Do you ever wonder how you made friends so easily in elementary school? You would walk up to someone and say, “Hey, wanna be my friend?” and it was settled.
Now, as we enter into adulthood, having potentially moved to a new state for school and leaving old friends behind, it seems much harder to make friends and especially hard to maintain them. However, social support and relationships are imperative connections in our busy lives. So, how do you maintain a lasting friendship in adulthood? Read below to find out.
Keys tips to making new friends as an adult
Patience. Well, to begin, we need to be patient. Friendship takes time, and unfortunately, it is not as easy as it was on the playground. A study out of Kansas (Burgess, 2018) concluded that it can take up to 50 hours for two strangers to become casual friends, 90 hours for two people to form a friendship, and 200 hours to consider this person a close friend. Practicing patience is key to allowing a strong, meaningful friendship to blossom.
Shared Experiences. Friendship is often based on a shared experience. Something the two of you have had the chance to enjoy together, whether it be scary or fun (Forgeron, Chorney, Carlson, Dick, & Plante, 2015). So, picking a ceramic class or going to see the newest action movie may be what links the memory to the person, allowing you to feel closer to them. Better yet, recognizing your common interests grants the opportunity to feel understood by one another and feeling like your new friend is interested in you (Forgeron et al., 2015).
Try Something New. One way to share an experience would be to try something new. Perhaps you find a new club on campus, stop by the coffee shop you always pass on your way home or join a local Facebook group. Whatever it be, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something out of the ordinary is a novel experience—something you will remember, and likely link that experience to the new person you may have met (Forgeron et al., 2015).
Utilize the Internet. Now I know, the internet can have a bit of a bad rap, but there are some benefits to the age of the web. Wang and Wellman (2010) found that the internet can actually increase the likelihood of new friends while improving current friendships. Sites such as Facebook allow you to connect with old friends while finding groups for new friendships to flourish. Perhaps you reconnect with a friend from ten years ago, finding out that they now have similar interests.
Now comes the challenging step though, making these friendships last. You did all you could to meet new people and branch out, but how do you keep them close?
Maintaining New Friendships
Compassion and Kindness. For some of us, making new friends may be easier than maintaining friends. It is certainly easy to say yes to someone and then never follow through. Maybe they have more of a negative effect than you originally thought, causing you to get annoyed with their tendencies. Practicing compassion and kindness can allow you to relate to your new friend and listen to who they are and what they are saying (Berry, Willingham, & Thayer, 2000). Be curious about who they are, rather than dismissive. This little piece of empathy can go a long way.
Be Present. When you’re with your new friend, be with that new friend. Practice being present in the moment. Of course, it is easier said than done, as we now all have phones that hold an abundance of possibilities. Putting your phone down, listening, and feeling present with your friend will allow you to feel like you know them. Connect. Allow the shared experience to happen – and truly listen.
Recognize the Differences in Friendships. Finally, take a moment to remember that not every friendship is the same. Some friends you will see every day, others you will see every other year. In practicing the strategies above, you can maintain the important relationship you have when you are with them.
Adult friendships may not have the elementary school playground as a source of initiation, but there are many ways to make friends now. Good luck as you navigate the complexities of life and forming lasting friendships, but most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it!