How To Make Friends And Keep Them
Making friends is something that people are expected to do from birth. Parents arrange playdates for their children as young as infancy in hopes that those connections will last a lifetime or at least a childhood. For many, the relationships we have in college are the ones that stay the closest to us as adults. Many people don't go to college and make lifelong friends in their neighborhoods through work or other social activities or hobbies.
Many life experiences may inhibit friendships. Moving a lot as a child, being shy or introverted, suffering trauma, mental and physical health issues, and problems within the home can make it very difficult to maintain friendships. Even as adults, friendships can be hard to maintain with the constant demands from work and family, which can lead to a one-sided friendship. Friendships are a vital part of our society. They act as a support system and can be a valuable emotional outlet. Knowing not only how to make new friends but keep them is an important skill for anyone.
Our parents are usually the initiators of our first friendships. When we start elementary school, our teachers put us into groups, and the other kids who sit at our table become our first school friends. As we get older, however, adults have less influence over how we make friendships and who those friends are with.
Learning how to make new friends and build relationships with people is an important life skill that anyone of any age or ability should know to live a happy life. You can do several things that are easy and natural that will help you make friends at any age.
- Be Nice - Being nice means that you are polite and treat people well. When people are nice, they are more approachable. When potential friends don't have to worry about whether you will be mean to them, there is a better chance of those people becoming friends.
- Do Things You Like - If you enjoy poetry, try going to an open mic night. Join a pool or dart league if you like bar sports. Business owners can join their county chamber of commerce to meet new people, or if you enjoy fresh foods, start shopping at your local farmer's markets. Get out and about doing the things that you like, even if you are by yourself. There is a big chance that you will meet people who like the same things you do, and those are the easiest friendships to build because you already have things in common.
- Ask Questions - When you meet someone, ask them questions to get to know them and keep the conversation going. Try to ask meaningful questions that help you find out more about the other person and their opinions. Don't just talk about the weather or ask yes or no questions. Try to ask open-ended questions that make the other person think about what they want to say. You can always start with a question about the weather, such as "How do you like this heatwave?" but then try to relate their answer to something relating to your life, such as "I lived in Las Vegas, and it was hot like this all summer, where have you lived with crazy weather?"
- Be Forward - Letting people know that you are new in town or new to the group is O.K. You'll be surprised at how many people will invite you to another group activity to help you get to know more people. Everyone has been the new kid at least once in life, whether at school, starting a new job, or moving to a new place. Don't be afraid to ask new people you meet to get together again in the future or exchange information.
- Smile - Not only does smiling make you look nicer, but it will also make you feel nicer as well. Science has proven that the more we smile, the happier we feel because the physical act of smiling stimulates chemicals in the brain that make us happy. When people smile, they are perceived as being more attractive and more approachable.
Making friends is one thing; keeping them is completely different. When we establish relationships, sometimes those relationships are on a very basic level-acquaintances, people who know each other but do not have a bond. Sometimes this can be co-workers, friends of friends, or other people that we do not interact with on a social level regularly. Most people start as acquaintances and have to make an effort to keep working on and building relationships to have a lasting friendship. Here's what you can do to keep friends once you make them.
- Be Supportive - Outside of our families, friends are our most important support system. We often tell our friends things that we don't tell our parents. Be willing to be someone's support. Listen when you are asked to listen, congratulate friends on their successes, give them a shoulder to cry on when they need it. You should also expect these things in return from a friend. Leaning on each other encourages a mutual relationship rather than a one-sided friendship.
- Be Yourself - There is nothing more difficult than trying to pretend to be someone you are not for a long period. Be authentic, and don't try to be someone you are, not just please your friends. Relationships built on lies will always fail, so be truthful, honest, and open to being yourself.
- Stay Open-Minded - Friends should have things in common, but they should also be willing to learn from each other. You are not always going to agree on everything 100%. There may be differences in opinions, tastes, or ideas, and you should stay open-minded and willing to try new experiences. If your friend loves Thai food and you don't think you will like it, go ahead and try it anyway.
- Connect In Real Life - Everyone has a Facebook, most people tweet, and the most popular people get followed by thousands on Instagram. Still, relationships in the virtual world are not always the social interaction we need to connect. Make sure that you are talking to your friends face to face, not just through social media. Make plans to get together in person and have fun in the real world.
- Make An Effort - Friendships take work. Losing touch with someone is easier than ever, even though we are all connected online. You may get a text from a friend and be busy at work and forget for days to respond; emails may go unanswered because they aren't "important." Ensure that you are making your relationships a priority and that your friends are doing the same for you. Set aside time for get-togethers and social activities; check your phone at the end of each day for unanswered calls and messages.
When Friendships Don't Last
Sometimes we don't stay friends with people. There are many reasons why friendships may fail. A falling out between the two people, a realization that you are too different from each other, a fundamental difference in values, distance, or just losing touch. Sometimes, we become friends with people and realize that they aren't who they portrayed themselves to be, they aren't good influences on us, or they do something that hurts us, and we have to let those people go from our lives.
