How to Make Friends As An Adult
I think it’s old news by now that making friends get harder as we get older.
After school, we’re less forced into social constructs that serve as a petri dish for forming new bonds, and instead, the labor of friend-finding falls onto our own, already saddled shoulders.
And according to The New York Times, it’s not just those structural barriers, either. We bring our own set of internal barriers to friendship formation, too:
“Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with, said Marla Paul, the author of the 2004 book The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore. “The bar is higher than when we were younger and were willing to meet almost anyone for a margarita,” she said.
Despite all these obstacles (both internal and external), maintaining quality friendships is essential to a healthy life – especially for women. According to The Seattle Times:
“For women, friendship not only rules, it protects. It buffers the hardships of life’s transitions, lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and promotes healing. It might help explain why women, on average, have lower rates of heart disease and longer life expectancies than men.”
In other words: it’s imperative that we make friendship a priority. But how?
Here are 5 ways to make friends as a grown woman:
Whether you’re living in a new city or just find yourself lacking in the friendship department, we can all make an effort to build up our stock of high-quality friendships for a happier, healthier life.
1. Befriend Your Neighbors
Location, location, location! Friendships flourish in close proximity in part because of the ability to meet up at a moment’s notice.
Back when I first moved to DC, I moved into a basement apartment and had the good fortunate of living beneath a townhouse full of rad women. Sara-Katherine was one of the young professionals living upstairs and soon she and I became regular baking buddies (is there anything better than getting a Sunday morning text in bed saying “fresh scones are coming out of the oven!” from upstairs?!) and hiking pals. The ability to hang out by simply walking upstairs one floor was perfect for fostering a close new friendship, which I cherish to this day.
I’m always shocked when I visit my NYC-dwelling friends, who rarely if ever know their neighbors living just feet away. You’re missing out on some SERIOUS friend potential, people! Strike up conversation in the elevator or lobby, even if it’s awkward. The potential of finding a hangout buddy right down the hall is totally worth it.
2. Befriend Your Friend’s Friends
When you’re in a new city especially, resorting to a referral system can be a great way to find friends, too. Announce on social media that you’re headed to a new dwelling and see who your existing friends recommend you connect with. Go out for coffee or drinks to see if your friend’s friend and you hit it off, and it just might kick-start a budding new friendship all it’s own.
Don’t be offended if things don’t flourish right away, though. Often times people who’ve been living in one place for a while have already settled into routines with well-established friend groups. While they might not be looking for another person to add to their social circle, per se, the goal is to get the invite the next time everyone’s getting together to watch the game or heading out for a movie night. When you join a pre-existing pack of pals, the person who gets you in might just be facilitating other, closer bonds that may form once you’re in the loop.
3. Be Open to Spontaneity
As much as I live and die by my Google Calendar, friendships can’t rely on scheduled meetups alone. Be open to the spontaneous hang. Whether it’s the “are you seeing this on Bachelor?!” text that has you running around the block to your neighbor’s place, or the “SOS I need some wine and whining, can I drop by?” call from a pal who’s driving home from a bad day at work. Put the work down for a minute and put friendship first.
I’m not saying we should disregard our roles and responsibilities to our clients and employers every time, but when a friend in need is on the line, work can wait. Friendship is fostered by showing up – sometimes quite literally. So be open to the spontaneous opportunity for fun and friends to enter the scene unexpectedly.
4. Be Consistent
When we moved to Denver, Brad joined a friend group of guys that one of his former college classmates belonged to. The two of them had only really seen each other a handful of times since college, but Brad was warmly welcomed into their weekly “Wednesday Night Wings” tradition at the same cheap bar downtown. I found this tradition genius (and in fact, was a tad envious for a while), as he had a standing weekly date with a group of guy friends large enough so that even when half of them couldn’t make it, there was always some one going to share a cheap and delicious meal with.
Due in part to the consistency of their hangouts, we’ve grown quite close with this group of men and their respective partners. We all now go hiking and camping together, and recently celebrated the wedding of one of the pairs in Vail just last weekend!
A weekly reunion isn’t always feasible, but even a monthly standing date can make a difference. I have an online video hangout with a bunch of my college pals once a month that keeps us all on each others’ radars, too.
Whenever you can, take the effort out of making plans by setting it and forgetting it, so to speak. A recurring weekly or monthly meetup makes it easy to make quality time a priority.
5. Be Mindful
I recently came across a compelling interview with writer Vanessa Van Edwards, who was speaking on the dangers of ambivalent relationships. Those are the kinds of friendship that have gone stale, or the ones that make you wonder, “where do I stand with them?” or “how do I even feel about them?”
There are friends we hang out with because we feel obliged to hang out with them, or because we’ve already been friends with them for so long, to cut off our relationship would feel like a huge overreaction.
But the guilt and stress we feel about these kinds of relationships can creep in on us, and might even stand in the way of forging new, higher-quality relationships.
That’s why it’s so important to stay mindful about the friends we’re fostering. Ask yourself, do I feel better or worse after hanging out with them? If the answer is that you feel worse or aren’t even sure, it’s okay to prioritize pursuing other friendships instead of over-investing in friendships that don’t feel reciprocal.
Throughout the course of our lives, friends come and go, but these core tenets remain true: having quality relationships in our lives always takes effort, and always pay off.
Have you put any of these friend-fostering tactics to use in your life? What are your best ways of finding new friends as an adult? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.