Yesterday I published a post how about how to help kids make friends, but the more time I spent with this topic, the more I realized that many adults have just as much trouble making friends as kids. In fact, adults may have even more trouble because there are fewer opportunities built into our adult lives to meet people and foster friendships. As a result, I’ve decided to modify my steps for helping kids learn to make friends so I could create picture checklists that can help adults make friends too!
where to meet people
The first thing you’ll need to do is go places where you can meet people with similar interests. Oftentimes adults meet people at work, but that’s just one option, and for some people not a good one! If you’re a parent, you may meet lots of other parents as you attend events with your kids. This can work great for a while, but sometimes simply having kids who are similar in age is not enough commonality to turn into solid, long-term friendships.
Instead, join activities you like with an eye towards meeting someone who will want to spend time doing the same kinds of things you like to do, or who have similar values to you. There are lots of ways to do this!
Take an exercise class or join a club like a walking group or hiking club. Maybe join a bowling league. If being active isn’t your thing, try an art class, or a cooking or welding class! Look in your local park district catalogue to get ideas.
Joining a church or a spiritual group is another wonderful way to meet people. My mother-in-law found herself in a new state needing to make friends at age 70. She’s not especially religious, but she loves the good work that churches do, so she started attending one very close to where she lives. She found that the church had social hours, outings for seniors, lunches, and lots of volunteer opportunities where she met a whole bunch of like-minded friends.
For readers, a book club is an excellent choice. Libraries and book stores can help you find one in your area. You can also volunteer for a cause you love, or just take your dog to the dog park to meet people. If you’re more outgoing, you may find it easy to attend a neighborhood food, music or art festival, or holiday celebration, and chat with people there.
Another great option is to find a professional networking group in your area.
how to make Friends
The next step is to get comfortable with putting yourself out there. As a kid, or a college student, or even at your first job, you’re often surrounded by other people who are similar in age who are also looking for friends, and who have time to invest in building friendships. As you get older, though, the landscape really changes. Many people have established friendships already and aren’t looking for friend, or they have a spouse and kids that they’re focusing on and who take up much of their time. Add to this the reality that most of us are super out of practice with initiating friendships and it all gets even harder. The steps below are all about helping adults remember the give and take and courage that can be needed to reach out to potential new friends.
The first thing you’ll need to do is go places where you can meet people who share your interests. Once you’re there, you’ll need to do something that may not come naturally: assume people like you. This may sound corny, but studies show that people really will like you better if you enter into an interaction assuming they will like you, rather than giving off a vibe that you are expecting them to reject you.
The best way to kick off a conversation is to ask someone a question about themselves. You can practice some generic ones that you’re comfortable with like “How do you know <so and so>?” or “Where do you work?”, but you can also come up with a few that help you find out faster if this person is a good match for you. And yes, this is definitely more like dating that any of us would like to admit! If you’re a big reader, try “What have you read recently?” or if you’re super into music ask “Have you been to any good concerts lately?”. You can also keep the conversation closer to the activity you’re doing. If it’s a yoga class, ask them how long they’ve been doing yoga, or if you’re at a dog park ask them how old their dog is. People love to talk about themselves, so if you can find a good question, you’re halfway to starting a good conversation.
The other side of this is to remember to share a few details about yourself. It’s important for the the other person to get an idea of who you are too. And you want to know that they are someone who bothers to learn about you, too!
Once you’ve initiated a conversation, the hardest part begins. You’ll need to be patient and wait for a good opportunity to move the friendship forward. It can take a quite a while to turn a casual interaction into a friendship, and you often really can’t hurry the process. Nor should you. You’ll want to chat with the other person casually a few times at least to decide for sure if you want to try to build a friendship.
If you do, the next step is to extend an invitation. Pick something that’s comfortable for you – going for coffee, or a walk, or inviting them on an outing you’d already been planning. They might say no, so practice being ok with that, and then ask them anyway, because they might say yes!
You should also be ready to accept any invitation they offer you. Even if you’re not sure yet if they’ll be a good friend fit, you may discover a new place to meet people, or even meet new people through this person. It’s all good practice!
When my kids were toddlers I signed them up for a 12 week music class. Another mom who was skilled at forming friendships noticed our kids enjoyed dancing around together, and on the last day of class she had a little card ready with her name and number written on it. She handed it to me with a smile and said I should contact her if I’d like to meet up at a park for a playdate some time. I decided afterwards that she was brilliant. There was zero pressure on me to say yes or no to an invitation right then, and I was quite simply pleased in the moment that she had singled us out and was able to respond honestly with a smile and a simple thank you. If I didn’t want to continue the relationship, I was unlikely to see her again and could just not call. But if I did want to pursue a friendship, I had the means to do so, with the proposal of a park meetup already on the table. Brilliant. I did reach out to her, and we had playdates together with our kids at nearby parks and eventually in our homes for years. Our kids enjoyed our playdates, and so did the other mom and I!
I’ll reiterate here that you should remember all of this takes time. Given our busy lives, it may take months of occasional interactions before you really know if this person is someone you want to develop a better friendship with, and it can take years to really develop a deep friendship with someone.
My last tip for how to move towards a deeper friendship is to do a small favor for your friend, or ask a small favor of them. This kind of give and take is different than going on fun outings, and will help you work towards a deeper friendship. People like to feel needed, so it really is ok to ask for a small favor, as long as you’re willing to return it when needed. Note that it is just as important to ask for favors as it is to do them. If you ask for help, it can leave the door open for the other person to also reach out to you for help. That balance is important.
HOW TO KEEP FRIENDS
An incredibly common mistake people make once they’ve made a friend is to forget that, like with any relationship, good friendships take work. You can use this list to make sure you’re being a good friend, and also make sure you’re friend is being a good friend to you. Both people in the friendship deserve to be treated well!
First, remember that friends are there for each other in good times and in bad times. Having fun with friends is great, but it’s not always just fun. If your friend is sad, or needs help, you should do what you can to make things better.
Friendships really do take work. If one person is always supporting the other, or always doing all the planning, or all the inviting, that’s not a good balance. Make sure you’re sharing the work of supporting the friendship!
Being a reliable friend is also important. It’s not ok to cancel on a friend if a better offer comes along, and you should always show up when you say you will.
Be a good listener. Make sure you’re truly listening to the other person and not just thinking about what you want to say next. Make a point of remembering details about things your friend is interested in.
Good friends are trustworthy. A huge benefit of having a friend is having someone you can share things with that might be private or something you don’t want everyone to know. If a friend shares personal things with you, keep those things private unless your friend tells you it’s ok to tell other people.
Another part of being trustworthy is be sure to have your friend’s back. If you’re talking about your friend behind their back, or they are badmouthing you, that’s not a good friendship. You should also stand up for your friends if others aren’t treating them well.
Keeping in touch with friends is a necessary part of maintaining a strong friendship. If you want to remain friends with someone, be sure to reach out to them often enough to continue to feel connected. The frequency of connection is different for every pair of friends, so you’ll need to find the sweet spot. Be conscious, though, of how long it’s been since you’ve checked in with a friend and consider shooting them a quick text even if you don’t have time to hang out.
The last item on the list is an incredibly important one and one that most people forget to do. When you’re feeling close to a friend, or you appreciate something they’ve done, tell them. It’s a simple thing to do but it can make a world of difference in deepening a friendship if you let the other person know you value having them in your life.
3 thoughts on “How To Make Friends As Adults”
In the real world, for Neuro typical adults who are engaging with other Neuro typical adults, this doesn’t work.
Thanks reading this, Kia! I’d love to hear more on your thoughts about this, especially if you have other suggestions than these!