How To Make Friends As An Adult
1. Let Go Of Your Fears
Busy schedules and family commitments may reduce the amount of spare time we have to spend with our friends but, believe it or not, the opportunities to make friends don’t necessarily become scarcer as we enter adulthood — it’s our mindset that changes. As psychologist Dr Kate Cummins explains, children are less worried about being rejected. “During childhood, the part of our brain which provides executive functioning ability like judgment, planning and personality is not fully developed," she says. "As we age, we get more into our heads about the judgment of another person, or the thoughts they may have about us."
Inviting a potential future friend to do something can be scary, and trigger negative thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “They won’t want to spend time with me”. But the only solution is to fight the fear and put yourself out there – contacting someone on social media is a good tip for those who want to feel less vulnerable. And remember – there is a chance the person will say no, but there’s also the chance they’ll say yes, and something great could come from it.
2. Switch The Scenery
A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships calculated that, on average, it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends, and about 200 hours to become close friends. But for those of us hoping to make the leap from ‘co-worker’ or ‘woman in my spin class’ to ‘close friend’, you’ll need to spend time outside of your usual close-system environment.
The study’s lead psychologist found that people could spend hundreds of hours with co-workers and still not develop a friendship – it was the participants who did activities outside of work with someone, such as visiting their home, who were more likely to develop deeper relationships.
3. Have A Night Out
According to psychology professor Dr Steven Howell, who has made a career studying the science of establishing new friendships, an evening out is the best place to start (shots anyone?) and concluded that a night out is the best place to start. One of his studies found exchanging confidences and taking risks together is essential to human bonding, and that a night on the tiles is a great way to facilitate both. Researchers found those who drink together and tackle a crisis together – even something small, like how to get home at the end of the night – are more likely to become close than people who don't drink or share dramas.
And while you’re on the vino, you might want to hit the dance floor too. Oxford professor Robin Dunbar, an authority on friendship, believes both inebriation and the performative synchronicity of dance are the reason people make so many important friendships in their twenties.
4. Ditch The Small Talk
Kate Leaver, author of The Friendship Cure: A Manifesto for Reconnecting in the Modern World, believes much of our modern-day loneliness is due to shallow connection. That means less liking Instagram photos, and more heart-to-hearts. “Shortcuts to intimacy include revealing something personal about yourself, finding a common nemesis to discuss and asking insightful questions,” she says. “Think about what you’d actually like to know about this person and venture beyond what they do for a living, where they to school and how many kids they have.”
Her advice is backed up by science. The same study that discovered how many hours it takes to build a friendship also found that small talk seemed to be the enemy of friendship – participants who talked about mundane topics actually became less close over time.
5. Rekindle Old Friendships
If you’re trying to replenish a dried-up friendship pool, start by looking inward. Communication studies professor William K Rawlins believes reconnecting with old friends and checking in with the close friends you already have is one of the easiest ways to improve your social capital.
"You have to make the effort to keep in touch," advises relationship therapist Vera Eck. "You no longer live or study with these friends, so you won't get to see them in your day-to-day life. So, this requires phone calls, going out for happy hour, or inviting them over." And, yes, sometimes that means saying yes to things even when it's easier to just stay home – because as Eck puts it, “The more you say no, the less likely your friends are to invite you out again. So stretch out of your comfort zone and get back out there — you won't regret it.”
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