Useful Pointers for Making Friends as an Adult

Created on 16/10/2022
Updated on 19/10/2022
My mom loves to set me up on friend dates. It seems every time I see her, she’s got a new gal pal she’s confident I’ll get along great with. “Okay, mom,” I used to roll my eyes and say. That is until she manifested one of my closest friendships into existence. For over a year, she told my friend, Kate, and me that we would be best friends, yet each time, both of us dismissed her excitement. Then, Kate and I met through mutual friends and at last, knew what my mom meant. In a podcast interview with Glennon Doyle, Reese Witherspoon describes friendship as a deposit and withdrawal system saying, “You can’t take a withdrawal if you haven’t made a deposit.” Friendships are give and take, and in my friendship with Kate, we’ve both been grateful to experience equal giving and taking. You see, a lot of people want more friends, but not everyone is willing to put in the effort it takes to maintain a friendship. For this reason, we should be asking ourselves before embarking on a new friendship, what do I have to bring to the table? And, what do I have to give?
Keep in mind, making friends as an adult is an art many people are still trying to master, and it’s okay if things are messy and confusing in the beginning.
Some of us are wise in knowing how much effort friends require and will shut the door on opportunities to make new ones. Other of us are wondering where the heck the opportunities are and how they can make friends. Growing into adulthood especially presents challenges with establishing new connections. People are moving away, getting married, starting families, and chasing career goals. Adulting is hard. Friendships are hard. Adulting is required (to a certain extent), friendship isn’t. As C.S. Lewis says in The Four Loves, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” So, how on earth—if you are willing and eager to have more friends as an adult—do you make them? And where do you find them? Good news: we have some pointers:

Assess your values and what you are looking for in a friend

It’s unrealistic to demand someone to be everything we need. Knowing what you hope to experience in a new friendship will help determine where to go. Do you want a friend to work out with? Someone who is also a full-time mom? Taking time to assess your values and goals initially will help you be more intentional with where to seek friends later on.

Be willing to leave your comfort zone

Remember, friendships are give and take. So, making friends might require you to try something new. If you are a homebody or introvert, it could require even more from you. A useful way to push yourself out of your comfort zone is to ask yourself, What are my interests? For example, psychologist Linda Blair suggests taking a language class or volunteering outdoors if languages or being in nature are something you enjoy. If you need an extra push in the right direction, consider joining a group or event—or even hosting your own event—using Meetup, a free platform that connects you with like-minded individuals. Brianna Stryker is a writer, teacher, and college student who has been using Meetup consistently and said this after a blind brunch date with 6 other women: Most people who are dating use websites and apps to make connections. Making friends online is not that different. As hard as it is to make new friends as an adult, it’s profoundly easier when you share something in common with someone you meet. That’s the beauty of this app. There are wonderful people in Meetup groups near you who you probably would not meet otherwise. Take the leap and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, something special can start with brunch! In an interview with The Cut, Dr. Mariam Kirmayer suggests Bumble BFF, VINA, and Peanut as additional friendship apps.

Practice vulnerability and confrontation

I know it’s scary, but sometimes we must admit making friends is hard in a world where painful isolation is becoming more and more common. In a national survey done by Harvard, 36% of U.S. adults reported feeling “serious loneliness,” with 61% of those individuals being young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. With the group of young adults, 43% said their loneliness has become even worse since the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic. It’s important to, one, remember we are not alone in feeling lonely. And two, admit when we need friends. A lack of social connections is a result of a shorter lifespan and health consequences similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, says former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy. That being said, speak truthfully about your search for friends while at the same time, practicing asking others directly whether or not they are on the search for friends. The truth is, not everyone you make a genuine connection with is going to be available for a full-time friendship. Talk about this, in the beginning, to avoid letdown later. There’s nothing worse than having low self-esteem or feeling like you did something wrong when you don’t hear from someone you saw as a potential friend. Keep your goals for friendship close, knowing others might have different goals. I, personally, am very happy with my current circle of friends and don’t feel the need to make new ones. Sometimes I am tempted, yet know my time and energy would be stretched too thin. There is strength in knowing your limits.

Make a move and be spontaneous!

Get that imposter syndrome out of here. No, you are not a fraud and yes, you are extremely capable. Marisa G. Franco, Psychologist and University of Maryland professor makes the point that establishing friendship as an adult is a challenge because it doesn’t happen as organically as when we are children. It’s no longer easy to walk up to someone and 5 minutes later, be best friends. However, vulnerability and continuous unplanned interaction, or spontaneity, are the two necessary ingredients for making friends as an adult, says Franco. Making excuses to not go outside and play might be more common as an adult, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need playtime too. Contrary to what today’s culture might tell you, it’s okay to randomly call up your friend and ask if they want to go get coffee. It’s okay to take the afternoon off and surprise them with movie tickets, or a trip to the nail salon. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown makes it clear that play is an essential piece of what she calls Wholehearted living. So, stop waiting around for an invite and make a move! If you don’t, life is sure to get in the way of what could possibly turn out to be a beautiful friendship.

Final thoughts

Friends are not required for living, but they sure do enhance our experience on earth. As an adult, writing out your goals for making friends, leaving your comfort zone, and working to be more vulnerable, confrontational, and spontaneous, are all useful steps to take. Keep in mind, making friends as an adult is an art many people are still trying to master, and it’s okay if things are messy and confusing in the beginning. In my experience, my closest friendships have come from unplanned events and happenings. Stay hopeful, stay true, and remember we must be a friend to have friends.

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