When friendships don't work out, feeling sad is normal. Feeling angry, frustrated, confused, or grievous is also normal. Many different emotions go hand in hand with building relationships, and when things that we work hard for don't work out, the emotional turmoil can be surprising.
Relationships that fall apart can be difficult to understand and process, especially when an emotional attachment is involved. Seeking out advice or a mental health professional's ear to understand and process the end of a relationship is not a negative thing. Mental health professionals can also help those who are having a hard time making new friends or keeping them.
If you find yourself struggling with relationships, not being able to maintain friendships, or feelings of sadness, depression, loss, grief, or anxiety, start your journey to be a good friend or finding good friendships here. ReGain can help put you in touch with licensed therapists and professional counseling that can lead to saving or improving your relationships or set you on the path to becoming the social person you always wanted to be.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Can I Find New Friends?
Trying to find new friends as an adult can be difficult but often occurs naturally as we go about our daily lives. Over time, we make new friends at work, at school, at the gym, at activities for whatever our hobbies are, and so on. However, if this isn’t the case for you, there are other ways to make friends. Step one is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a bit. If you’ve just moved to a new area or just are having a hard time general meeting and connecting with people, try pushing yourself to go to new places and try new things. When trying to make new friends step outside of your comfort zone, this can be scary, but it is a great way to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. We tend to all get rather set in our own routines and comfort zones, so it’s healthy to break out of that once in a while, especially if you’re seeking to make new friends. Additionally, make time for your favorite hobbies, and attend events for those, such as renaissance festivals, rock climbing events, art classes, or whatever your interests are! You can also join some online forums, chat groups, or social media groups to meet friends online.
Why Do I Have No Friends?
If you believe that you have no friends, this could be due to several reasons. Perhaps you’re very introverted or antisocial, and so don’t seek out or make connections with people very easily even though you may want to. You could live in a very secluded location or in an environment that doesn’t really lend itself to making new friends (for example, research shows that those who experience childhood and young adult trauma have a more difficult time socializing and developing strong bonds with others.). Perhaps you have a hard time with small talk, making generating new friendships with people difficult. You may have moved to a new area, lost your social circle due to a job change or big life event such as a divorce, have depression or anxiety, or you lead a very busy life that doesn’t leave much time to talk to people or for friend-making. If you feel you have no friends, step outside of your comfort zone to interact more with others, go to events, and do your hobbies in public settings.
How Can I Make Friends Instantly?
There’s really no way to make friends instantly, per se. Sometimes we click with people instantly, and sometimes we don’t! However, there are some ways to make friends a bit more quickly. These include being kind, being yourself, initiating conversations, and asking questions to help get to know the person and generate more conversation. Asking questions and listening to the person shows that you’re genuinely interested in them and are a good listener to boot – a great quality in a friend! However, the other person should also show an interest in you and try to get to know you. Vanessa Van Edwards, the author of “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People,” speaker on Ted Talks Daily, and found of scienceofpeople.com, says that starting with probing about interests by asking questions like, “what are you doing soon that you’re excited about?” and gently teasing and joking help you to get to know them, their personality, and whether or not you jive together pretty quickly. Her research shows that one of the most valuable ways to make friends is to approach it sort of like dating – determine what kind of people you want in your life, initiate conversations, “flirt,” “woo,” and “date” them (of course in platonic ways!). No matter what, making friends step outside of your comfort zone; is essential since we don’t have classes, play dates, camps, sporting events, and the like such as when we were kids.
How Do I Get A Social Life?
This follows along the same lines as the first question. To make friends step one is typically to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone a bit. Try new things, or if you’re not quite ready for that, try to talk to people you normally wouldn’t at places you already go to, such as work, school, the gym, or anywhere else you regularly go. Friend making is tough, especially as an adult, but developing a social life doesn’t have to be and can make real and lasting friendships over time. Though the pandemic undoubtedly adds to the difficulty, if you feel safe in doing so, try going to a new bar or restaurant, take a class for something you’re interested in like pottery or kayaking, strike up some conversation with new people at work and invite them to drinks, and so on. To create a sustainable and fulfilling social life for yourself and make new friends step outside of your comfort zone. Another making-friends step that may feel less pressured is engaging with people online or asking one or two of your online friends to hang out in real life if you live nearby and seem to get along well enough. You may be surprised at how well you connect!
How Many Friends Should I Have?
This really depends on the person – some people thrive off having many friends, while others prefer only having a handful of close friends. The answer to this question depends on who you are as a person, what your personal goals are, how much time you have (maintaining friendships takes time and effort, as you have to keep in touch with your friends somewhat regularly!), and what kind of support system that you need, among other things. You may find that less is more when finding and maintaining genuine friends as an adult.