Ever felt that as you get older, it’s harder to form new relationships? You’re not alone–which is why we wrote this primer on how to make friends as an adult.
In good times and bad, friends are the people who are always there for us. They offer courage when we have none, corny jokes when we’re low, and comfort when we feel the most alone.
But in the messy world of adulthood, good friends are hard to come by.
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It’s no secret that as we grow older, our obligations change. We begin to focus on long-term goals, like buying a house or starting a family. As a result, we have less time for our interests, much less the people we grew up with or met in college.
As old friends come and go, our social circle grows smaller. The fear of rejection (coupled with social distancing) has us sticking to old routines and the comforts of home.
Our adult lives morph into a haze of work, family, and kids. Limited free time pushes our desire to meet new people to the backburner.
Before we know it, we’re struggling to start a conversation with a friendly neighbor or coworker.
Related Reading: Questions to Ask Friends
It’s an all too common tale of adult relationships—and nothing to be ashamed of.
This article will explore the reality of adult friendships, the importance of meaningful relationships, and what you can do to make new friends as an adult.
Why Do Adults Find it Hard to Make Friends?
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Let’s be honest: Making friends is hard. According to research, our social circles start to shrink around 25.
Why? Well, life happens.
People in their mid to late 20s tend to embark on the next significant chapter of their life. Whether you’re in this age range or not, you or someone you know may have recently moved to a new city, started a new job, got caught up in romantic relationships, or all of the above.
This ultimately leaves very little time for a new friendship, much less old ones.
To add, our social environment and attitudes change as we grow older. It’s easy to make friends as kids because we’re encouraged to do so.
We also don’t have to worry about maintaining our schedules as children, with teachers, parents, and rigorous class periods doing everything for us. Friends are a voluntary obligation that becomes increasingly difficult to maintain once priorities start piling up on our plate and we grow up to take on even more.
Mix in some social anxiety, and making a new friend can feel like finding a unicorn—impossible.
The good news is that new friendships aren’t unicorns! Moreover, they’re essential to our well-being.
The Benefits of Adult Friendships
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Just as our romantic partners and children provide unconditional love and support, meaningful friendships help us feel connected and valued.
Unfortunately, when we don’t have friends, feelings of shame and unworthiness may take root instead. You may be discouraged from forming connections or trying new things. You may even think that friends aren’t worth the effort, but science says others.
In addition to companionship and camaraderie, friendship boosts our health in several ways, including:
- Increased happiness: Research has shown that being extroverted is linked with an increased level of happiness. This is due to an active and healthy social life allowing for greater social support. (If you happen to be introverted, remember that you don’t have to be boisterous to build a loving and attentive support system. Everyone is capable of making friends, whether they’re introverted or extroverted.)
- Reduced psychological distress: Another study found that social isolation is linked to psychological distress and symptoms of depression. Meanwhile, having friends you can rely on during times of emotional turmoil reduces psychological distress and even lowers rates of heart disease.
- Personal growth: Friendship is an important component of our social skills and development. People with meaningful friendships support each other and work through their problems better than those without close friends.
How Do I Make New Friends as an Adult?
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Building friendships requires the right mindset. You can’t leave your relationships up to chance or go through the process believing in the worst outcome. If you do, you’re unlikely to get anywhere.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
Figuring out if someone likes you can be challenging, especially if you’re out of practice. It also doesn’t help that the very idea of putting yourself out there is probably nauseating.
To help you get into the right headspace, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Open Yourself Up to New Experiences
Making friends in school is easy because we’re always in the right place, at the right time. Meanwhile, making friends as an adult calls for deliberate effort. You have to step out of your comfort zone and be willing to have new experiences in order to meet new people.
Whether that’s a networking event or a dinner with coworkers, try not to overthink the process.
If you’re lacking confidence, rely on the tried and true method of “fake it till you make it.” With every attempt, you’ll gradually become more comfortable, and your fear of rejection will lessen.
Related Reading: How to Make a Good First Impression
To add, you don’t have to make friends of similar age, gender, or ethnicity as you. Sometimes the best friends are the most unlikely, so keep an open mind.
Find the Time
The reality of adulthood is that everyone is busy. We’ve got bills to pay and kids to raise, but if we don’t work around these obligations, we’ll never have any friends.
Set aside time every week for plans with potential new friends. Ask that person from your book club if they’d like to get brunch on Sunday, or text your favorite coworker if they’d like to grab a coffee and strike up a fun conversation.
If someone extends an invitation first, accept it. Yes, you’re tired and stressed—but if you can make it work, go for it. Not only will this allow you to have a new experience, but it will also encourage the other person to continue interacting with you and build a relationship.
Deepen Your Casual Connections
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As limited as your social circle might seem, you probably have a few casual acquaintances. This may be your coworkers, neighbors, or a friendly stranger you see during your daily commute. These people may be potential friends.
To start, make a list of names and examine who you’d like to get to know better. Even if you’ve barely interacted with them, they may be interested in the same things as you are and could do with a new friend as well.
