If you’ve been wondering how to better make new friends, we’ve got some good news. Making friends is a skill that anyone can learn with a bit of patience and effort. It is also worth the effort, as having close friendships is good for your mental and physical health.
Why Are Friendships So Important?
Humans are social creatures by nature, driven by a desire for connection and community. There is an evolutionary reason for our sociability, too. Historically, living and traveling with other people increases the chance of survival.
After all, humans faced multiple threats to the Wild West era (mid-19th to early 20th century). Predators, natural disasters, food scarcity, and diseases were potentially deadly threats that were more survivable for group members than lone individuals.
Due in part to ancient tribalism, humans need to feel part of a social group. Without it, isolation and loneliness occur. Loneliness is associated with depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, personality disorders, suicide, impaired cognitive function, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, increased morbidity/mortality, and many more. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Making New Friends in Adulthood
Let’s face it. Making new friends was so much easier in childhood. One of the biggest reasons for this is that we had more opportunities for friendship when we were children. After all, we were surrounded by same-age peers in school who shared similar interests and backgrounds. All we had to do to make friends was share a giggle with a girl at the next desk or pass crayons to the boy sitting behind us. Most of us were also more open and spontaneous in childhood than we are now.
Unfortunately, our lives are much more complicated as adults. Shyness, insecurity, lack of time due to work and family responsibilities, and lack of opportunity often play a role in our inability to meet new people.
But there are ways to make new friends in adulthood.
Say “Goodbye” to Loneliness
Making new friends as an adult requires you to go beyond your comfort zone. As an adult, you’re unlikely to meet people and grow friendships organically because you’ll seldom be in the same group of people regularly enough for connections to form. The exception is the workplace, but social interaction is usually limited here.
The bottom line is that you cannot be passive about getting to know people and building friendships. You need to be proactive.
Tips For Making Friends in Adulthood
Here are a few tips for meeting new people and building friendships.
Decide What Kind of Friends You Want To Make
Before you search for new friends, you need to decide what type of relationships you want or need. There are three types of friends.
These are people that you can take or leave. They’re not unimportant, but they’re not necessary for your happiness. She might be your co-worker or the barista who makes your soy latte every morning. You might wave to another acquaintance across the bleachers at your grandson’s baseball game. These friendships are casual and end when the context ends, i.e., when you quit your job or find a new barista with better latte-making skills.
You see these people regularly and talk about a wide variety of subjects. In addition, you occasionally meet them to catch up and enjoy social activities. You can discuss a variety of light-hearted regular topics with them, though some of these conversations may be more serious. They are the type of friends you feel close to but can go months without seeing or talking to them.
These are the type of friends to whom you can tell your deepest, darkest secrets. You know each other so well, and nothing can shake the depth of your relationship. They are there for you whenever you need them, and vice versa. It may take a while to build this type of relationship, but not always. Many people say they became best friends instantly!
Have the Right Attitude
Trying to make new friends can be scary. All of us have certain insecurities. Are we attractive enough, interesting enough, funny enough? The answer is YES! In other words, assume that everyone loves you. (Pretend if you must.)
The phrase “fake it until you make it” is true. If you tell yourself enough times that everyone loves you and visualize everyone loving you, it will become true. Funny how that works!
You’ve got to make an effort to make new friends. The way you initiate friendship is to go to places where like-minded people may be, and once you make some excellent connections, keep the contact going. This means continuing to go where these friends are, such as attending group meetings.
It takes time for a friendship to grow, and being present and available more often can help it along. Don’t act like a stalker, though. Keep it casual.
Where Can I Make New Friends?
There are many places, events, and activities where you can go to make new and better friends. But don’t go to certain areas or participate in certain activities just to meet people. Instead, make sure these places and activities interest you. That way, you will have interests in common with the people you meet, a requirement for becoming good friends.
Here are six great ways to meet new people to get you started.
Go To a Dog Park
Going to a dog park — with your dog, of course — is a great way to meet fellow dog lovers. This can be an instant conversation starter!
You can find local dog parks in the yellow pages. If there are none in your area, walk your dog in a populated place where you’re sure to run into some new people.
Walking your dog is a great way to meet people while exercising yourself and your furry best friend!
Join a Book Club
Book clubs are one of the best ways to meet new friends. Not only do you share a love of reading with members of this club, but you also get to simulate your brain each month by reading a new book. Plus, you get to participate in group discussions of the chosen books.
Where do you find book clubs? Well, your local public library often hosts book club meetings. You can also go online to Readers Circle and find book clubs in your area.
Join a Gym
Going to a gym will help you get fit, yes, but it can also be a social activity. (To make it even more social, join a fitness class.) Just think about it for a minute. First, the setting is casual, so there is less chance of being nervous or awkward. Second, research shows that rhythmic aerobic exercises can significantly reduce anxiety (10), making it easier to engage with new people.
With a quick internet search, you should be able to locate several gyms or fitness facilities near work or home.
Join a Group or Two
Joining a group is an excellent way to meet up with like-minded friends and have fun, too! You can find a group for every interest. Here are just a few examples:
- Playing cards
- Over 50 Social Groups
- And more!
A great way to find groups to join is online at Meetup! It’s free to join the website, though the groups may have fees to attend certain events.
Volunteer at a Local Organization
Volunteering is another excellent way to meet and get to know people. Many varied organizations have volunteer opportunities. Joining one of these organizations can help you strengthen your skills while meeting friendly, goal-directed, altruistic people.
You can find volunteer opportunities online with Volunteer Match, Just Serve, or Engage.
Join an Online Friend Matching Service
Like online dating services and dating apps, friend matching services helps you meet someone who could become a good friend. They also have apps to make matching easier.
So, if you need cyber help to find new friends, try FriendMatch or Friendsies. A quick online search will reveal more online friend matching websites.
As with all online acquaintance services, be cautious when meeting people in person for the first time. Arrange to meet in a safe public place the first few times.
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