As an adult, it can be challenging to make new friends. Gone are the days of high school, when we were shoulder to shoulder with nine other peers that had lockers near ours. We don’t have study hall with the same 23 associates at 1pm each day. Nor do we meet up with a team of friends a few times a week for soccer practice. As a grownup, the opportunities to make new friends are not nearly as abundant as they were when we were kids.
While adult friendships take a bit more effort to make, having a handful of really good friends can increase your quality of life in countless ways. However difficult it may be to acquire new friends as an adult, it’s ultimately worth it. In fact, it’s so important that I’ve created this adult’s guide to making more friends.
- First, consider the type of friends you want. When you’re considering adding a few new people to your life, it’s wise to take time and think about what you’re looking for in a friend. It may sound silly, but actually making a list of qualities your dream friend would have is a great idea.
If you’re a stay at home mom that doesn’t drink and homeschools your four small kids, you probably aren’t looking for deep friendships with single ladies who like to hit the clubs a few times a week and keep their online dating profiles polished.
Consider the things you value most and add them to a list of qualities you’d like to find in a friend. This will help you look in the right places and find people with whom you are compatible.
- Get out of your house. I’m a homebody. I would much rather stay in my house than put on pants and go anywhere. I’d rather wait a few months and watch a movie online than go out to a premiere. I don’t care for crowds and would rather chew on gravel than attend a concert.
Because of my aversion toward public events, I often have to push myself out of the house for my own good. If you’re a fellow homebody, make sure you are getting out of the house at least three times a week so that you have the opportunity to meet people and nurture existing relationships.
- Join a group. Do you like chess, sewing, cooking or reading? If so, there are almost assuredly some sewing groups, book clubs or folks who play chess that meet regularly in your community already. Check with your local library or community center to find like-minded people who enjoy some of the same activities you enjoy. Then join their group and attend the events they offer. This is an excellent way to meet individuals with whom you share a common bond.
- Make the first move. I moved to a new city with a two year old and a baby. My husband worked during the day and we shared a car. I didn’t know anyone. I was extremely lonely and in need of peer relationships. There was a park within stroller-pushing distance of my home. I knew my best chance of meeting friends was to make the first move and chat up some other mothers of preschoolers at that park.
It was painfully uncomfortable for me to sidle up next to another mom and start a conversation, but I did it. It felt even more awkward to ask for her phone number or email address after our kids had played together and we had talked for a bit. I did that every week for about a month. Then I started a little mommy playgroup with the moms I met. We would bring our kids to the park weekly. Then we started reading a book together and meeting at my house. Ten years later, we’re all still great friends.
- Consider your best qualities and show them. If people who knew you were sitting in a room talking about you, what would you hope they would say? Would you want loved ones to say you were generous, funny and smart? If so, those are probably some good qualities you have. However, you may or may not be showing those good qualities to people around you.
Note some of the qualities you have and think of situations where you can highlight some of your more endearing traits. Perhaps you can show your kindness and altruism by bringing muffins into work for everyone. Or set up a collection box for warm clothing to distribute to the homeless. Work on developing and showcasing your best qualities so that you can attract others who admire them.
- Make a list of people you’d like to befriend. As you’ve been getting out into your community, there are likely some people you interact with on a regular basis who might make decent friends. Perhaps there’s another dad on your daughter’s soccer team that seems cool, or someone you see at church every week that seems to have similar interests as you. Target those people and put in some extra effort when you see them. Make general conversation each time you’re together. If the person seems receptive, offer to meet up for coffee sometime.
- Join some local online groups. While online friendships can only take you so far, local social media groups are great for meeting other people in your community and getting together in real life. I was surprised when I learned that my neighborhood had a FaceBook page. Yours might too. Or your city could have a special interest page, like a page for runners who live in Minneapolis. Search for the name of your city or community on social media and join local groups. The Facebook page for my neighborhood has monthly meetups for neighbors to get to know each other.
- Get a dog. I’m not suggesting you get a dog so it can be your best friend. But if you don’t mind the idea of having a dog, head on down to your local shelter and adopt one. Having a dog will help you get out of the house for walks. While you’re out walking, you’ll likely meet some neighbors who might turn into friends. Similarly, you’ll meet other dog owners at dog parks and canine friendly events.
- Connect with your coworkers. While you might not want to try and become besties with your direct boss or those who work under you, take a look at some of your co-workers. You see them nearly every day and you already have one giant thing in common (your job). If there are people at work who seem like they value some of the same things you value, consider offering to meet up before work for a cycling class, or see if you can have lunch together this week.
- Be neighborly with your neighbors. If you live in a neighborhood, you’ve got a potential group of people who could become your closest friends. Make it a point to speak to your neighbors when you see them outside. If you like to bake, crank out some cookies and take a plateful over to a neighbor that seems friendly. Do you have an over-producing pear tree in your yard, let your neighbors come and pick a bushel or two.
If you enjoy grilling outdoors, plan a barbecue for the people who live on your street. Go door to door and hand each of your neighbors an invitation. Chances are, at least a couple of them will show up and you’ll have a nice time getting to know each other. Look for every opportunity to be neighborly and build relationships with the folks who live around you.
- Remember that we’re all looking for people. One key factor to remember when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone to make friends is that all of us are looking for community. When I started reaching out to other mothers of young children at the park, I was surprised at how willing they were to connect with me and share their contact information. It turns out, they were longing for friendship and community just as much as I was. They were just too uncomfortable to make the first move.
We all need people in our lives to talk with, share our struggles, celebrate with and care for. When you’re pushing yourself to ask a coworker out to lunch or invite your daughter’s soccer coach over to watch the World Cup, remember that the person you’re pursuing is probably quite interested in making a new friendship as well as you are. Your invitation will most likely be well received.
- Offer an invitation at least twice before you give up. When you’re looking for a friend and you push yourself into an awkward conversation to invite an acquaintance out to lunch, it can be disappointing if you get turned down. However, it’s important not to take a rejection personally. Obviously, if someone tells you that he or she is not interested in making new friends, then respect that and move on. But if it’s a simple scheduling conflict, make sure you offer at least one more time before you leave the ball in the other person’s court.
As we get older, relationships matter more and things matter less in life. Although it can seem challenging to reach out to others, it’s definitely worthwhile. Use some of these techniques to make a new friend or two.
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