17 Tips for Making Friends as an Adult
How to Grow Your Friend Circle & Feel More Socially Fulfilled
Face your Fears
It can be hard to take the first step and get out there, but realize the benefits outweigh the risks to taking the leap.
“The more you make an effort to face this fear, the easier it will be to meet new people after a short period of time,” explains licensed marriage and family therapist Rachel Thomasian. “However, if you avoid meeting new people, it might make it worse. So try not to back away from opportunities to socialize.”
Boost your Confidence
There’s nothing like confidence to attract potential romantic partners, and it goes the same for potential friends.
“Think of how many times you’ve met new people and it’s gone well,” recommends Thomasian. “You’ve probably made some good friends, so you must have done something right! If you worry about not having anything to talk about, it helps to make a list of things that interest you.”
It takes time and work to build confidence. To get started, Thomasian recommends asking yourself the following questions:
- What are some things you like about yourself?
- What do other people like about you?
- How would your closest friends and family members describe you to others?
You can also try practicing positive affirmations to build confidence and develop an optimistic outlook.
Embrace your Shyness
If you’re shy, the very thought of reaching out to strangers may make you turn a bright shade of crimson. In this situation, the best thing you can do is embrace shyness as an aspect of your personality—not a flaw.
“I’ve found that people who are shy, or have some social anxiety, fear being judged or messing up more than anything,” explains Thomasian. “Usually these fears are not based on any real flaw, but ones you perceive. For example, I wonder if you worry about people judging you based on your shyness?”
If you answered yes to that question, Thomasian says, “Consider this: people do not consider shyness as bad of a quality as you probably think. There are worse traits: like being mean, rude or obnoxious. If you worry about being shy I’m willing to bet, you are not those things. In fact, most people associate shyness with being kind or sweet.”
Now that you’ve worked up the nerve to get out there, start joining clubs, playing on recreational sports teams, and going to events that sound interesting—all great ways to meet new acquaintances and friends.
“Join, join, join things you’re interested in and that attract the kind of people you’re attracted to,” recommends marriage and family therapist Dr. Stephen Betchen. “In the big city there are several clubs and special interests groups—get involved and don’t be lonely.”
Even if you’re not in a big city, there are classes, groups and events you can sign up for everywhere. If your favorite hobby is cooking—try a cooking class or a wine tasting. Or try something new with a pottery, paddleboard, or photography class. An added bonus?: Classes are also "an inexpensive outlet for stimulation and self-enrichment," explains marriage and family therapist Lisa Bograd.
Stick to what you love and you will naturally draw people to you by your enthusiasm and interest.
Start with a Compliment
If you’re out and about or just at work and run into someone you’d like to get to know better, start with a compliment. “We all like compliments,” says licensed clinical social workers and sex therapist Steven Davidson. “Initiating a conversation with a sincere compliment can start things off on the right foot.”
It’s crucial to come off sincere and not fake. If you’re drawn to someone it’s obviously because you like something about them—maybe their sense of style, their helpful feedback, or the warmth they exude—concentrate on communicating what you genuinely admire about them, not trying to over-impress them. You’re aiming for authentic relationships here, not people-pleasing ones.
Have you ever seen two best friends who talk just alike animatedly? Or maybe you and your sister often mirror each other’s movements without meaning to? This is because humans instinctively mirror the body language of people they like and to whom they feel drawn. Remember this when you’re meeting new people—it can come in handy!
You can also trying paying “attention to how others interact when meeting strangers,” says Davidson. “Model their behavior if it seems reasonable for you, but be yourself. Don’t model behavior that would not feel authentic.”
The quickest way to get to know new people and show them that you’re interested is to ask them about themselves. Be careful not to seem like you’re interrogating them, but don’t be afraid to inquire.
“Simply ask questions about the other person,” says Betchen. “It’s a great ice-breaker. People tend to like to talk about themselves, and most importantly, they’ll perceive you as really interested in them.”
Be Active on Social Media
We know that social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it can also be a method for making new friends or getting closer to distant acquaintances. Through social networking you may see someone posting an article you’re interested in on a friend’s page, or even suggesting a fun event. Don’t be afraid to reach out and send these people a friend request or comment, especially if you have friends in common.
You may also discover that you have similar interests or opinions to an acquaintance, or someone you went to high school with, that you did not realize. Often times, people find adult friendships with people they barely knew in high school just because they accepted a friend request or started following them on Twitter.
