It’s a depressing truth that there seem to be two major times in your young adulthood when friendships go through a major shift. The first is straight out of college, when everyone relocates, settles, and starts to turn into the adults that they’ll become. The second is your late 20s or early 30s, when some people start to get married, settle down with kids, and maybe relocate to somewhere a little bit more family friendly. And even though these are totally natural shifts, they can also feel totally overwhelming because, frankly, how are you supposed to make new friends as an adult?
It can be more intimidating than it seems. As your friendships start to drift or fade out, you may want to create new friendships. But without the structure of school or college helping to bind you together, trying to form friendships as an adult is tricky. Even if you talk to a coworker every day and get along great with her, asking her for lunch can feel as scary as asking a stranger on a date—sweaty palms and all. Luckily, if you know where to look—and use a little science—you’ll find that making new friendships as an adult is completely doable.
Here’s what you need to remember.
Start With What You Already Know
Firstly, if you you’re looking to make friends, start with the environments you’re already comfortable in—your job, your spin class, even your local coffee shop. Even though it can feel scary, a lot of adults are looking for friendships—so try to start up a conversation. If you have a connection or a spark, especially with someone at work, asking to go get lunch or organizing an after-work drink isn’t that big of a leap—and it happens to be how I found my roommate of four years. So next time you’re around the water cooler, spend a little more time chatting and putting out friendship feelers.
Follow The Things That You Love
Like I said, there are lots of other people out there looking for friends. If you don't know where to start, try online Meetup groups. Whether you like comedy, comic books, rock climbing, or something really niche, there’s a group out there full of friendly people who are always happy to welcome someone new. And the best part is that pursuing your passions means you'll have a built-in conversation topic, one that you'll be excited to talk about.
Use Science-Backed Tips
Once you’ve figured out where to meet people, it’s time to make a connection. It starts by being a good listener. The Harvard Business Review found the great listeners are active listeners—rather than just sitting back and listening, ask questions, show that you’re engaged, and pay attention. Picking up on little details makes the other person feel heard and is a great way to make them feel comfortable and interested in spending time with you.
But it’s not just a one-way street. A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that oversharing can pay off—people are drawn to someone who’s willing to be open, candid, and even a little vulnerable. It doesn’t mean sharing your life story as soon as you meet someone, but being willing to crack a joke or being honest about the fact that you’re nervous can endear you to people in a hurry.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Back In Touch
It may be that the idea of going out and meeting totally new people feels completely overwhelming—and a little forced, like friendship networking. If you feel that way, you’re definitely not alone. But there’s still a way to make new friends—by looking back at friends you already had. One study in Organization Science found that reconnecting with people you’ve lost touch with can actually be incredibly rewarding. So many people lose touch because life happens—there’s not any animosity or ill-will, you just sort of drift apart.
If there’s someone who you’re feeling nostalgic for or if you realize an old friend lives nearby, don’t be afraid to reach out.
You’ve made friends—or reconnected with old ones—which is great, but you have to keep them. Research from Notre Dame has found that in order to maintain a friendship with someone, it’s good to touch base every week to two weeks—so be bold about following up. A text or a coffee every couple of weeks isn't a big commitment, but it will help keep the ball rolling as new friendships grow. You don't need to be totally over the top about scheduling rigid coffee dates on a weekly basis, but making sure that there's regular contact will help the process feel more organic.
Making new friends as an adult is scary—but so many people are trying to do the same thing. Don't be afraid to open, candid, and get in touch with people you feel a connection to, even if you haven't spoken to them for years. Friendships shift and change, but there's always room for new ones to develop.