Making New Friends as an Adult
Published by: LifeWorks,
Making friends can be more complicated in adulthood than in childhood. It isn’t always easy to get to know new people or develop the trust and affection that make for a lasting friendship. If you’ve moved recently or if your old friends seem less interested in the activities you used to share, you may wonder how you can find people who share your interests and values.
The challenges of making friends as an adult
There are three important conditions for making friends at any stage of life, research has found:
- proximity, or being physically near potential friends
- the opportunity for repeated, unplanned interactions
- a setting that allows you to relax and confide in others
As we get older, it may become harder to meet these conditions. We may give up proximity to cherished friends when we change jobs, move, or stop working. We may have less time for spontaneous interactions with others as we take on more work or family responsibilities. And we may have fewer opportunities to unwind and open up with others than when we were in childhood. The good news is that many activities—from volunteer work to joining a club—will help you to meet all of those conditions. If you stay open to all the possibilities that might work, you can create friendships at any age.
Tips on making new friends
Friendship often results by chance. You may strike up a fascinating conversation while standing in line at the supermarket. While you’re watching your child’s soccer game, you may meet a parent who shares your interest in a particular topic. You can’t plan for events like these, but you can be open to them. Here are some tips:
Get involved in your house of worship or spiritual group. Explore how this community gives back to others. Make eye contact and greet others that attend worship or prayer groups.
Spend time outdoors. Read the newspaper in a park on your lunch hour, not at home, or open your mail on your front steps instead of at the kitchen table.
Walk or take public transportation. Take the bus or walk instead of driving. To boost your chances of seeing familiar faces, stick to a regular schedule or route.
Join a carpool. If you can’t walk or use public transportation, join an office carpool, or volunteer for a carpool for your children’s social or sporting events.
Exercise with others. Do your aerobic exercises at the gym instead of at home, or swim at the same time each day or week at the community pool.
Get a dog. Walk your dog at the same time each day and you’ll probably find that people love talking to the owner of a friendly pet.
Learn about your community. Stay up to date on fun and rewarding activities near your home by visiting the websites for your town or local universities and colleges, and community news sites.
Share solitary activities with others. If you love to read, find out if your public library or bookstore has readings by local authors or a book discussion group. If you like to draw or paint, take your sketchbook to the park or a nature preserve that attracts a lot of visitors.
Take up a team sport. If athletics is your thing, you might enjoy the camaraderie of an adult swim team or tennis team through your local gym or tennis club.
Be welcoming. In this current digital era, it’s natural to have become quite at one with our devices. By taking out the earbuds and looking upward, you’re letting the world know that you’re receptive to interacting with it.
Reaching out to others
Being willing to reach out to others instead of waiting for them to come to you will bring potential friends into your life and make it easier to get to know them.
Stay positive. Try to maintain a cheerful and an enthusiastic attitude even if you’ve had trouble making friends in your community.
Take the first step. When a situation gives you a chance to meet a new friend—at the park, at your place of worship, at a social gathering—take the first step. Be friendly if a person seems like someone you’d like to get to know. Introduce yourself. Ask questions like, “Are you from this area?” or “Have you lived here long?” People will take an interest in you when you take an interest in them.
Ask for advice. If you’re new to your area, let people know when you need the name of a good doctor, auto repair shop, or children’s piano teacher. People love to share their knowledge about their community and be able to help others with information and referrals.
Be flexible. Rethinking a few of your ideas about your social life may make it easier to make friends. For example, if you are married and tend to socialize with other couples, consider reaching out to single people who might welcome an invitation to your dinner or annual barbecue. If you’re single, don’t assume that married acquaintances always want to do everything as a couple.
Make friends with co-workers. Try to attend company-sponsored social or other events that give you a chance to get to know your co-workers. Making friends may be easier at work than in other settings because you see your co-workers regularly. If you aren’t sure how to get started, consider organizing a lunch-hour book group or an after-work soccer game or volunteering to collect donations from employees who’d like to send flowers to a co-worker who is ill.
Connect with someone every day. If you have a lot of family and work responsibilities, it’s easy to get side-tracked from making or strengthening friendships. Getting in touch with one friend—new or old—by letter, email or text message, or phone every day will help you to keep strengthening your ties to others no matter how busy you are. Sending amusing cartoons or articles is an easy way to let friends or potential friends know you’re thinking about them.
Give a party. If you’d like to meet a lot of people quickly, have a party. You might invite the people on your street, the families from your child’s school or childcare center, or the tenants in your apartment building. If you aren’t ready to start entertaining, find out if you can help with a party at your child’s school or a group you belong to, such as a potluck dinner at your house of worship.
Follow up with new friends. If you’re invited to an event or a party by new neighbours or people you meet, you can help develop your new friendship by reciprocating with an invitation of your own.
The easiest way to make new friends is usually by doing something you love. Joining a sports or hobby club—or taking a class or doing volunteer work—doesn’t just boost your chances of connecting with people who share your interests. It also gives you a way to stay involved with others until the new friendships develop. You may find it much easier to make friends if you:
Become a volunteer. Offer to help at a social, political, professional, or similar organization in your community. Even if you have a busy schedule, you may be able to help on a limited or short-term basis—for example, by working one night a month at a soup kitchen, by handing out leaflets before an election, or by volunteering once or twice a year at your child’s school.
Join a club or organization. Watch the calendar of events in a local news site for meetings of interesting groups or ask a librarian to help you find them. You might find out about groups for new residents at a community center or local YMCA. Also, consider joining organizations for people in your profession or for people with similar hobbies or interests.
Sign up for a night class. Take a class in golf, a new language, flower-arranging, or another subject that interests you. Besides attracting people who share your interests, these classes will probably help you find out about related community activities that you might also like to try.
Join or start a group. If you can’t find a group that interests you, form a club for people you’d like to meet, such as a walking club or a group for new mothers. Start a Facebook page, Meetup group, or put a notice on a community bulletin board (or in a local newspaper) describing the kind of group you’d like to form and how people can reach you.
Talking with new friends
It may take a while for you to feel completely at ease with a new friend. Sharing your thoughts and feelings will help you become better friends.
Be a good listener. Encourage your new friend to talk about what’s on his or her mind, whether it’s a tough assignment at work or a child’s school play. Showing that you want to listen to good news or bad encourages people to confide in you.
Share a confidence. If you are shy or are not used to opening up to others, start with small confidences and work up to the things that are more important to you. Sharing a confidence, big or small, is a way of saying that you trust a new friend.
Ask questions. Ask follow-up questions on important news that your friend has told you. Inquire about the results of tests, a meeting with a child’s teacher, or the results of a bowling tournament. Asking thoughtful questions shows that you’ve been listening and makes a friend feel valued and understood.
Look for shared interests. Ask your friend about hobbies and vacations or how they spent the weekend. Learning more about these things may suggest ideas and activities that you can explore together, or it may just give you ideas about how you can be a helpful and considerate friend.
Try not to focus on what the other person may be thinking of you. Sometimes we can get bogged down with worrying if others like us, find us interesting, or are judging us. Try to be in the moment learning about the person in front of you and not worry about what others are thinking of you.
It’s important to remember that there’s a link between friendship and physical and mental wellbeing. The ability to make new friends throughout life is a key to successful aging. The stronger your ties to other people, the happier and healthier you are likely to be.
Important note: Some of the above tips may not be feasible, especially during an outbreak of COVID-19. Remember to stay safe with regard to gatherings and events to prevent illness by following guidelines most relevant to your area and by checking your government and health authorities’ websites.