Adulthood is filled with lots of things you never thought you'd have to do when you were dreaming up your post-college life, such as:
- Dealing with cockroach infestations in your postage stamp-size apartment
- Navigating exceedingly crowded public transportation on your way to and from the office
- Being hungover after only having 2 drinks
- Finding new friends
Just to name a few.
Interestingly, the topic of how difficult it can be to make new friends as an adult has been coming up a lot lately in my conversations with both friends and acquaintances alike. No idea why. Maybe to prompt me to write a blog post about it?
Anyway, it's true. Finding new friends as an adult can be particularly tough for a lot of people, especially when if you weren't anticipating needing to do so.
I mean, let’s be real. There was probably a time in college when you thought “This is it! I’ve found my crew. We’ll be best friends forever!” Some older adults may have told you that this probably wouldn’t be the case, but you just looked at them offended and said “Well, my friends are different.” Discussion over.
What you’re not prepared for until you’re in the middle of it is that life takes its natural course and people grow apart or lose touch.
You might find that outside the college bubble you have less in common with your friends than you did before, even though you live in the same city. Or, while you still may be best friends, with our ever globalizing world, it’s entirely possible that your friends are extremely far flung. Or maybe you just want to meet new people and broaden your friend base.
All of these scenarios are natural and normal. I could write a whole blog post on this, but that’s for another day.
What I want to focus on today is that feeling you get when all of a sudden you look through your phone and realize that you don’t know who to call to make plans for Friday night.
What do you do then? How do you even start going about making new friends as an adult?
Well, as someone who loves meeting new people and making new friends, I thought I'd shed some light on some principles of friend making as an adult that many people often forget about or struggle with.
Keep the below principles in mind as you go put yourself out there and meet some new people. Hopefully it will make the whole process feel a little less intimidating and more enjoyable.
Being an adult is tricky enough, but making new friends doesn’t have to be.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
Making new friends is not going to be 100% comfortable all the time. Yes, there are absolutely moments when you may meet someone and it feels like you’ve known each other forever within the first 5 minutes. But most of the time it doesn’t work like that.
Most of the time it’s slightly awkward and uncomfortable. Because, well, everyone is slightly awkward in their own way.
We each have our own idiosyncrasies and ways we interact with the world around us. That’s what makes you so unique and special! And sometimes those idiosyncrasies make for an uncomfortable exchange. It’s okay. It happens to all of us.
Even the most extroverted, perpetual friend makers among us (raising my hand hear) get uncomfortable at times when making new friends.
Also keep in mind that the other person you're meeting probably feels a little uncomfortable too. They're most likely also trying to search for the right words to say and wondering if you find them interesting.
So lighten up a little and get out of your head.
The sooner you decide to embrace the fact that you'll probably be uncomfortable, the sooner you can ditch the worrying about the discomfort and move past it. Once you've done this, it's easier to just be yourself. When you're acting out of authenticity, the right people will naturally gravitate towards you.
MAKING FRIENDS TAKES TIME
Deciding you want to make new friends takes an investment of your time that reaches beyond initially meeting someone. It takes follow up, it takes asking questions, it takes listening (actually listening) and showing you care.
Think back to the last time you really tried to make new friends. I’m guessing it was probably in college. Did you become besties with your besties right away?
No. You probably started with a group of girls who lived on your hall and met in class. Over time you met new people and started to get to know each other slowly. Your friendships evolved as you interacted with each other more and more in different settings.
You didn’t go straight from “Nice to meet you” to communicating only through an intricate use of emojis immediately. That took time.
The same goes for new friends as an adult. You are building trust within each new relationship and that doesn't just happen overnight.
Give it time.
MAKE AN EFFORT
On a similar note, make an effort.
Show up. Proactively ask someone out for coffee. Introduce yourself at a party. Ask a friend to bring you along to a gathering of her other group of friends. Attend Meetup groups that jive with your interests. Text someone after their big presentation. Remember birthdays.
If you want to make new friends, show that you are invested in becoming friends.
Don’t say “OMG let’s grab drinks sometime” and leave it at that. If you genuinely want to grab drinks, ask the person if they are available on a specific day. Worst case, they’re not available and you find a different day.
People want to feel like you care about them if they are going to invest their time and energy in you. If you want to be friends, show that you’re willing to do the same.
Sometimes that means being the person who initiates hanging out more than the other person. Over time, it shouldn't feel so one-sided (again could write a whole blog post on this too), but to get a relationship going, someone needs to take the initiative.
And lucky for you, with female friendships, there are no silly cultural taboos around being the first to reach out or waiting 24+ hours before texting the person. Women appreciate receiving a text or email saying how much you enjoyed hanging out with them and proposing another time to grab coffee. It feels good to know that someone enjoys your company.
Put yourself out there and make the effort. It will go a long way.
NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU AND THAT’S OKAY
Be honest: Do you like everyone you meet?
No, you don’t. But that person you don’t like probably has a bunch of friends who think they are amazing. So it’s bound to happen that some people are going to have the same reaction to you. And that’s okay!
Does it sting to know that you’re not someone’s cup of tea? Yeah sure. Does it mean that no one will ever like you? No way!
Rejection never feels good. As humans, we crave community and want to be accepted into that community because it makes us feel good and secure. Evolutionary survival mechanisms at their best.
So when someone doesn’t like us, it hurts. Plus we’ve all been through middle school so we’re probably nursing some social wounds that never fully healed and get triggered by rejection.
BUT the sooner you accept that not everyone is going to like you, the sooner you can stop trying to make certain people like you and start opening up your energy to the other people in the world who think you’re the shit.