Find the common denominator between you two and gradually open up. Although it may be awkward at first, someone needs to take the initiative, and it might as well be you!
Less is More
Friendships are hard work—and the more friends you have, the harder you’ll have to work to maintain those relationships.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! However, a small but tight-knit social circle may be more practical for you in the long run.
As you venture out into the world and meet new people, focus on the individuals you connect with the most. Slowly but surely, you’ll learn more about them and potentially discover a best friend or two in the process.
Know You’re Likable
Good relationships are built on shared vulnerability. This vulnerability comes easier if you start believing you’re a likable and interesting person.
Though it may be challenging to do so, keep in mind that no one is unworthy or undeserving of companionship. The more people you meet, the higher your chances of striking up a conversation with someone who will like you for you.
To achieve this, open up about your life and ask questions about theirs. Not only will they appreciate your interest, but they’ll be motivated to learn more about you in return, reaffirming your inherent likeability.
Where and How to Meet Friends
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Part of the reason why adults struggle to make friends has to do with our environment. Thanks to our busy schedules, we tend to stick to our habits and never venture outside of the spaces we frequent, such as work and home.
It’s tough to meet new people this way. Meaningful relationships don’t spring out of thin air, but that’s no excuse not to go looking!
Whether that means breaking out of your routine and going someplace new or discovering opportunities in spaces you already know, it’s possible to make new friends—you just need to know where to look.
Here are a couple of suggestions to help you get started:
Many fulfilling, long-term romantic relationships are made possible thanks to dating apps, so why can’t we do the same thing with non-romantic friendship?
If you have limited opportunities to meet new people, try out friendship apps such as Bumble BFF, Meetup, Yubo, and Hey! VINA.
Best case scenario: You discover a close friend through the app. Worse case? You don’t vibe, and you go on to match with someone else. No big deal.
Social media helps us connect. If used healthily, they’re a great way to interact with people you otherwise wouldn’t in real life.
If you don’t have an account, consider making one. Try reaching out to old friends you’ve lost touch with or anyone you’d like to get to know better, such as a coworker.
You can also use social media as a way to nurture bonds you’ve already established. By keeping up with a budding friendship online, you’re showing them that you genuinely care and want to stay involved, even if neither of you has much time IRL.
Connect with Your Community
If you want to make friends organically (that is to say, the good ol’ fashion way), then look out for opportunities around you.
Get involved with your community and give volunteering a try. Not only is this a great way to help those in need, but it offers you a chance to meet like-minded individuals who care about the same things as you do.
You can also get to know your neighbors or your children’s friends’ parents. In addition, some areas have dedicated programs and host group activities so people can get to know each other.
You can also check out your workplace for networking events and get to know your co workers.
Join a Club
Activity clubs are a great way to meet people. They’re filled with individuals you’re guaranteed to have at least one shared interest with and a set schedule to routinely interact.
If you like to read, look up book clubs in your area. If you’re talented in the culinary arts, a baking or cooking class is the perfect opportunity to exchange secret recipes and bond over food.
Alternatively, pick up a new hobby! Trying new things takes a lot of courage, and it’s less scary when you do it with others. Group activities like a pottery or yoga class are always open to beginners, and you’ll likely meet an amazing friend this way.
How to Maintain New Friendships
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All good friendships require consistent and healthy communication. Without it, your friends will struggle to stay in your life and gradually become distant.
Furthermore, a good friend doesn’t make the relationship revolve all around them. It takes two people to make any relationship work, and the best way to do this is to regularly express an interest in your friend’s life. In return, they should do the same for you.
To guide you, we’ve put together a list of simple tips for meeting and maintaining long-term friendships:
- Acknowledge your discomfort: Making friends as an adult may be difficult, but it’s easier when we’re honest with ourselves. It’s okay to be nervous or feel insecure in new settings. What matters is that you’re doing this for your benefit and to grow as a person.
- Find an event: Commit your time to an activity or event you’re not hosting. By simply being a participant, you’re already “part of the crowd.” If you’re inclined to stick to the sidelines, try and make an active effort to join in on the activity.
- Find a conversation starter: There are plenty of tactics you can use to help you strike up a conversation. One method is to bring up the event or activity you’re involved in and then ask their opinion on it. Then, allow the conversation to flow from there.
- Try and try again: Not every interaction you have will necessarily lead to a new friend. That said, people attend social events explicitly to interact with others. Though some may not be interested in anything more than small talk, others definitely are.
- Stay connected: Once you’ve hit it off with someone, be sure to exchange contact information. If they’re not comfortable with giving out their phone number, you may instead exchange social media handles and follow each other online.
- Schedule meet-ups: With friends, you don’t have to play hard to get. After meeting them, you can reach out a day later and check-in to see how they’re doing. Follow up again after a little while and ask if they’d like to meet up sometime.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Friends as an Adult
Making friends as an adult is certainly challenging. However, once you’ve found your tribe, you’ll have someone (or several!) to support you through life’s ups and downs. Though it may take some time, it’ll be worth the effort in the end.
If you have some tips for making friends or finding time for new experiences, let us know and drop us a comment down below!