Friendships are more important than you think. Having a strong support network can make you more resilient, teach you how to deal with obstacles more effectively, and help you improve as a person and achieve your goals.
But to reap the benefits, you have to make meaningful connections first, and it isn’t as simple as it seems. Unfortunately, making friends in adulthood may be quite a challenge.
Why do adults find it hard to make friends?
Findings from a recent survey on loneliness show that 43% of Americans feel isolated and that their relationships aren’t meaningful. While awkwardness stands in the way of making friends when you’re younger, there are more obstacles to overcome in adulthood.
The first one is lack of time. Most of us have full-time jobs, hobbies, partners, and family responsibilities.
The second issue is that everyone’s at a different stage in their lives and has different priorities. Some people might be focused on developing their careers, while others still aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives. Similarly, some might be in a committed relationship or expecting a baby, while others might prefer casual relationships.
However, the good news is that making friends as adults isn’t impossible, and there are things you can do to make it happen. Additionally, you can expect people you encounter to already have some level of maturity and life experience, which should translate into healthier friendships than the ones you had when you were younger.
How to define a true friend in your life?
So first, what does it actually mean to be a true friend?
A true friend is someone who can offer you support when you’re struggling or simply need to vent. They want what’s best for you. And while they might allow you to make not-perfect decisions at times, they’ll always try to push you in the right direction.
Their presence makes you feel good and inspires you to become the best version of yourself. You feel comfortable enough around them to be vulnerable and confide in them.
How to make friends as adults?
Making friends in adulthood takes time and might require a combination of a few different approaches. But if you follow the tips below, you’ll already significantly maximize your chances to broaden your social network.
Be more positive and tame your inner critic
I know, it’s easier said than done, especially if you’ve been struggling to make friends for a while with no luck. You might even wonder if there’s something wrong with you or if you’re simply not likable enough. This is a very common fear, but it’s likely not your personality that’s the problem but the lack of positivity.
If you approach people assuming they won’t like you, you might subconsciously act according to that mindset. Additionally, you should remember that you may be your worst critic.
A study published in Psychological Science Journal invited participants to have 5-minutes conversations with each other, ranking how much they liked their conversation partner and how much they thought their partner liked them. It turned out that people tended to underestimate the impression they made on the other person, which is a phenomenon called “the liking gap.”
To tame your inner critic, pay attention to what thoughts arise in your mind whenever you meet new people. For every negative statement, come up with something contradictory, even if you don’t believe it.
For example, if you tend to think that nobody likes you, tell yourself, “Actually, I’m pretty likable.” The more you practice, the more positive you’ll feel and the more positivity you’ll attract.
According to the law of attraction, your thoughts serve as a manifestation. If you believe you can make friends, you’re more likely to develop new bonds.
Additionally, don’t forget to smile. It might be an obvious point to make, but people who aren’t sociable or suffer from social anxiety often don’t pay attention to their body language, which is pretty important, as it can either encourage or discourage a stranger to continue a conversation with you. This also goes for people who get nervous easily because when you feel tense, your muscles might tighten, making it harder for you to smile.
Sign up for a class or learn a new skill
Because of daily responsibilities, sometimes it’s impossible to put aside some time for hanging out with friends, no matter how organized you are. That’s why you should aim to kill two birds with one stone and aim to build connections with people who share your passions.
Reconnect with your hobby and search for classes and activities in your area. If you find the idea of making friends as an adult intimidating, you aren’t alone. But joining a class and doing something you like will allow you to relax and focus on the enjoyment.
It will also make building relationships more natural than attending a social gathering where all you can do is have an awkward conversation.
If there isn’t anything that you could call your hobby, don’t worry. What many adults have in common is that we all drifted away from what we liked when we were children in one way or another. However, this also means that you’re in luck because you have more classes to choose from.
Learning a new skill is a great opportunity to meet potential friends. When you’re surrounded by people who are beginners just like you and share the same challenges, it’s easier to build meaningful connections.
Reach out to a friend from the past
Just because you and your friends went separate ways, it doesn’t mean you can’t re-establish the bond or even reminiscence about your younger years and go from there.
A lot of friendships fall apart because one of the friends gets busy, and then both are afraid to reach out, worrying that the other one has already moved on. Whether that’s the case or not, most people will be happy to hear from an old friend.
Drop them a message and ask what they’ve been up to. If they seem keen on talking, you can ask them if they’d like to meet.
Improve your communication skills
Some people might struggle to make friends not necessarily because they lack opportunities to do so but because their social or communication skills might be lacking.
So, next time you talk to your housemates or coworkers, ask them how their day was and encourage them to open up by asking follow-up questions. Make sure to let them know you’re listening by using nonverbal cues such as nodding and keeping eye contact.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share personal information from time to time. We all have our struggles, and showing other people that you’re imperfect won’t put them off. On the contrary, it will make it easier for them to relate to you and open up in return.
Vulnerability is also the difference between friendship and acquaintanceship. If you struggle with showing your vulnerable side, you should watch a TED talk called “The Power of Vulnerability,” which explains that vulnerability is a way to allow yourself to be seen and form genuine connections with other people.
Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone
Making friends as adults isn’t as easy as it used to be. And unless you’re about to start a new job or lead a very adventurous lifestyle, your chances of meeting new people who can become your true friends may be low. This is why one of the most important things to do is prepare to get uncomfortable.
I’m not talking about allowing people to push your boundaries but about opening up and initiating interaction. But if you want something, you’re the one who has to go for it.
So next time you see someone wearing a T-shirt with your favorite band or an outfit you like, don’t be afraid to compliment them to start a conversation. It’s also a good idea to keep it going by asking follow-up questions. For example, you could ask them what song they like the most or if they’ve ever seen the band live.
While meeting people on dating sites with friendships in mind isn’t usually a good idea, there are some apps specially designed for this purpose to help you connect with other people in your area. All you have to do is find common ground with someone and ask them to hang out.
If you’re on the shy side and initiating social contact fills you with dread, there are ways you can boost your confidence:
- The first thing you should do is realize that everyone has insecurities, no matter how funny they seem and how attractive they look.
- Next, stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you’re smart, funny, and beautiful or something along these lines. Repeating positive affirmations every day should make you believe them over time.
If you struggle to make friends or nurture healthy relationships, boost confidence, improve social skills, or be vulnerable despite your best efforts, you can always consider therapy.
Therapy can help you become the version of yourself you want to be. A therapist on Calmerry can help you address the issues that prevent you from opening up to other people, such as a fear of rejection or unresolved trauma from the past.
Joanna Cakala is a multilingual writer based in the UK. Combining a degree in Psychology and passion for writing, she writes the articles on mental health across a broad variety of subjects such as self-development, personality disorders, PTSD, mindfulness, and autism.Read more