Children make friends easily. They run over to an unknown kid at the park, confidently tell them their name and how old they are, ask them whether they like robots and then they’re friends for life. If only adult friendships were that simple.
In adulthood, there may not seem to be many opportunities to make new friends. If the number of friends you have is dwindling, or if you fancy adding a few extra people to your social circle, keep reading for some tried and tested ways to make new friends as an adult.
Loneliness is bad for your health, both physical and mental. Regular socialising can improve your mood and help you to feel good about yourself. Friendships are an essential part of adult life, though many of us find it increasingly hard to make meaningful connections. What can you do to expand or improve your social circle? Is it possible to overcome your anxiety and unleash your inner social butterfly?
Quality not quantity
Don’t obsess over how many friends you have, focus instead on how much fulfilment you get from the friendships. Life shouldn’t be about numbers; it should be about happiness. How much enjoyment do you get from your relationships? Does spending time with your friends leave you feeling happier and lighter? These are the things that matter. Don’t set out with the aim of finding as many new friends as possible; instead, find new friends who will enhance your life.
Give yourself a confidence boost
Putting yourself out there may feel like a big step, especially if you are anxious around new people. Silence your inner critic and give yourself a much-needed confidence boost by focusing on what you bring to a friendship. Are you loyal? Funny? A good listener? Spend some time thinking about your positive attributes and reminding yourself why anyone would be lucky to have you as a friend.
How to make new friends as an adult
You could try telling people your age and asking if they love robots, but it’s probably not going to work quite as well as it did when you were five. Trying to make friends as an adult may seem more complicated, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you find your tribe:
1. Start a new hobby
If you want to make friends, you need to get out there and meet new people. Taking up a new hobby is a great way to see new faces and get to know people. There are so many different things you could do. You could join your local netball team, attend a drawing class or learn a new language. Join a running club, get involved with your neighbourhood book club or take up yoga. Look online to find local groups and activities in your neighbourhood.
2. Get involved with your local community
Do you know your neighbours? Many people don’t. The best thing about making local friends is that they’re right on your doorstep so there’s a good chance you’ll casually bump into them and cement that friendship. Getting involved in your local community also improves your local community. Strong community ties make for a friendly place to live.
Look for existing groups that aim to improve your local area. Is there a voluntary group charged with keeping your local park looking great? Or a regular litter pick where people meet to tidy up the streets? Is there a local festival or celebration you could offer to help organise? Don’t be shy; community groups are always looking for more people to get involved. Alternatively, you could start something yourself. This may sound daunting, but it’s such a brilliant way to make friends with likeminded people near where you live.
3. Find a support group
If your anxiety is holding you back, a support group for people suffering from anxiety might be the perfect place for you to meet new people. The other attendees will understand your hesitations and should be sympathetic to your struggles, plus, you’ll have some common ground to discuss.
4. Be present when you’re present
Turning up isn’t enough; you also need to engage with the people you meet. You need to seem friendly and open to striking up a friendship. Not everybody is socially gifted but do your best. Smile, greet people, ask questions, be chatty and be sure to say goodbye before you leave.
Think about the type of people you are drawn to in social situations, what is it about them that you like? You don’t need to force yourself to be outgoing or the life and soul but perhaps try and harness your inner social butterfly, no matter how timid they might be. Remember though, it’s much more important to be yourself. Let people see the real you.
5. Become a yes person
Do you find yourself turning down invitations because you’re too busy or too tired or you don’t want to deal with the inevitable social anxiety? While all of these are valid reasons to say no, they could be holding you back. It might not feel natural at first, but try saying yes to social invites. Yes to meeting for a coffee, yes to that cinema trip, yes to the bike ride, even if you feel nervous. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will help you to challenge yourself. These social invitations are how you get to know people better and take things to the next level, say yes as often as you feel comfortable.
6. Do the asking
Exchange numbers or social media handles with the people you meet. It might feel awkward to ask the first few times, but you’ll soon get used to it. Don’t be afraid to be the one inviting others to meet up. You don’t need to make it a high-pressure event, just ask if anybody fancies meeting for a coffee before class next week. Look for opportunities to make plans outside of the group or class and be confident in suggesting meet-ups. You might feel vulnerable doing this, but the likelihood is that other people are attending the class or group for the same reason as you. Social isolation is becoming increasingly common, so don’t think you’re the only adult here looking to make new friends.
7. Manage your confidence issues
If you’re forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, it’s important to know your limitations. Have some conversation points planned out before you go if you know you struggle with small talk. If you’re likely to get overwhelmed, give yourself a get-out clause so you can make excuses and leave after an hour without appearing rude. If you’re better in small groups, focus on the person sat next to you and don’t worry about trying to dazzle everyone with your social skills.
8. Accept that not everybody will want to be your friend
Many of us avoid reaching out to new people because we are afraid of the possible rejection. Are we missing out on friendships and experiences because of this fear? Quite possibly. Take a risk, and it might just pay off in the form of a new best friend. And if it doesn’t, try not to dwell on it. Brush yourself off and try again with somebody new.
Not everybody is going to want to hang out with you, and that’s fine. Sometimes you won’t gel with people, or they won’t be your kind of people. You might not have anything in common with them. It’s nothing personal; it’s just the way these things go. Try not to take it personally if you find making friends a struggle; it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, you just haven’t found your tribe yet. When you do, all of the work will be worth it. Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you at home. Now, get out there and find your new friends!