How To Make Friends And Keep Them As An Adult
It's much harder than it sounds.
Adulting can be frickin' tiresome at times. Many of us, having moved into our 20s or 30s, still feel like teens, mercilessly kidnapped one day by evil responsibilities and thrust into an uncertain and unforgiving world. Negotiating the adulthood traps of full-time work, rent, bills, partnering up, settling down and all the rest is a feeling akin to a salmon swimming upstream – like, how the hell do you expect me to have the time and energy to make and maintain meaningful friendships and not die in the process?
As we get older, we begin to count the number of real friends we have on one hand. Yeah, we've got work friends, party friends, internet friends...but best friends – the important ones who know us inside-out – are few and far between. This study argues that half of the people we consider to be friends aren't really. And despite living hyper-connected lives, social media actually makes us feel even more isolated: this study shows that online relationships aren't nearly as satisfying as in-the-flesh ones. Let's face it though, we knew that already.
Despite the challenging nature of adult friendships, we all need at least a couple of close friends to help us thrive in life. These friendships, like any good relationship, are worth working for. If your neck is already hurting from nodding along in agreement, you're in the right place: read on for some fail-safe friendship tips.
Find a hobby
Hobbies are underrated. Simply in terms of personal and social development, taking a new challenge and joining a new club – whether that's fitness, skill or fun-oriented – can only be beneficial. Make time for a new weekly activity and not only will you get a confidence boost, but you're bound to meet a bunch of new people with similar interests. Plus, seeing the same faces regularly will turn acquaintances into good friends. Perhaps you could extend the social occasion by starting a new tradition, like meeting your fellow hobbyists at the same bar every Thursday for a happy-hour cocktail and a gossip.
Just like dating, we tend to get too hung up on the idea of having tons of things in common with good friends. It's great if you can find that person and you enjoy it, but sometimes a bit of difference adds a bit of spice to a friendship and keeps it interesting. If you meet someone who is totally different to you, give them a chance; often people with different opinions and backgrounds fuel exciting and dynamic discussions and open our minds to new ideas. These are the mates that could truly change your life.
Make the first step
When we were kids, we had much less fear of rejection; it was a simple as tapping someone on the shoulder and asking them to play. As adults, we add so many preconceptions and complications into something as straightforward as asking someone we like to hang out – What if they don't like me? What if it'll be awkward? What if they think I'm asking them on a date? In reality, however, you really haven't got anything to lose – apart from a potential best friend, of course. Just go for it! And remember, it usually takes a few meetings for people to start to feel really themselves and at ease with someone new, so allow for a tiny bit of awkwardness at first – that's natural, and it absolutely does not mean it's doomed to fail. Allow small talk to organically progress into more personal questions and you'll soon develop a rapport.
This is something we should apply to all things in life, but many of us have that little anxiety voice hardwired. Do not – I repeat, do not – assume anything about what your new friend might think of you, or whether or not they care to meet with you again; let them tell you that. Perhaps you feel like you're getting a bitchy vibe and you're putting the defenses up – chances are it's your skewed preconceptions. Remember, we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. Make sure you're both on the same page, and if somebody does end up rejecting you initially, don't take it personally; they might not have time for friends right now.
We already talked about the time-and-enery-sapping nature of adulting, but if you can squeeze in a regular window for your friendship, you'll reap the rewards. To build and maintain a friendship, actually seeing each other is essential. If you really can't make it, keep in touch, but as we already established, the internet is never a good substitute for real life. Communication is everything: don't fall into the common trap of not contacting the other person because you're waiting for them to contact you. Your pride is not worth losing everything to distance. And chances are, they might be waiting for the same thing.
Show the love
It's a pretty obvious fact of human existence: people want, and need, to feel appreciated. If you appreciate their friendship and feel that they're important, you should say it – be free with your compliments. If you show your friend the love, they'll do the same – that's how relationships work, duh.
The last resort
We hate to say it, but not all friendships are worth the time and energy. If you've put in a lot of effort but it feels truly one-sided and non-fruitful, it's okay to end it. Perhaps that person just doesn't interest you anymore – that's okay too. Ultimately you have to look out for your number-one best friend in life (that's you, by the way).