Making friends as a grown-up can be surprisingly difficult. You’d think that being out in the world and living on your own terms would make it easier to connect with like-minded folks, but the reality is that adult life isn’t always conducive to relationship building. There are work obligations and family obligations and before you know it, all you want to do with your leftover time is unwind with some TV or a good book.
But things don’t have to be so bleak, and it is totally possible to forge dynamic friendships later in life. For some tips on how to find new pals in your 20s, 30s, and beyond, check out the guide below.
When you were a wee little thing, your friendships were most likely born out of circumstance, revolving around the schools you went to or the company your parents kept. While that was all well and good back then, things don’t really work like that in adulthood. So, what are grown-up friendships based on? Shared interests. While there are exceptions I’ve found that my best friendships as I’ve gotten older have been borne out of a mutual love for something: comedy, photography, writing, old movies. By identifying my hobbies/interests (and seeking out those who share them), I’ve been able to meet some pretty fabulous people.
Another great way to connect with new folks is to join an organization or club. Maybe it’s aligned with one of your hobbies (like a community chorus, sports league, or volunteer group) or simply has to do with where you live (like a co-op board or neighborhood watch). Regardless, it’ll likely involve regular meetings, which will give you the opportunity to hang out with the same people over and over again. Since friendship is an alchemy of consistency + chemistry, this kind of “scheduled” mingling works wonders for burgeoning relationships.
Once you’ve established some fun, new connections, it’s important to put yourself out there. What I mean by this is that it’s totally okay (nay, encouraged!) to tell folks that you like them and would enjoy getting to know them as friends. This kind of open vulnerability can feel odd, but if you and your soon-to-be pal are truly vibing, it should be met with warmth and sincerity. If you don’t want to so blatantly state that you’re interested in befriending someone, just make it clear you’d like to hang out with them again.
But, after setting that expectation, make sure to follow through. Adult life is busy, so it’s crucial to get beyond the “Oh my God, we should definitely do drinks!” refrain and actually make some plans. It demonstrates your interest and shows your new friend that you meant it when you said you enjoyed their company. Don’t be aggressive or weird about it, but do send a text with a specific idea/time in mind for your first solo hang. If you’re worried about being too formal, suggest a group outing with multiple acquaintances or ask if they’d like to grab a drink before a social event you’re both going to. These low-pressure scenarios provide ample space for getting to know each other, while also leaving room to part ways if things go south.
When you finally snag that coveted friend date, pay attention to what they say. Sounds simple, but active listening is one of the hardest skills to master. It involves focus, asking questions, remembering details, and avoiding distractions. Commit the basics to memory (what they do for work, where they live, what weekend plans they’ve got going on) and follow up with relevant questions next time you see them. This demonstrates your interest and indicates that you’re actually taking in what they’re saying. And hopefully, once they sense your commitment, they’ll send that same positive energy right back to you!
At the end of the day, the oft-repeated Maya Angelou quote truly does sum it up best: “People will forget what you said … but they will never forget how you made them feel.” So, choose warmth, honesty, open-mindedness, and compassion when interacting with new folks. This big-hearted glow will attract pals like curious moths to the flame, and will surely surround you with a community of joyous, loving people.
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