How to Make Fabulous Friends
The Challenge: Forming New Friendships As An Adult
Have you noticed that it can be harder and harder to make friends as you get older? When you are really little any kid about your age was automatically someone you could play with. Then as you get a little older you get pickier and clique-ier, but you still have an entire school grade of people your age that you spend time with regularly. College was fabulous for making friends because you are living in the same building with all these other people and all struggling through learning to be on your own together. Instant bonding and lifelong friendships were the result, at least in my case.
However, making friends as an adult has been much harder. I have been very fortunate to work in a collegial profession and I’ve been able to make quite a few good friends through jobs. My husband also has made some good friends through his education and work and fortunately we are similar enough that we can share friends. Friendships are harder now, though. Geography is a factor; many of our friends don’t live near us. Those who do live nearby have jobs, children, family demands and so getting together isn’t as easy as it used to be. And making new friends is tough. I’m not sure I’ve really made a new friend in the past 3-4 years.
I would like to make new friends though. I like people and I like feeling connected. I like hearing different perspectives and learning new things, and meeting new friends lets me do that. I don’t think I’m the only one who wonders how to make friends either. I often hear people talk about feeling lonely, and wishing they had more friends. I often hear people wonder how to make friends as adults.
Making Opportunities through Group Activities
So I’ve come up with some ideas on how to make friends in your thirties and later. Most of these ideas have some things in common. The first is that they do require an investment of time. Yes, of course, we are all busy, but if you want to have friends you have to decide that some of your precious time is going to be devoted to friends. The second is that they involve doing things in groups. It seems to me that part of the ease of making friends in childhood and young adulthood is that you are often put into situations with several other people you don’t already know. As adults this happens less as we settle into stable jobs and routines. So to make new friends you need to be around groups of new people. The third commonality is that all of these suggestions involve doing an activity you already enjoy. I think this is important, because it’s hard to make friends if you are anxiously focused on trying to make a friend. It’s better to be focused on a common activity that is a natural, shared point of interest and beginning conversation, and then let friendship grow naturally from there.
Service Organizations. I googled service organizations and came up with plenty of results. Some big organizations like Rotary International (http://www.rotary.org) have tens of thousands of clubs worldwide and work on many diverse projects. However there are smaller organizations that need volunteers as well; libraries, schools, animal shelters and food banks often need and love people who are willing to donate their time and energy. Volunteering is a great way to meet other people who are interested in a particular cause and willing to step outside themselves to give their time and energy. You also get to feel great about yourself for helping out.
Hobbies. There are organizations out there for almost any hobby I can think of. Looking online I found sports teams through the local parks and recreation department, a community theater group looking for members, choirs looking for singers, knitting and crocheting clubs, book clubs, supper clubs (hey, who doesn’t need to eat?), clubs for people who play board games, writers groups, arts clubs, sailing clubs (I suppose this depends on geography), hiking clubs, running clubs, biking clubs (two wheeled and motorcycle), and many, many more. Joining a club related to a hobby or interest you have can help you develop your skills as well as introduce you to like minded people who already enjoy what you enjoy. If you aren’t sure what your hobbies or interests are, the nice thing about a lot of these clubs is they are free and don’t require a huge up front commitment. You can try out some new things.
Religious Organizations. I don’t really recommend religion just for the sake of meeting people, but many people identify themselves as religious or spiritual. If you fit into that category, active participation in a religious group of your belief system gives you a community of people, often of various ages and experiences, that can become a tremendous group of loving friends. Many people have given up on “organized religion” because of bad experiences, but there are a lot of possibilities and a lot of good experiences out there too. Being part of a religious community can also help you deepen and broaden your own spirituality as you ask questions, are challenged by others, and listen to other’s viewpoints.
On Track for Friendships
As you experiment with participation in different groups, it’s important to keep some things in mind. Remember that these are groups of people, so expect foibles, egos, nonsense and disorganization. People aren’t perfect and large groups of people are even less so. Keep your perspective and sense of humor and don’t go looking for perfection. Remember that no one is perfect (not me and not you either), so if perfection is required for friendship we are all out of luck. Treat others with kindness and patience. Listen more than you talk and ask questions of other people.
Also stay focused on enjoying what you are doing. Friendship takes time and repeated encounters to develop and grow, so relax, be patient, and appreciate the process. Finally, be yourself. Do things that you genuinely enjoy, talk about things that you are honestly interested in, and forget about the impression you are making. Be authentic and real, because you are the best, most interesting you in the entire world. Believe that you have something great to offer other people. It is possible to continue to make friends as adults, it just takes a little more intentional effort.