You’re Making Friends Wrong – Here’s How to Do It Right
Focusing on the fun of it can help nudge you along to finding the friendships you desire.
Sometimes, as adults, we may find ourselves wishing we had more friends. But making friends can be easier said than done. Many people wonder where exactly an adult can even find new friends and how to go about building these relationships. And how do you even know if someone you think might make a good friend would be interested in being friends with you? And shouldn’t you already have lots of friends to call anyway? And is there something wrong with you if you don’t already have a best friend?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this process—and forget that making friends is actually a pretty simple, accessible process. That said, it’s very understandable and common to get discouraged, sad, or embarrassed if you don’t feel like you have the friendships you want in your life, especially as in every TV show, movie, and social media feed you’ll typically see endless depictions of best pals and super close friendship groups.
And it’s natural to wonder why you don’t have that too—or to miss the friendships you may have had in the past. Or to wish you felt closer to the friends you have. Or you might want new friends who share certain interests with you or who live or work where you do. And even if you already have tons of friends, you might just be looking to make more.
The good news is that everyone can hone their friendship skills and become adept at making friends at all stages of life. It’s never too late to make more friends or to become the type of person that picks up friends wherever they go. In this comprehensive guide to making friends, we offer tips and tricks on how to make friends, where to find them, and how to keep them.
How to Make Friends
Kids learn to make friends as soon as toddlerhood as a part of their socio-emotional development. From there, kids (and adults) seem prone to pair or group up into various friendships that may last days, months, years, or lifetimes. But while most of us have had a range of friendships by the time we reach adulthood, that doesn’t mean making new friends is always easy.
How to make friends may seem like something everyone should already know how to do. But in actuality, it can be an even more intimidating, uncomfortable, or unsettling process as an adult simply because there aren’t always as many natural avenues available for meeting new people. For kids, they are often in proximity to lots of other kids, such as at daycare, school, sports teams, and other clubs or events. Combine regular exposure to other kids alongside shared interests, activities, and routines, and you’ve got a recipe for developing friendships. And most kids have tons of time for lots of friends—not true for all adults.
Often, it’s harder to meet other adults to be friends with, simply because we’re a bit out of practice in looking for friends. And the complexities of modern adult life can make finding them even more challenging. We all have our routines, responsibilities, and habits, and finding new friends requires stepping out of those patterns.
Some adults already have a trove of friends and aren’t looking for new ones. Other adults are super busy and don’t have the time or inclination to pursue new relationships. But that doesn’t mean that many other adults out there aren’t open to making new friends. It just might take a bit more effort—and a refresher on making friends.
Why Friends Are Important
Research shows that people with a fulfilling social life and solid friendships are happier, healthier, and live longer. Friends offer an antidote to loneliness, a buffer to feeling low, and a great stress-reliever. Simply talking out your problems with a friend or having a laugh together can help to improve your well being.
Friends stick by you in times of trouble, are there to cheer you on, and cheer you up. Plus, having friends means more social time, which likely means more fun.
What Are the Different Types of Friends?
There are many different types of friends. There are work friends, school friends, childhood friends, neighborhood friends, hobby friends, and so on. The good news in this is that you can pretty much find potential friends in all types of scenarios and for all types of purposes. For example, you might want to find a friend to go to karaoke night with, friends to train for triathlons with, or someone who loves classic cinema, sushi, hiking, spa trips, or bowling as much as you do. Whatever it is, you can likely make a friend to fit that bill.
Essentially, you can make friends to fit all the different sides of your personality, interests, and parts of your life. Additionally, you can make friends who are totally different from you, who expose you to all kinds of new things, ideas, and ways of living.
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That’s really fun and beneficial, too. And being open to meeting different types of people, sets you up for making new friends wherever you go.
Plus, you can have friends with different levels of closeness. Some friendships are long-lasting, some more short-lived. Some are intense and deeply bonded, others are much more casual or surface level. Some are very situational, as in work buddies, the guy who lives across the hall, or the pals you make in your ukulele, tamale-making, or knitting classes. Some friendships come in groups, while others are more one-on-one. And friends can be any gender, too.
Having many different types of friendships can be very fulfilling, giving you lots of people to choose from to talk to, get support from, and socialize with. It’s really up to you how many and what type of friendships to pursue, but knowing that there are so many different kinds can help you open your eyes to the many different potential pals that are all around you.
