to gain new friends, and the scariest. No matter how old we get we may fear entering a room filled with people we don’t know and just introducing ourselves. However, just like those structured childhood activities, meet and greets, club meetings, and other organized social events are set up for your success. The people who run them want you to have a good time, and they will make an effort to bring new people together to make sure you have a good experience.
There are many great resources online for finding a place where you can connect with others who share your interests. Facebook can suggest local gatherings in your area seeking new members of a skee-ball team, a pottery class, or a political movement just to name a few. It might be easiest to start with a more structured activity like a class or a team so you can focus on the task at hand and let friendships grow naturally. If things aren’t working out, you can always leave and try another activity until you find a group of people you really connect with.
Good Luck Out There!
For many adults, fear of rejection plays a part in avoiding seeking new friendships. It’s hard to approach someone new trying to find a connection when there’s a chance they won’t be interested. However, try to think of these experiences as just the necessary stepping stone to the end result. It only takes one good new friend to introduce you to their network, and chances are if you connect with the first person the other folks they know will like you too! Much like dating and job hunting, you may have to try a few meetings out before you find one that’s right, but especially now that the pandemic is waning and people are excited to go out and socialize, it’s the perfect time to take a chance and get to know someone new.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
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