It’s easy to make friends as a kid. Show up at the playground, chase someone around the swings in a game of tag, and voila – you have a new best friend.
As an adult, making platonic friends isn’t so simple. Adults are naturally pickier than a kid at a playground. You are more complicated than you were at five years old and more discerning about who qualifies as friendship material — finding new friends as an adult is daunting.
If you don’t surround yourself with new faces and new experiences every day (let’s face it, most of us don’t) how can you make new friends? You might find yourself well into adulthood, and wake up one morning realizing you’re lonely.
Not all friends are life-long friends, it’s natural to see changes in your circle of friends as you grow older. Relationships drift apart over the years as interests and life trajectories change.
Has this happened to you? We’ve got a few suggestions on how to seek out new friendships as an adult.
What the Research Says About Friendship
According to the research, friendships are often ignored, but an essential aspect of happiness and health. A large-scale study, surveying nearly 7,500 adults found friendship was directly related to “better functioning.” The older the survey participant, the more critical friendship was to healthy daily function. Loneliness and deteriorating mental health go hand in hand.
The survey also reported, over the eight years of participant tracking, that relationships with spouses, children, and friends “predicted higher subjective well-being.” They discovered relationship strain predicted more risk of chronic illness. You read that correctly, without supportive friendships, you’ll be at higher risk of disease.
What does it take to make a new friend as an adult? The Guardian tells us that it takes a shared experience to develop new friends. A 2018 article said, “These [shared experiences] are often in abundance in our earlier years, but once those easy opportunities are gone, you can forget that the initial basis for a friendship is to have a similar passion or interest.”
Another study tells us it takes roughly 90 hours of hanging out to turn a stranger into a close friend. How on earth did the authors of the study reach that conclusion? They combined Dunbar’s social brain hypothesis and Communicate Bond Belong theory into a mathematical equation. They determined friendship was a “function of hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk.”
It’s useful to focus on those three components when trying to make new friends: hanging out, sharing experiences, and talking. Here are a few secrets that can help you get started.
5 Secrets to Making New Friends as an Adult
1. Put Yourself in New Situations, with New People
Day in and day out, have you fallen into the same old routine? Your weekdays are filled with the daily 9 to 5 grind, and your evenings look all the same. Maybe you still go to the same weekly poker game or the same bar after work. If you don’t change the routine, there are few if any occasions where you’ll see new faces.
It’s time to shake it up. If you don’t put yourself in new experiences, it’ll be hard to meet anyone new. Join a running group, a softball league, or a creative workshop. At work, why not volunteer for that conference everyone is avoiding?
Are you a stay-at-home parent? Bring your little one to local meetups or library storytime. Commit to attending one new event every few weeks, and watch your circle of friends explode. The more people you meet, the more opportunities to build friendships.
2. Make the Commitment of Time
You know from your own experience, nothing hurts as much getting ditched. Flaky friends are arguably not good ones. In your quest to make new friends as an adult, the most significant commitment you can make is to dedicate your time.
Without spending quality time with your new acquaintances, you’ll find the connections fail to deepen. Just like you appreciate people following through in your current relationships, your new friends will appreciate your ability to show up.
3. Learn to Listen and Ask Questions
It’s annoying to listen to someone go on about themselves without opening up the conversation. If you want to make friends, learning to actively listen is a valuable tool. Active listening is a full-body action, using movement, eye contact, and thoughtful questions to demonstrate your attention.
Asking questions, even if you already know the answers (aka small-talk) is a valuable friend-making skill. Small talk lays the groundwork for ‘big-talk’ later on. The more you ask questions, the better you know someone.
As per Clinical psychologist Linda Blair, as reported by The Guardian, “If you want to be popular, ask people about themselves and listen sincerely when they answer. A good listener is rare these days. It is the best passport you could possibly have to friendship.”
4. Offer Assistance During Times of Need
A helping hand creates goodwill, and you might underestimate the power of supporting someone when they need it most. According to Daniel J. Hruschka, author of Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship, “They help one another in times of need, listen to one another’s problems, make sacrifices, and provide emotional support when necessary.”
In practice, what does this look like? Maybe you offer a ride to work to a colleague whose vehicle has broken down. You can also offer to run errands or cook meals for someone who has fallen ill.
Maybe you have a valuable skill, and an acquaintance has noted their desire to learn. What better opportunity then to invite them over for a casual lesson! Assistance will look different for everyone, but it helps demonstrate your commitment to the relationship. You aren’t a flake. You were there when it counted.
5. Get Online and Download an App
Yes, this is the 21st century, and today, you can use the online world to make friends offline. Obviously, too much time spent online is detrimental, but there is no reason why you can’t take advantage of the awesome powers of the internet to build new connections offline.
Try Meetup.com, a website designed to connect strangers with similar passions. Try searching your area for upcoming events like knitting groups, hiking meetups, soccer games, or business pow-wows.
You can also try the dating app Bumble – it isn’t just for romantic encounters. Did you know they have a friendship and a business setting as well? Swipe to find your new friend.
Focus on New Connections and New Opportunities
Making friends as an adult is about putting aside some of your long-standing reservations and learning to be social again. While it might take some time to make a meaningful, long-lasting connection, the effort will pay off over the long haul. As the research shows, friendship pays off with improved well-being, better health outcomes, and better functionality.
Author Hruschka summed up the usefulness of friends nicely, “They help one another in times of need, listen to one another’s problems, make sacrifices, and provide emotional support when necessary. They share confidences and can be trusted not to divulge important secrets. Their relationship is personal and private, and it does not answer to a higher authority.”