Remember being a kid and making friends effortlessly on the playground? It seemed like you never really had to try, and friends just got made as you played together. You could find new connections anywhere, especially at school, but also sometimes with any similarly-aged child, you happened to run into! Making friends as an adult, however, proves to be a bit more challenging.
Now that you’re all grown up, though, you probably have found that it’s not that simple anymore. People are more complex as adults, and you don’t have all the time and opportunities you were afforded in childhood to find, make, and keep friends. But that doesn’t mean all is lost! Here are the three best ways to make friends as an adult.
1. Be The Initiator When You Want to Make Friends
Many people believe that friendships happen organically, but that’s not always the case – especially in adult life! Sometimes, you need to take time out to seek out friends and initiate intentionally. If you don’t, you’ll end up never finding the friends that you want, and you’ll spend forever waiting for friendships to “happen.”
A study found that those who believe that friendships “happen” wind up lonelier and less socially active, often with decreased positive thinking and other adverse effects on wellbeing. The truth is that if you want friends, you have to go out and make or find them, especially if you’re not in an environment where making friends comes easily.
Of course, initiating friendships by reaching out and finding people isn’t the most straightforward task. It can be daunting, so here are some tips!
· Use Social Media
The people in your friends, followers, and mutuals lists on social media are often not your actual friends beyond the internet sphere – but they could be! Instead of letting your interactions take place only in the confined space of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms, take the first step in reaching out through private messages to catch up. If you see someone you’re “friends” with posting about something you’re interested in or about a life event you can comment on, why not forge a connection that’s about more than likes and comments?
· Join Clubs and Events
If you want to make friends outside your immediate circle of interaction, you can find them through events that guarantee you have something in common. Join clubs for things you’re interested in, get on a sports team for people your age, attend networking events that appeal to you, or even volunteer at local organizations! There are many ways to find people who share your interests, and friendships can blossom quickly when you’re engaging in similar activities together.
· Connect To People Right Here
There are already people in your life that you could befriend but haven’t thought of reaching out to. Your neighbors, colleagues, and even fellow congregational members at your place of worship are all already in your circle. Some of them may be people you’d really like, so reach out and forge connections beyond the casual encounters you already share. Your proximity and the pre-existing relationships you have (to your work, neighborhood, or worship, for example) ensure there’s common ground to begin with.
· Just Start Anywhere
The risk of rejection often makes people too afraid to initiate conversations with the people around them. But research shows that almost no one will ever really be rejected when they strike conversations, even in places like trains and buses, where you’d assume no one wants to talk. Not all conversations will blossom beyond a brief social encounter between strangers, but some may turn into friendships. Regardless, you’ll be building social skills by learning to initiate and hold these interactions!
2. Assume That Others Like You
One of the biggest struggles involved with making friends as an adult is pushing past fear of rejection. That’s especially true if you’re shy, dislike social interaction, or get anxious around others. Making new friends, after all, involves putting yourself out there in potentially vulnerable ways, and that can be not very comforting to many!
If those thoughts describe yours, then here’s some good news! The chances are that the people you talk to like you genuinely. It’s almost always safe to assume that others like you when you’re meeting new people, and the vulnerability you show may even push that further. It sounds a little arrogant, but research backs this up. Here’s why you should assume that others like you:
· There’s A Liking Gap
The “liking gap” refers to a pattern of social interaction where people consistently underestimate how much others like them. No matter who they speak to and in what setting, people always think that others like them less than they do, according to research. It makes sense when you think about it; how many times have you met someone and immediately decided you didn’t like them? The truth is that everyone’s more concerned about being liked than about passing judgment on near-strangers. In a nutshell, in most cases, your conclusion above how much others like you will be wrong – because they probably like you more!
· Awkwardness Is Normal When You’re Trying to Make Friends
Sometimes, you might lose positive thinking about how much others like you because you’re experiencing awkwardness in your new friendship. Just remember that this is entirely normal! Over time, as companies grow, the awkwardness decreases. Showing you know how to laugh off or move past awkwardness proves that you’re a good person to be around, and that’ll be even more likability on your part as a result!
· Being Vulnerable Makes You Likable
Many people try to stick to neutral, uninteresting topics when striking up conversations with new people. You might talk about the surface-level description of your job or provide generic information on your family, for example. But studies show that being open and vulnerable when choosing conversation topics makes others like you more! The more you share, the more likely people are to feel connected to you.
This doesn’t mean that you should behave with extreme vulnerability, let yourself get taken advantage of, or share things you’re not comfortable talking about! It just means that it’s okay to be open about yourself. Put yourself out there and talk about something you’re afraid will lead to rejection. Opening up a little bit more takes away the shallow aspects of small talk. Plus, it makes discussions more exciting and genuine. People will appreciate that, respond in kind, and like you for it!
· Believing You Are Liked Makes You Likable
Being liked is a self-fulling prophecy. If you’re constantly afraid of others disliking you, you’re going to be withdrawing and putting up your defenses, which makes it harder for others to connect to you. But if you trust that people think well of you, you’ll glow! According to studies, when you think that others like you, you will behave in more positive and open ways to improve your perceptions of yourself. You’ll be more agreeable, more engaged in interactions, and happier to share things about yourself, which creates a better impression.
3. Maintain New Connections
The new friendships you make aren’t going to be self-sustaining! Make an effort to maintain them, keep them alive, and help them become more robust. The beginning stages of friendships require attention, so they don’t fade away and drift you apart into mere acquaintances again.
It would be best if you made an effort to see your new friends again and repeatedly become more familiar with each other. This provides several benefits that can lead to real, long-term friendships. This happens for the following reasons:
· People Like Those They Remember
The less you see a brand new friend, the less likely they are to remember you. With all the people you might meet in a week, a lack of maintenance of connections means those people will slip into the back of your mind. That’s part of the reason you need to maintain those connections. Studies show that people think in more positive ways about the people who they remember and that they recognize the people who they see more of. Therefore, the more someone sees you, the more they’ll remember you – and in turn, the more they’ll like you!
· Accepting Invitations Encourages More Of Them
When your new friends invite you to their events, try your best to make time for them! Schedule a little time just for maintaining these friendships, and you’ll encourage those friends to feel comfortable continually inviting you. This allows a balanced relationship where you both reach out equally and are as invested in the friendship as the other. If you always refuse, eventually, these connections will assume you don’t want to spend time around them. Thus, they will stop asking. That situation can make things uncomfortable when you try to reach out again in the future. If you really can’t go to something, be direct and open about why you’re not free, and follow through on any rain checks that you ask for.
· Maintaining Friendships Shows Your Intent
People want to know that you care enough about seeing them again before they fully invest themselves in a friendship. If you don’t make an effort to reach out and tend to be lackluster in responding to their efforts, people are likely to assume you don’t want to maintain the connection and will move on. By equally reaching out, you showcase that you care as much as they do or that you’re serious about the budding friendship.