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10 Key Strategies for Making Friends as an Adult

If you're craving quality friendships, these strategies could help.

Victoria Fox/Shutterstock
Source: Victoria Fox/Shutterstock

When you’re younger, it is often easier to make friends organically as you spend a lot of time at school or regularly engaging in activities that interest you. During this stage of life, you typically don’t have many responsibilities, and you have more time to spend with friends.

When you’re an adult, it can be hard to establish and maintain new friendships due to life transitions such as beginning a new job, having children, or moving to a different city, which can shift your social support system. Additionally, many adults have a packed schedule with work, school, or family responsibilities, which doesn’t leave as much time for establishing or deepening new friendships.

According to a study of over 2,000 adults conducted in 2021, 12% of participants indicated that they didn’t have any close friends, and 17% reported feeling dissatisfied with their number of friends.

So, if it’s difficult to establish and maintain new friendships in adulthood, what is the incentive for making an intentional effort in this area? The quality of your friendships has a significant impact on your well-being. Research has demonstrated that the quality of your friendships can affect your mood, stress level, physical health, and how you cope.

Source: Ivanko80/Shutterstock

If you have a desire to make new friends, consider these 10 key steps:

1. Get clear on your intentions. It’s hard to find what you’re looking for if you don’t know what it is. What type of friends are you seeking? Do you want to meet one or two new friends, or are you hoping to create a solid group of friends you see consistently? Are you seeking activity friends with whom you can try certain classes or hobbies, or are you seeking close and deep friendships with people you see often?

2. Identify the qualities you are seeking in a friendship. Consider the friendships that you have enjoyed the most. What qualities were present in those friendships? Reflect on the qualities important to you in a friend and the types of friendships that might align with your values. Consider where this type of person would spend their time and how you might put yourself in a position to meet them.

3. Consider joining local classes, activity groups, or workshops on topics or activities you enjoy or are interested in learning more about. In particular, classes that meet consistently for a certain number of times per week or month (such as a cooking class series, exercise classes, or a hiking club) can help you meet like-minded friends consistently.

The likelihood of meeting friends this way is backed up by the mere exposure effect, which is a psychological phenomenon that indicates the more you are exposed to someone that you feel neutral about over time, the more likely you are to have positive feelings about them. The additional benefit of attending a class or group consistently is that you’ll also feel less pressure to strike up a friendship immediately, and you can ease into a conversation over time during classes that meet consistently.

4. Consider joining a Facebook or Meetup group in your neighborhood or area of interest or an app for meeting new friends. These days, there are groups for almost every hobby or activity. Facebook and Meetup both have search options where you can type in your activity of interest and find local groups that match the interests you are seeking. These groups also have options for connecting with others in a similar life transition or stage of life as yourself (such as moving to a new city or becoming a parent).

Most Facebook and Meetup groups have local events for members to meet and connect and also provide an opportunity for you to create an event and invite others from the group to join.

Bumble for Friends is a standalone app that was created due to the popularity of Bumble BFF and designed to connect to local friends. Peanut is an app that was created for new moms to connect. There are also “speed friending” Meetup events that are becoming popular.

For those unable to participate in in-person activities or prefer to connect with friends online, there are many support groups, classes, and events available online in different areas of interest that meet virtually.

5. Be open to different possibilities. Similar to dating, it can feel discouraging to put yourself out there socially but not find the type of friendships you are seeking. If you haven’t met any friends that you click with yet, don’t throw in the towel just yet. It’s important to be open to different possibilities while you are attempting to make new friends.

For example, perhaps an acquaintance invites you to a group dinner, and you meet a good friend there. Or you meet a friend in one of the workout classes that you grab coffee with once in a while, and they introduce you to a friend you end up hitting it off with.

6. Do not force friendship just for the sake of it. Similar to dating, there is such a thing as friendship chemistry. Just like you wouldn’t want to force yourself to keep dating someone you’re not interested in just for the sake of dating, the same rule applies to friendships.

Prioritizing quality over quantity when you’re in the market for new friends will serve you well down the line. When you weed out those whom you don’t click with, it will make space for the type of friendships that feel aligned with your values.

Something that can be helpful to observe when meeting new friends and spending time with them is how you feel afterward. Do you feel energized, neutral, or drained? If you feel drained, consider whether you typically feel drained after social interaction or only when you’ve spent time around certain people. Tuning into your body, energy levels, and emotional response can give you a lot of good information about whether a budding friendship is the right fit for you.

7. Honestly evaluate whether you have the capacity and space to build a new friendship. Building a friendship in adulthood requires effort, time, and intention. Some friendships require more time and intention than others, depending on the type of friendships you are interested in. Research has shown that it can take over 200 hours of spending time with someone to develop a close friendship.

Regardless of the type of friendship you are seeking, it’s important to honestly evaluate the capacity and space you have in your life to build it. Keep in mind that if you don’t have the time or energy to spend getting to know a new friend, it’s going to be difficult to expand the relationship beyond being an acquaintance.

8. Take a closer look at who is around you. Is there an acquaintance, coworker, or fellow member of a gym you attend that you would like to get to know better as a friend? If they are open to it, consider ways to expand the friendship and test the waters by inviting them to try a new class or grab coffee with you.

9. Consider a friendship set-up. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new city, and a friend of yours has a friend who lives near you, or you have a friend who knows a lot of people and would be happy to set up a friendship meet-up for you. Another option is to host or schedule a get-together with any current friends or acquaintances you have and encourage them to bring their friends.

Meeting a friend of a friend can speed up the process of establishing a friendship because there can be some level of comfort and familiarity present from the start since you both have a mutual friend that connects you.

10. Keep an eye out for different opportunities to connect with others. Consider putting yourself out there when the opportunity arises while going about your usual activities. Perhaps you start a conversation with the person next to you in line or on the bus, or maybe you decide to start a conversation with a person you see in one of your exercise classes each week.

The benefit of putting yourself out there in these situations is twofold: You can potentially meet a new friend, and if not, you get some practice starting conversations with someone you don’t know yet, which can enhance your results while you are in the process of making new friends.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with questions regarding your condition or well-being.

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