The Art of Making Friends as an Adult
Gone are the days of friendships starting by walking up to a group playing basketball in the quadrangle and asking them to ‘pass it to me’. As adults, lads are already in cliques and established friendship groups are harder than ever to penetrate. Add to that the fact that more and more people are jetting overseas thanks to the open borders post-COVID, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the number of close friends you have access to as an adult is dwindling. The good news? It’s easy to make friends as an adult if you’re willing to get a little vulnerable and awkward. Here’s how:
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Ask Yourself What You Want in a Friendship
Friendships come in all different shapes and sizes, so an important first step to finding friends is to understand what that means to you. Do you want some mates who are geographically close to you so you can call them up for a beer at the local pub? Or are you after a deeper friendship with a current friend who’s moved interstate and that you miss? Are you free to give your new friends time only on weekends, or can you swing some mid-morning coffees with office mates (but not shop talk)? Defining what you want in a friendship will help make the next steps easier.
Know That Friendships Look Different Now
Reminiscing to high school friendships is often a good time, however as we age these friendships transform. People move away for work or to be with their families, priorities shift from weekend cricket to family and work commitments… That doesn’t mean those friendships are over, though. If it’s a deeper connection with your school mates that you’re after, consider reaching out to them and seeing if you can reignite the ol’ friendship flame – even if it’s just over text. Sometimes connection with those we knew before can look different, but it’s just as valuable.
Keep Searching; Your Mental Health Will Thank You
Male friendships are only now receiving the kudos they deserve for benefitting the mental health of those involved. Belonging sits in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right above safety – and friendship affords us both. Positive friendships and connection can help us through relationship or career breakdowns, stem loneliness and feelings of isolation, and positively impact our mental health. If you’re having trouble making friends, try out the steps below and then consider seeing a therapist to see if they can support you in this temporary ‘stuck’.
Your sense of connection is directly congruent with how deep your relationship is, be that a friendship or romantic relationship. There are two ways to deepen your relationships – via being vulnerable, and by spending time together.
Deep relationships are built on trust and conversation. Instead of powering through any personal ‘stucks’ you may have, consider asking your mates their opinion on them, and talk to your friends about being hurt or scared about changes in your life. Overcoming the taboo of ‘men can’t be vulnerable’ is the best way to transition your work and gym acquaintances into true mates.
Leave the House, But Not the ‘Net
Just like when dating, you’ll see the most success from your friendship search if you leave the house and go where the people are. Gyms, churches, clubs, sports games and more are all great places where people who have similar interests to you routinely gather. Have a look at what’s on in your area or closest city and be confident to go it alone – you’ll find someone willing to connect over a drink or a common topic of conversation.
If that’s not possible for you either due to geography or nerves, start online and go from there. While this comes with risk – both that you’ll connect with someone too deeply or who isn’t who they say they are – it can be a nice way to wade in without diving head-first. Consider Reddit forums about your hometown, favourite sports team, or watch brand. Follow those hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, and start conversations in the comments. Say ‘hi’ next time you’re playing a multi-player game. Wherever you feel comfortable, reach out an olive branch and start a conversation.
Invest in Your Interests
Making friends sometimes takes time and money. We’re not saying you need to pay for friendship, but investing in fees to join your local hobby club in person can open up an easy way to connect with others. Consider your local TAFE or community classes, memberships to your fave sports team’s next season, run clubs or gyms. The benefit of this? You have an existing common ground to start a conversation, and a friendship.
Be Curious and Consistent
When you do strike up a conversation, get curious about it. Ask open questions that your new friend has to answer with more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Listen in and ask follow-up questions, either right there and then or later once you’ve done some research. Whatever your approach, be fully present so you can stretch the length of the conversation – the longer it is, the more meaningful and memorable, setting you up for more in the future.
Further to this, be consistent. Regularly go out to meet new people (not just ‘one and done’), and when you do meet them, follow-up. Send a text each week based off funny things you talked about or asking them out for a coffee in future. Or if texting isn’t your bag, send an Instagram meme via Direct Message about something you talked about. It doesn’t matter how you connect with your new friend, just that you do it consistently so they can see the value in being your mate.
About the author: BARE Therapy is an Australian-based counselling service. Certified Practising Counsellor, Tammi Sue, enables clients to work through their ‘stucks’ to live better lives. Find out more – @bare__therapy.
How do adults make new friends?
While it's easy to make friends as a child, forming new connections as an adult can be far trickier. Some great ways to make friends as an adult include joining clubs, playing in local sporting leagues, taking adult education classes, volunteering and attending social gatherings.
Why is it hard to make friends as an adult?
A recent study from the University of Nicosia found that the most important challenge cited was a lack of trust. According to the results, people found it harder to put their trust in someone new and fully invest in them as a friend compared to when they were younger.