How Many Friends Do You Need?
Some people will want a robust roster of buddies, while others may want (or need) only a select few friends. There is no right or wrong or magic number of friends to have. Different people may thrive with dozens of friends in their life, while others would feel overwhelmed with so many. Some people might want lots of casual friendships and just one or two close pals—or vice versa. And the number of friends you need or want may fluctuate throughout your life.
Really, it’s about the time and energy you have available and how social you want to be. Some people really need a lot of alone time or time with just one or two friends—and that’s perfectly okay. The point is to seek out the friendships you want or need in your life, whatever number that is.
How Do I Know if Someone Will Be a Good Friend?
Generally, lots of different types of people could become great new friends. But good signs that someone is likely to be a good match for you include if they are warm, friendly, and listen to you. Are they considerate and respectful?
Do they show an interest in you and care about your feelings? Do you share interests or hobbies? And ultimately, do you enjoy spending time with them and talking to them?
You can suss out if you and a potential friend might be well-suited for friendship by simply talking to them, too. Questions to ask people to help you get to them include asking them about their passions, how they spend their time, what music or shows they like, their favorite foods, and where they’d like to go on vacation.
Remember, you don’t need to align perfectly or even at all. Friends with totally different interests and backgrounds can be just as great as ones that share your passions and life history. The key is to notice if you like hanging out with this person. Do you feel comfortable talking to them? Do they make you feel supported and valued? And most importantly, are you happy to see them, and do you laugh and have fun when you’re together.
Why Do I Struggle to Make Friends?
Some people seem to make friends effortlessly wherever they go. For others, it’s more of a struggle. Most people are somewhere in between—and it’s very normal to feel a bit uncomfortable or awkward when making the first move to make a friend. It’s hard to put yourself out there. And it can be hard to expose yourself to potential rejection.
On the flip side, it’s brave to seek out friends anyway despite any discomfort you may feel.
If you are introverted or have social anxiety, looking for new pals can feel intimidating or overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean that you can go for it anyway.
It may help to realize that most people feel a bit unsure when talking up new people. And while you might think they would reach out to you if they wanted to be your buddy, they might be thinking the same. So, next time, encourage yourself to go for it. Even if you feel a bit awkward at first, the payoff could be a new friend.
What Skills Are Important for Making Friends?
You don’t need to do anything special to make a friend. All it takes is reaching out and talking to another person. Then, ask them to do something together or accept their invitation to hang out. Or you can simply put yourself in places and situations where friendships can naturally develop, such as by joining a swimming class, bowling league, or book club.
But there are some friendship skills you can work on that will facilitate talking to and making new friends. These skills include communication skills, emotional regulation, stress coping strategies, and general social skills.
Good communicators pay attention to other people’s signals.They ask questions, and listen to the other person. In fact, active listening is key, as people notice if your attention is on them and if you are truly interested in what they have to say.
Being a good friend is also essential. Traits of great friends include being reliable, communicating honestly, respecting others’ privacy, being available and happy to help when someone needs support, and regularly spending time together. Not gossiping or bullying others is key, too.
Where to Make New Friends as an Adult
You can find friends really wherever you go. If there are other people around, then there is the potential to make a friend. If you are friendly to others, a simple hello can lead to friendship whether you’re on a bus ride, in line at the grocery store, or walking your dog around the block. Sometimes, friendships can seem to find you. However, you can specifically put yourself into places that will provide even more ample opportunities for finding friends.
Join a group
Think about what you like to do—or would like to start doing. Then, look up possible groups, clubs, or activities related to that interest. Then sign yourself up.
Take a class or workshop
Whether it’s a comedy, cooking, Spanish, or sewing class, you’ll find a group of like-minded people who could soon become your new friends.
Is there a cause you’re passionate about? Sign up to volunteer for the effort and you’re likely to find possible friends among your compatriots.
Tap into your existing network
Take a look at your existing contacts, work colleagues, and acquaintances. Is there someone in your existing network who you might want to become friends with? If so, simply, send a text or ask them to go get coffee or on some other outing. Feel out the waters to see if they might be interested in pursuing a friendship, too.
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Alternatively, you can ask people in your network to help connect you with possible new friends. Think about the type of pals you’re looking for—from a cinema buff to a biking fiend—then ask for suggestions of possible new friends.
