Making friends as an adult can be a tricky business, can’t it?
You see a cool girl in the bookshop, wearing a concert t-shirt from your favorite band and perusing the hiiii-larious new David Sedaris book. How do you talk to her without her thinking you’re trying to pick her up?
And how do you ask your super funny, single (male) co-worker to go rock climbing without prefacing the whole thing with “butivegotaboyfriendihopeyouknow!”
Here’s my oddly thorough guide to making friends as an adult
Consider What You Want In A Friend
I, personally, want friends that inspire me in some form. Maybe they do great things at their job as an inner city social worker (Hi, Tara!). Perhaps they’re impressively zen, balanced and non-judgmental (I’m looking at you, Kathryn and Meghan).
Or they might just make me laugh so hard I choke on my Diet Coke (Darcie/Tamara/Winona/Ashley/Emily/Steph). Regardless, they all bring something to the table that I gladly gobble up.
So have a good think about the things that are important to you and what you’d like more of in your life. Do you need someone who will kick your ass (metaphorically, of course) when you don’t follow up on that job lead?
Do you want a friend who will joyfully trade parenting war stories with you? Or a girl that will join you when you want to dance on top of the bar? All good friends to have!
Go do cool things
I’m sure this will come as a huge surprise to you, but you won’t actually make new friends sitting at home by yourself, dressing your cat in vests. You have to go out and meet people!
It’s not unlike dating, guys. Put yourself in situations that are likely to present interesting, like-minded people. Volunteer. Go to the rock climbing wall. Take a community ed class. Join a church or temple if you’re religious.
Places I’ve met friends? A party hosted by my ex-boyfriend’s co-worker. Italy. A bachelorette party. An internet message board. The gene pool of my ex-boyfriend.
Take initiative with friendships
Okay, so now you’ve met someone awesome. Make it happen, dude. Find them on Facebook and friend them. Tell them you had a great time discussing obscure Russian artists with them. Invite them to something that you know would interest them. What’s the worst that could happen?
As a side note: when I meet someone I want to befriend, I have zero qualms about announcing to them “You’re awesome. We’re going to friends now, I hope you know.” You’d be amazed how effective this is!
Know that awesome people beget more awesome people
If you’ve got one awesome friend, chances are pretty good that she knows other awesome people. I picked up Laura at a Halloween party (we bonded over mini butterfingers and our shared desire to conquer the world) and recently met her fantastic friend Elizabeth at a Valentine-making party. Elizabeth and I are now knee-deep in plans for manicures and margaritas. Operation New Friendship accomplished!
Be a do-er
Having an active social life doesn’t just happen. We’re all busy folks with jobs and families and classes and that bacon isn’t going to eat itself!
We all fall off the social wagon from time and time and before you know it, you haven’t been to a party or gotten a non-telemarketer phone call in ages. It’s easy to get a bit paranoid, wonder what you’re missing and convince yourself that your friends aren’t that into you. Don’t.
Be the do-er. Get a group together to try that new Korean karaoke joint. Or to go to the races. Throw a miracle berry party. Sociability begets more sociability.
Make your Friendships A Priority
Not unlike long-term romantic relationships, we might take long-term friendships for granted. Make the effort to stay in touch if you’re not in the same city. Remember their birthday. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Cultivate the inside joke.
Hold Up Your End of The Friendship Deal
Pick them up at the airport at 3 am. Help them paint their apartment. Listen to them rail against that awful co-worker. Go with them to the Heidi Montag concert. Tell them when the skirt looks better with a different top. They’d do the same for you. And if they wouldn’t? Maybe they’re not your friend.
Don’t Be Afraid to Toss Out The Bad Eggs
Of course, there are going to be friendships that cease to work. People and circumstances change. Don’t be afraid to objectively evaluate your friendships and consider if they’re still working for you.
If you emerge from an interaction with a friend feeling drained, negative or insecure, you know that they’re no good for you. If it’s just one specific behavior that’s getting under your skin, try to (diplomatically, kindly) discuss it with your friend.
And if nothing seems to work? Stop calling. There’s a good chance that that person has been feeling the disconnect as well. If they’re still intent on hanging out, limit it to group interactions or the occasional coffee after which you have a (real or imagined) appointment that limits the interaction to an hour or so.
What’s your friend circle like? How do you meet new people?
P.S. Talking to new people and reaching out to them is a habit you can develop – like a muscle! This might help.