When you stop focusing on “Why did they reject me?”, you can start focusing on “Yay! These people accept me!”
There are some pretty freaking awesome people out there who are totally going to love you for you when you meet them.
Don’t you want to focus on finding those people rather trying to force a friendship? I know I do!
NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE YOUR BEST FRIEND
Similar to the concept that not everyone is going to like you, not every friend you make is going to turn into a best friend. And that's okay too!
Just because you've made a new friend doesn't mean that you have to be best friends. Sure, if you really want to be good friends with someone, make the effort and try to hang out with them more. But don't force it. When you take the pressure off of being #besties, you can let the relationship naturally evolve. Then maybe you will turn into besties. Or not. Either way is fine.
There is actually a ton of value in having both best friends and other friends (for lack of a better term).
Best friends are super important for all of the tough shit that comes up in life. Our closest girlfriends are truly a gift from the Universe and give us a type of support we don't get elsewhere. There is a reason that Instagram graphic saying "Behind every successful woman, there's a group text hypin her up" is so popular.
Yet other friends also have a valuable place in our lives as they expand our network.
These women aren't necessarily in the thick of it with you when shit gets real, BUT they are often the ones who hear you complain about your job over coffee and say "You know, my company has an opening..." or "A friend of mine made a similar career switch. Do you want me to introduce you to her?"
These women tend to be the people that open up new opportunities to you that your best friend network may not have access to. Similarly, you are able to do the same for them.
Make room for both of these types of friendships. Each of them serves a different purpose in your life so allow yourself to be comfortable with letting each relationship evolve as it is supposed to. Sometimes that may turn into a new best friend, sometimes they don't.
Don't stress about the end result too much because, in the end, we women succeed when we work together - regardless of whether or not we're besties.
YOU GET TO BE CHOOSY
Post-college is likely the first time that you have an (almost) unlimited pool of people to meet and choose new friends from.
Before that, your friends were mainly made by circumstance: where you were born, what high school you attended, where you went to college, etc. And while you may have made some of your best friends for life under those circumstances (again raising my hand here), there were likely people you had to interact with frequently that you didn’t particularly like or want to be around.
Back then you had to put up with some of those people because they were always around, but now the sheer number of people around you that you can potentially meet is far greater. You aren’t just exposed to people who are in a few year range of your grade in school. Now you have people of all ages and walks of life available to you.
This might feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s not intended to be. The reason I bring this up is that you now have greater autonomy to decide who you’re going to spend your time around and where you are going to put your energy.
And just like not everyone is going to like you, you’re not going to like everyone you meet. The difference now is that you can more easily to "bye" to the people who, for whatever reason, just aren't working for you. You no longer have to worry about seeing them in class or at practice.
As a result, making friends then becomes a big old lesson in discernment.
To help you with this, when you set out to make new friends, determine the values you’re looking for in a friend ahead of time and go find people that align with them.
I’m not saying that this list should read like criteria for a job search. Nor am I suggesting that you should build a homogeneous friend group. What I mean is get clear on what’s most important to you in your friendships.
If it helps, think about your closest friends. What about them really works for you? Also think about friendships where you grew apart or people you just didn't connect with in the first place. What about them didn’t work?
For example, maybe you felt disconnected from some of your college friends after a few years because all they wanted to do was go out late and party and that just felt too exhausting for you. Or maybe you’re still BFFs with your friend who lives across the country because she reminds you to celebrate the little stuff in life and she’s one of those most attentive listeners you know.
Getting clear on the qualities you want in a friend helps you to identify those people who meet them more quickly and to stop wasting energy on people who clearly don’t.
By being choosy, you will then have time to give more energy to the people who really matter to you and grow those into deeper friendships.
reserve snap judgement
While you get to be choosy, it's also important to reserve snap judgements.
Yes, have the values that are important to you in a friend, but don't be quick to judge people. Like I said earlier, we're all slightly awkward in our own way. The snap judgement you may make about someone might have to do with their own discomfort around opening up to new people or an insecurity of your own, rather than some true character "flaw" in that person.
Now, making quick judgements and categorizing people is something that the human brain does very well. Way back in the day our ancestors had to determine friend or foe, safety or danger, very quickly in order to survive. While our survival doesn't depend on this to the same level that it used to, our brains still held onto the tendency to make these quick judgements. Plus there are a lot of cultural and societal structures set up that reinforce our fast categorization of others.
But, more often than not, those snap judgements we make about new people we meet have to do with underlying biases or insecurities that we have deep down (that we may not even be consciously aware of).
When we fail to reflect on and question these snap judgements, we are closing ourselves off to people who we may actually really get along with if we gave them a chance.
So the next time your initial reaction to someone isn't positive, take a minute to reflect on why that might be. Instead of immediately thinking "That person seems like a bitch" or "Wow she was really quiet", think about why this is actually bothering you. Does it have to do with your own insecurities around wanting other people to like you? Do you just don't know how to interact with people who are quieter than you? Where is this judgement coming from?
When you check your immediate judgement and spend some time with someone, you're able to get a better feeling for who they are and if they are someone you want to spend more time with.
So give them a chance, just like you would like them to do for you. Maybe they end up lining up with the qualities you're looking for in a friend. Or maybe they don't. But passing quick judgement is a recipe for missing out on some potentially awesome friendships.
Making friends as an adult doesn't have to be as difficult or intimidating of a process as people often make it out to be. The more you can let go of putting pressure on forming these new friendships and let them evolve over time, the more fun you can have while doing it.
Put yourself out there, be yourself and see where it goes. You might be surprised at the amazing people you attract into your life who have been waiting to meet you.
Be well friend,