Mommy Play Dates
If you have a little one, don’t overlook the strong friendships you can form with other moms. Talk to other moms on the playground, after school or any event where you and your kiddo might be hanging out. Mention grabbing a smoothie after mom and baby yoga, going for a quick walk in the park or even catching a kid-friendly movie the next day.
If you’re throwing a birthday party for your child, don’t overlook it as an opportunity to network and connect with other moms. Consider inviting the moms to a mom-only dinner or night out a few days after connecting at the birthday party.
Go to the Gym
We’re not just saying this because it’s good for your body and mind, but also because it can also be a different way to meet new people.
Sign up for a fitness class, compliment the lady next to you with the cute workout shirt, and ask questions about the different workout choices available while you’re waiting in the protein shake line. With all those happy endorphins flying around, it’s likely you’ll meet a new workout buddy and friend.
If you don’t have the cash for a gym membership, try out a running/walking group instead; they’re active in almost every city.
Throw a Party
If you’re in a new city, throw a casual party inviting co-workers, classmates, or neighbors to celebrate a fun low-key event—think Oscar watching party, a football game, the season premier of “Mad Men,” etc. Steer clear of polarizing events like elections. In the case of catching a TV show or game, it could even turn into a weekly social event for you.
Let guests know they can bring friends—this only increases your chances of meeting someone with whom you connect well.
Try this even if you’re just looking to expand your existing friend group. Host a causal gathering with your friends and ask them to each invite a few people outside of your immediate circle.
Get behind a cause you love and find some time to volunteer. When you’re surrounded by people who support and are enthusiastic about the same things you do, it helps you more easily connect around a common talking point. You’ll feel good about donating your time and likely connect with like-minded friends at the same time.
Get Out with Your Dog
It’s shocking how friendly people are, and the number of people who approach you, when you are out and about with your dog. So take your dog out to the dog park, or to a park area that attracts people with dogs.
You’ll be able to meet fellow animal lovers while your pup can run, play and burn off all that extra energy. You may not meet someone the first time, but after seeing the same faces you’ll naturally start to make conversation, which could lead to friendships.
And with the dogs, you’ve got an easy conversation-starter. People love talking about their pets—almost more than they love talking about themselves. Almost.
Set a Date
Once you’ve successfully met someone who you have things in common with and would like to hang out with outside of your usual meeting point, it’s critical to set a date to meet up. Combat the tendency to merely say “we should go sometime”—something that’s way too easy to forget to follow up on.
If you are talking about going somewhere with an acquaintance, go ahead and ask something like, “Is there a day next weekend when you’re around?” This way you’ll have a date on the books rather than never getting around to actually hanging out.
At the very least, get the person’s email address, phone number, or plan to connect with them on social media so that you can follow up as soon as you’re able to set a date.
Embrace the Awkward
Just like making friends was often awkward as a kid at summer camp or during the beginning of the school year, it will likely be a little uncomfortable in your adult years. But we’ve all been there, it’s natural, and it’s the only way to eventually grow a happy friend circle. So just shrug off the awkwardness.
“Who cares if you’re a little tongue-tied, if you say something foolish or if your palms sweat a little? I bet you won’t be the only one in the room whose nerves betray you,” says Bograd.
If you find yourself feeling out of step with a comment you made, Bograd suggests just laughing it off: “People tend to respond positively to someone who can laugh at herself; it shows she has enough confidence not to take herself too seriously.” Amen to that.
Making little jokes or laughing at yourself is also a great way to make people feel comfortable, break the ice, and communicate that you are open and down to earth.
Don’t Force It
If you’ve made multiple attempts to befriend someone and they haven’t reciprocated, back off. Stay busy doing things that enrich your life, seek out other friendships and if your acquaintance wants to be part of your life, they’ll make an effort when they see you are moving on.
Maintain Your Friendships
Now that you have a roadmap for making new friends, be sure to keep those relationships thriving. The most important thing you can do is make time for your friendships.
Stay on top of making plans with friends. If you or your friend is an overbooked planner, schedule in regular times to hang out well in advance, like you would a doctor’s appointment. If you have a few friends who you really like, try to have a regular thing you do together (dinner every other week, Sunday night TV together, Saturday jogs/hikes, etc.) If you haven’t talked to someone in a while, just shoot them an email, text, or Facebook message saying you’d love to hang out and propose a few days that might work.
Work is important, and when you’re busy it can get easy to neglect your friendships. When thinking about balance, “The important thing is to make … [both friends and work] priorities and try not to let one interfere with the other,” says psychologist S. Michael Plaut, Ph.D. “For example, if you are enjoying a dinner with friends, do not answer the phone and keep the smartphone under-wraps.”
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