We’ll just say it: Making friends as an adult is hard! It can feel really scary to stick your neck out — and how do you even meet people as an adult in the first place? To save you from spiraling through all of the “what ifs,” we went straight to the experts to untangle the world of adult friendships for you. Before you get started friend-finding, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t make rejection a thing. “Instead of worrying you’ll get rejected, value the possibility of what you could build,” says friendship expert Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness. “Think of making new friends like working out. You don’t stop exercising when you get uncomfortable – if you ache, and you get sweaty, you keep going. Approaching new friends is similar, it’s building your social muscles. Just decide to push past any discomfort and keep trying.” In fact, a recent study found that women from literally all over the world place an especially high value on friendship, and prioritizing those bonds can be associated with better wellbeing. So despite your self-conscious fears, you will find people who are receptive to hanging out with you!
- Don’t overthink it. You didn’t obsess over finding your kindergarten and college crews, they just sort of fell into place. And while forming new friendships in adulthood may take a little bit more work, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
- Keep your eye on the companionship prize by remembering that your friend-finding mission can do more than provide you with a new partner in crime—having a strong social circle can help combat loneliness, and that’s important, because being socially isolated has the potential to be surprisingly harmful to your health over time. Studies show that chronically feeling lonely or isolated may lead to anxiety or depression, as well as up your risk for serious conditions such as heart disease or Alzheimer’s disease down the line; increased inflammation and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, two known links to chronic disease, are thought to play a role. So keeping your friend circle open for new members is a smart wellness and social life move!
Time to take action! Use these easy, tried-and-true tips for making friends as an adult.
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Take inventory of your existing friendships.
Sit down and make a list of the people in your life you consider your current friends. Now, assign each friendship a number. Give your best friends a 1, your work friends or casual friends a 2 and your acquaintances a 3. This will show you how much closeness you are truly experiencing at the moment. “Ask yourself, ‘how loved and supportive do I feel in my life right now?'” says Nelson. If you feel sad or empty, it’s OK. “That feeling of loneliness is your body telling you that you want more support in life,” Nelson adds. Use your list to then determine what area of your life could use a friendship boost. Maybe you lack anybody you can really lean on at your job, so you can now focus on meeting more people there, or maybe your close circle is full, but you could use a couple of people to spend a weekend afternoon with.
Invite an acquaintance on a friend date.
Ask a coworker you don’t know well or someone you always exchange smiles with at the gym to grab lunch or a coffee. During your hangout, tell them something about yourself that creates an instant bond. For example, if your co-worker is munching on veggies and hummus, you can say, “You are eating my favorite lunch ever! You have great taste.” It may feel a little daunting to take the initiative like this, so feel good about the effort. “Making friends always takes courage and vulnerability,” says Dalal Badreddine, PhD, a psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Google your sandbox girls.
Find yourself thinking of childhood friends you haven’t seen for decades? It’s never been easier to rekindle an old bond, thanks to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Ask yourself who you miss,” says Nelson. Send the old friend who comes to mind a friend request. Then, break the ice through a common activity you did together. “ Let’s say you used to ride bikes together as kids,” Nelson continues. “You could say, ‘Whenever I ride my bike, I think of you. I value you and miss you, how have you been?” You can also send your old friend a funny meme or video related to a memory you share. “This lessens any awkwardness in reconnecting,” explains Badreddine.
Throw a party using the “two-fer” trick.
Join your neighborhood association or apartment building’s email group or message board, then spread the word that you’re hosting a karaoke night, potluck, cocktail hour or game night. Ask everyone who comes to bring two friends along. Boom! Suddenly you have loads of prospective buds. You can also email the same sentiments to a few friendly coworkers, or go the old-school route and slip a little notecard with all the get-together details in your neighbors’ mailboxes. “Invite interesting people, and they’ll bring interesting people,” says Nelson.
Do your laundry in public.
If you live in a condo or apartment building, throw in the wash at the same time on the same day each week, and you’ll start to notice the other regulars around you. Strike up some casual conversations, and if you click with the chick who lives down the hall from you because she loves yoga like you do, invite her to check out a new class. “Lean into what you both feel positive about,” says Nelson. “To really bond with someone, focus on things you both feel good about.”
Use a buddy app.
These days you can swipe right on friends, not just romantic prospects. Bumble BFF, Meetup, Friender, Yubo, Wink and Peanut are just a few of the great swipeable friend-finding options. Also, Facebook groups of folks who love the same movies or music as you do can lead to lots of fun conversation.
Tap into your hobbies.
Finding new friends is a task in itself, so don’t make it harder by trying to add a ton of new pastimes to your repertoire (unless that’s something you’re interested in, too!). Instead, seek out someone who will want to do the things you already enjoy doing during your downtime. “Find a hobby you like, do it consistently, and you’ll meet other people who share your interest,” says Badreddine. “Your circle will start naturally expanding.”
Set up a “long-distance lifeline.”
Moving to a new place is a good reason to be searching for new friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t call on the people from your “old life,” too. You’ll likely stay in touch with your closest pals when you move, but extend that connection to some acquaintances or more casual friends whom you’ve enjoyed being around. This could deepen your bond in the long-term and give you another solid friendship to cherish, and in the meantime, it’ll help you feel like someone’s always got your back, even from afar. “I moved recently, and I didn’t have friends yet in my new area,” says Nelson. “So I asked someone from where I lived before, ‘Can I just call you every week to stay connected?’ She said, “How about every Wednesday?’ Now I do have new friends, but we still talk every week–it’s great!”
Don’t limit yourself.
Let go of any preconceptions about who you “should” be friends with. “If you’re a mom, that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone who is child-free – you may have lots of other things in common,” says Nelson. And the opposite is true: Just because you don’t have kids of your own, don’t let that prevent you from becoming close to someone who is called Mom. You can really enjoy learning from a friend whose life is different from yours.
Know that every friend doesn’t have to be a best friend.
Don’t be discouraged if you make a new friend, but things ultimately fizzle out. Not every friendship is forever, so focus instead on meeting as many new people as you can. “Make friends with a net, not a fishing pole,” Nelson sums up. The more people you seek out, the more opportunities you’ll have to find friendships that can go the distance!
Lisa Mulcahy is an internationally established health writer whose credits include Good Housekeeping, Prevention, Oprah Daily, Woman’s Day, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Parade, Health, Self, Family Circle and Seventeen. She is the author of eight best-selling books, including \The Essentials of Theater.\