Making conversation in person
A great way to make friends is to chat people up wherever you may be. From the subway to the lunchroom, you’re likely to make friends just by saying hello, and starting to ask questions.
How to Make Friends in New Situations
If you’ve moved to a new city, it can feel lonely if you don’t already have many (or any) pals. But the good news is that most people like to help out people who are new in town. They are more likely to invite you to activities or offer to hang out if they know you’ve just moved. So, use that goodwill by letting people know you just moved and saying yes to any offers that come your way. Reach out to anyone you know who might know someone in your new hometown, too.
How to make friends in college
If you’re in school, chat up people in your classes, in your dorm, or in any extracurricular activities you participate in. Typically, there are lots of opportunities to meet other students, from on the quad to in the dining hall. Join clubs, study groups, and other school-based activities where you might meet potential friends. Vary where you sit so that you can have an opportunity to meet more people.
How to make friends at your job
Your workplace is often a great place to make friends, too. Being in the same field and office automatically gives you a connection and something to talk about.
Make an effort to introduce yourself to people at work that you don’t know and make small talk with those that you do. Ask people questions, like where they like to get lunch or go for happy hour—then, suggest going there together.
How to reconnect with old friends
Friends you’ve lost touch with can also provide a wellspring of pals to hangout with today. Think about the people from your past that you’ve lost touch with. Skip rekindling the friendships that ended with animosity. Instead, reach out to the ones that you enjoyed hanging out with but just happened to drift apart from. A simple text to an old friend can be enough to restart a friendship.
Making Friends: Do’s and Don’ts
There are no strict rules for making friends. But there are some general do’s and don’ts that may make the process go smoother.
Follow your instincts
It can help to follow your instincts. If you get a sense that you’ll connect with someone, then take a chance on talking to them. If you have a feeling they aren’t interested—or if you decide you aren’t—then move on to someone else.
When you want to make a friend, it helps to look and be approachable. This includes smiling, having open body language, and generally being friendly. Aim to put yourself in a place where you have a chance to interact with others. Then, smile, say, hi, and start a conversation.
Make eye contact
Looking someone in the eye lets them know that you are paying attention to them. It shows interest, confidence, and connection.
Make the first move
If conversation is flowing, don’t be afraid to ask the person to hang out. Making the first move can feel a little scary, and sure, they might say, no thanks. But they also might say, yes.
One key way to make buddies is to open yourself to others. Ask potential pals about themselves but also talk about yourself. Share your personality, interests, and questions. In order to make friends, you need to let others in and be willing to expose your feelings and inner self.
Assume people like you
When you’re on the hunt for friends, it can be easy to feel discouraged and think no one will want you as a friend.
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When you feel that way, decide to give yourself a break instead. Remind yourself that you have a lot to offer potential pals. Assume people like you—because they do!
Don’t limit who you might consider for a potential friend. Just like you want people to give you a chance, give others a chance, too. Don’t make judgments about people before getting to know them.
Open your heart
Let yourself be vulnerable, be yourself, and listen to your new potential friends. Giving others your attention and opening your heart to them, makes others feel important and lets them know you want to be their friend.Think positive thoughts about making new friends and you’ll manifest what you’re hoping for.
How to get friends using technology
Social media is a great place to make friends. You can meet people from the security of your phone. Many apps out there offer ways to connect with people either through messaging or by directly matching you up, as in dating apps for friendship.
How to Maintain Friendships
Remember that once you’ve made some friends, you’ll want to keep them. Maintaining your friendships is similar to making them. Giving your friends your time, attention, and honesty helps you keep them.
Remember that most people are open to meeting new pals. Some people will reach out to you, others may need you to make the first gesture. If you encounter someone who responds to your overtures with coldness, don’t take it personally. Their disinterest or rudeness rarely has anything to do with you. Ultimately, it’s their loss. And really, it’s instructive as it just tells you to move on to the next person.
Making friends can feel intimidating at times, but the process can also be exciting and fulfilling. Aim to just let go of your worries, self doubt, and embarrassment. No matter whether you are outgoing or shy, believing in yourself—and that you make a good friend—goes a long way. Start with a smile, a friendship attitude, and an open heart. Focusing on the fun of it can help nudge you along to finding the friendships you desire.