- A major difference between making friends as a kid versus an adult is spontaneity.
- Researchers found that people who believe friendship primarily depends on luck tend to be lonelier.
- Another study showed that talking about your secrets, desires, and flaws is what really builds lasting connections.
Many people come to therapy confused about how to form new friendships in adulthood. They say things like:
- “I was really good at making friends when I was young. Does everybody lose this ability with age?”
- “I feel like everyone around me already has a solid group of friends. How do I find a group to fit in with? Or is it too late?”
- “I’m either working at my office or taking care of my family. How do I find time to make new friends?
Making friends as an adult can be more complicated than when you were young. The logistical and emotional challenges in creating new bonds as adults sometimes push us to isolate ourselves. Or, they may lead us to believe the false notion that our time to make new friends has passed.
If you struggle to make new friends as an adult, research says you’re not alone. The challenges you’re facing are real, but they can be managed. Here are two practices you can incorporate into your life that can help you create lasting friendships at any life stage.
1. Plan and Pursue
A major difference between making friends as a kid versus an adult is spontaneity. As a child, one has more opportunities to meet new people and form new connections. The expectation is that you’ll make a new friend everywhere you go. However, as our responsibilities increase with age, the odds seem to turn against us.
Simply relying on chance when trying to make friends as an adult might lead to disappointment. In fact, research published in the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships found that people who believe friendship primarily depends on luck tend to be lonelier. Alternatively, people who believe that making friends takes effort report fewer feelings of loneliness (and have more friends).
Here are a few things you can do to be proactive about friendship as an adult:
- Initiate. Waiting for friendship to come to you can be a long and lonely process. Instead, using your pent-up energy and channeling it into small initiatives like introducing yourself to the neighbors, showing up at your local church or community center, or even organizing a movie night can be far more fruitful and fulfilling.
- Find your community. Finding a person you connect with deeply is rare but not impossible. This journey, for a lot of people, begins with finding like-minded company that shares the same interests as you. Be it a book club, a workout buddy, a baking partner, or a dog-walking companion–bonding on a shared activity could be a gateway to deep, long-term friendships.
- Commit. Adulthood comes with unavoidable, time-sensitive commitments. For most people, friendship cannot be as laid back as it once was. It is far more practical to schedule meeting your friends and holding yourself accountable than to expect life to make that time for you.
2. Open Up
The instinct to get up close and personal with someone you’ve just met dampens as we age. We’re not as free as we once were, and our authentic self is reserved for a close few. While this is understandable, it is important to remind yourself that you cannot form deep relationships by keeping people at arm’s length.
Growing up can sometimes lead you to believe that you have to hold back or tweak your original self in order to be liked. Research published in Psychological Bulletin, however, suggests the opposite. It turns out that talking about your secrets, desires, and flaws is what really builds lasting connections.
You can start small if you identify as an introvert or a generally guarded individual. You don’t have to share things that make you uncomfortable. Challenges you might be facing at work or with family, a childhood memory you haven’t shared before, or even your favorite art or music are all great personal tidbits that can give your new friend a window into your life without making you feel exposed.
Making friends as an adult isn’t much different from when you were a kid. The only thing that needs to be added is intention. Once you have clarity and direction, making friends will become the interesting and fulfilling process it used to be. It may even bring back a bit of childhood thrill into your life.