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The Art of Making Friends as an Adult

Gone are the days of starting friendships 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 working from home, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the number of close friends you have access to as an adult is dwindling. It’s no wonder that people 1 in 4 Australians report loneliness and 1 in 2 feel more lonely since the pandemic. 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:

Matheus bertelli
Image: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels

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 do you want to deepen your relationship with a current friend or reconnect with a friend who’s moved interstate? Are you free 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 and how much time you want to devote will help make the next steps easier.

Know That Friendships Look Different Now

Reminiscing about high school friendships may bring up memories of having a care-free time when your social life was your number one priority. But our priorities change over time which means so do our friendships. For instance, people move away for work or to be with their families and priorities can 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 old 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 our connection with those we knew before can look different, but it’s just as valuable.

RELATED: How to Check in On Your Mates

Max ravier
Image: Max Ravier/Pexels

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. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Lillian Nejad agrees on the importance of our friendships, “It’s our close, personal bonds with people that is the number one building block for resilience and our positive relationships can even prevent physical and cognitive decline.” 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 ‘stuckness’.

Get Vulnerable

Your sense of connection is directly congruent with how deep your relationship is, in a friendship or a romantic relationship. Two ways to deepen your relationships are by being more open and vulnerable and by spending quality time together.

Close relationships are built on trust and genuine communication. Instead of powering through any personal challenges you have, consider opening up to your friends and sharing your hurt, disappointment or fears. Transform your superficial conversations into deep and meaningfuls to that the time you are spending together is ‘quality’, not just quantity. Overcoming the taboo of ‘men don’t share feelings’ is the best way to transition your work and gym acquaintances into true mates.

Leave the House, But Not the ‘Net

Just like when you’re dating, in person is best when you’re seeking a real connection. Leave the house and go where the people are. Gyms, churches, clubs, sports matches, classes are all great places where people who have similar interests to you routinely gather. Have a look at what’s on in your area and be confident to go it alone – you already have a something in common so making conversation will be much easier.

If that’s not possible for you either due to geography or nerves, start online and go from there.  Online groups, classes, and communities can be a nice way to meet like-minded people and make connections without diving in head-first. Consider online forums, groups and communities (Facebook Reddit, Instagram) related to your hometown, or favourite sports team, or about a topic or product that interests you. Or say ‘hi’ next time you’re playing a multi-player game.

I love you man
Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons in ‘I Love You, Man’

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, be interested. Be fully present. This will set you up for a more meaningful and memorable conversation that can lead to a new friendship.

And 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. If they don’t respond, that’s okay, there are plenty more friendships in the sea!

About the Author: Tammi Miller is a certified practising counsellor, founder of BARE Therapy, and author of Paperback Therapy: Therapist-approved tools and advice for mastering your mental health. The Sydney-based professional is a Provisional Member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia, and received her training at the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP) in 2020.

General FAQs

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.