Advice Friendship

How to Make Friends (And Keep Them) in Adulthood

You don’t even have to go back to school to do it.

Making friends as an adult is hard. Not only do you have to find out where to meet them – you also have to then evolve from “casual acquaintances” to “friends.” Unfortunately, there’s no manual for that step (can we put a recommendation in the hat, dummies?).

Forming friendships in adolescence was hardly a conscious thought. Potential friends were planted all around us… school, sports teams, summer camps, church. All you had to do was be equally obsessed with Avril Lavigne and boom, a friendship was born.

Even college presented us with ample opportunities for friendships, and not only because many of us were so desperate for pals that we clung for dear life to our first friend group from Orientation. But then we met more through class, dorms, dining halls, Greek Life, clubs… sheesh, we had it good.
How to Make Friends - college friends

Why is it Hard for Adults to Make Friends?

If you feel like finding new friends as an adult is challenging, you’re not alone. The process of forming friendships in post-grad is a lot more nuanced. For one, people have stronger opinions about who they want as a friend at this point in their life. We’ve all been scarred by toxic friendships and friendship breakups and frankly, our tolerance is lower for BS.

Not to mention, many people already have lots of friends from childhood, college, work, or other walks of life. That’s not to say people aren’t in the market for new friends, but it can certainly make them more selective of who else they add to their friendship roster. Time is a scarce resource as an adult. Why didn’t anybody warn us?!
How to Make Friends - picnic with friends

How to Make Friends: 5 Steps to Your New BFF

When you have those golden opportunities to meet people in adulthood, seize those moments to form new connections. You can’t control how others respond to you or if they decide to pursue you as a friend, but you can always put your best foot forward. Here are five tips for making new friends that actually last.
How to Make Friends - laughing

1. Show genuine interest in others.

People like to talk about themselves, and they feel especially good when someone takes a genuine interest in them. Think about the people you love to be around. Chances are, they’re the ones who show curiosity about your life.

When you’re getting to know someone, make sure to ask them questions about their life – bonus points if it’s a question that demonstrates you’re actively listening. Unique questions about their situation will make for memorable conversations that keep friends coming back for more.
How to Make Friends - friends at coffee shop

2. Dial up the good vibes (and limit the shit talk).

People gravitate towards positive energy. As fun as it may be to commiserate over how horrible your co-worker is or slam Becky’s drunk antics, you’ll be quickly excluded from the group chat if all you do is complain. When you talk about others a lot, it signals to new friends that you might do the same to them. #redflag

In the beginning stages, focus on bringing positive vibes and talking about others in a positive light. Not only will this make your new friends feel comfortable around you, but it’ll make you feel better in return. Nothing feels more icky than leaving a gossip-filled conversation.
How to Make Friends - girl group laughing

3. Be the person who is easy to bring others around.

Everyone loves the friend who can hold their own in a social situation. If you’re in the market for new friends, be that person. When someone invites you to hang out with their friends from high school or their coworkers, spend time getting to know their buds rather than clinging to their side. Because that’s annoying.

By holding your own socially, your friends will feel comfortable inviting you to more outings. When they need a plus one for an upcoming event or are thinking about who to invite to their birthday party, you’ll be top of mind. Plus, if you do a really good job, their other friends will ask about when you’re coming around again.
How to Make Friends - dinner party

4. Remember details about their life – and integrate them into conversations.

Say you’ve met someone a couple of times and know a handful of facts about their life. What better way to demonstrate your interest in them than to mention said facts?

For example, you know Margot was gearing up for a trip to Greece. The perfect thing to ask Margot about next time you see her is how that trip to Greece went. And then throw in a question about her dog, Charlie. People feel special when you not only remember things about their life, but also make an effort to ask them about those specific things.
How to Make Friends - friends camping

5. Make an effort to hang out with them & include them in your plans.

We’ve all heard the saying “the phone works both ways.” If you’ve met someone new, don’t just wait for them to initiate plans – invite them to yours!

If you’re throwing a party or planning a fun outing, toss them an invite… and don’t overthink the guest list. Part of what makes a hangout fun is mixing up who is there, so don’t be afraid to combine friends from different parts of your life.

If you don’t have a specific event in mind, ask that person to do something with you. To make it less daunting, pick something that you’re both interested in. If you both love matcha, ask them to check out a new cafe. If you bonded over your love for EDM, text them the next time a cool DJ is in town. Regardless, they’ll be grateful you reached out… and if they’re not, that’s their problem.
How to Make Friends - group of friends at beach

Final Thoughts on How to Make Friends

Bottom line is, friends don’t magically appear in your life. It requires genuine interest and effort to progress a new acquaintance into the friend zone. But with some good conversation and a little elbow grease, that cool chick from Pilates will be your go-to brunch bestie in no time.

By Jess Lohr

Jess is the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast, blog and social media brand for twenty-somethings making the transition from life in college to adulthood. She writes about dating, friendship, money, and career. She also specializes in consumer insights, and is passionate about helping brands infuse the voice of their customers into their marketing, product, and CX strategies.

In her free time, you can find Jess spinning at The Handle Bar, obsessively consuming personal finance content, and playing with her adorable (but chaotic) puppy, Luca. You can follow her on Instagram @jesslohr or on LinkedIn.

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