When you graduate high school, it seems like your group of friends will stay close forever. For most people, that sentiment barely lasts through college. Once you get your degree, you may assume the same thing with the new group you’ve formed at university.
As great as it would be to hang on to all the personal connections we make throughout the years, people grow apart and move away. Your best friend in college could end up being a borderline stranger before you turn 30. As popular as you may have been at any one time, you may wake up one day soon and realize: I need new friends.
It’s ok. That’s a common sentiment these days, even in a digital age where connecting to anyone around the world is possible with the click of a button. Unfortunately, connecting on a personal level is a little harder.
At this time in your life, friendships are going to be important to your health and well-being — and they’ll continue to be in the years ahead. Being active socially with friends keeps you happy, but it also keeps you healthy, because friends will encourage you to maintain healthy habits and support you as you pursue whatever health goals you have.
And in life, all your goals will find support among your friends. It’s unlikely you can achieve everything you’d like to do without that kind of moral support.
If you’ve found yourself feeling lonely, unfulfilled, or bored lately, it might be time to start the friend search. Here are some tips for making new friends.
Lower your expectations.
Once I graduated from college and moved away from my closest girlfriends, I realized how special our bond was. I’d no longer have access to my best friends any time of day without advance notice.
Adult friendships are different. It takes longer to become close to someone, and meeting people isn’t as simple as talking across the dorm hall.
Instead of getting upset that finding a BFF is harder than you imagined, you need to refine your expectations. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a special bond with everyone you meet; that will only discourage you from meeting new people and making new friends.
You don’t have to lower your expectations in the quality of person you look for when you choose your closest friends. Just assume that with everyone’s busier schedule — we’re all adults with adult responsibilities — the effort it takes to make and maintain connections with friends is going to be harder.
I signed up for Bumble only a week ago and already have had a dozen matches and one official date planned this week. Anyone using the app really wants to find new girlfriends, so it’s easier to strike up a conversation.
If you’re a guy, stay patient. There may not be any great friend-finding apps for males yet, but the tide is headed in that direction. The success of Bumble for platonic-connections will likely open up a world of friendship possibilities for both genders.
It doesn’t have to be a dating or connection-making app. There are online tools that focus on the area you live in. Local Facebook groups is just one way to find those who live near you who might be open to getting together.
Find common interests.
Meetup is one of the first resources people suggested when I talked about making new friends. They were right: the site is a treasure trove of people like me. But it can also be a dud.
There are two kinds of groups on Meetup:
- Groups based around a mutual interest or activity.
- Groups based around demographics.
You can find groups for knitters, hikers, and teachers, or groups for women in their 30s who live downtown.
The problem with the latter is that besides gender and age, I might have little in common with those women. You need something besides having a vagina in common to spark a friendship.
Even if you’ve been to one Meetup meeting and didn’t find someone interesting, try again. Making new friends is a process, and often involves failing multiple times before you succeed.
I recommend joining groups centered around a hobby. This gives you an automatic talking point and provides numerous ideas for potential hangouts. Combine the hobby-centered groups with a location, and you’ll find people who are close to you who might be interested in the same types of activities. Again, Facebook is a good way to connect.
If there isn’t a group on Facebook dedicated to an interest in your region — for example, amateur photography in Philadelphia, start a group, whether on Meetup or on Facebook. You’ll quickly find interesting people to connect with. On top of that, if you are “in charge” of the group, everyone will get to know you and will be more interested in meeting you.
Finding your squad works best when you see them consistently. That’s why in-person classes are a great idea. They’re typically on a regular schedule and contain a small enough group that you can get to know your classmates well.
I met friends taking boxing and kettlebell classes. I plan on taking improv classes in a couple months. As with most of these ideas, it’s not enough to sign up and pay the entrance fee. You have to be willing to engage.
Fearlessly talking to people is one of the key skills you need to make friends. Most of us want to meet new people, but far fewer are brave enough to actually ask. Plus, what happens if you’re an introvert?
It’s like dating: one of you has to be courageous enough to make the first move.
Unlike dating, most people aren’t going to say no to grabbing a coffee or seeing a movie. If it goes badly, you don’t have to ask them out again. If it goes well, you can continue to build a friendship.
Make yourself a good friend.
What kinds of qualities do you like your friends to have? How much attention do you expect, and how do you want to be treated? Make sure you’re making an effort to be the person you want your friends to be. Don’t be the one who waits for the other person to initiate. If you like keeping score, forget about doing that to make new friends as adults.
Be willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. You might get rejected or rebuffed, or find that someone just doesn’t have time for you. Don’t let it get to you. Keep striving to make those connections and don’t worry about whether someone thinks of you as a friend as much as you think of them. That kind of confidence helps people be drawn to you, anyway.
Say yes to everything.
No matter where you live, there are times an acquaintance or coworker invites you to something you’re not interested in. No matter how boring the event seems, go anyway. Saying yes is an important habit to cultivate if you want to make personal connections.
Related podcast: Yes or No: Do All the Things Except Some
The more you say yes, the more you’ll be invited. The converse is also true: say no too often and you’ll never get an invite again. Once you’ve ingratiated yourself with a crowd, you can start saying no every once in awhile without losing your new squad.