5 ways you can make friends well into adulthood

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By Fournine

Jan 20, 20225 mins

5 ways you can make friends well into adulthood

Making friends as a child was a relatively easy feat. For one thing, we lacked the inhibitions to care whether asking another kid point-blank “do you want to be my friend?” was a strange opener. And let’s face it, we were also a lot less picky where friendships were concerned. If they were about our age, the chances were they would enjoy playing hide and seek as much as the next five-year-old - and that was good enough for us.

However, by the time we reach adulthood, for some of us, our ability to make new friends comes to a bit of a standstill. We work long hours, have fewer holidays, less downtime, and more responsibilities. We’re also now a lot more selective where potential friends are concerned. 

And the thing is, once we’re at a certain age, it’s safe to assume that most of our peers have already established lifelong friendships - so presumably aren’t looking for new ones. It can seem impossible to determine which of our fellow grown-ups are open to making a new pal or two. So, unlike our five-year-old selves, we shudder at the thought of making the first move - even if we’re secretly longing for a close friend.

If this sounds like you, it may be time to overcome your hang-ups and start proactively seeking out quality friendships. Doing so will put you in “good stead for the future regarding your mental health,” person-centred counsellor Joanne Slack tells Four Nine.  

So, without further ado, here are five ways you can make friends well into adulthood. 

1. Take part in group activities

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There are plenty of group activities and clubs you can get involved in if you're looking to make new connections, and hopefully even new friends. Counsellors Linda Fox and Hannah Smart have kindly shared with Four Nine an extensive list of groups and activities that will, at the very least, allow you to make new acquaintances.

These include life drawing classes, singing groups, short college courses, book clubs, local sports teams, dance clubs, running groups, drama clubs, volunteering for charities and the list goes on. 

The aim is to meet “like-minded people”, Slack says. But it’s also important that you do something that you enjoy as opposed to something that you’ll give up on sooner or later. So if none of the activities mentioned tickle your fancy, Smart says it can “help to look to your past for inspiration”. Ask yourself what games or activities you relished as a child and go from there.

It can also be a good idea to try something entirely new. And if you feel apprehensive about that, Fox strongly advises that you resist the temptation of talking yourself out of it. She says: “If it’s out of your comfort zone, then even more reason to try it. Reframe any negative reaction and turn it into a positive challenge. How do you know you won’t like something unless you try?”

And if you’re someone who feels anxious meeting new people, try and find comfort in the fact that having an activity in place can “help reduce some of the social awkwardness,” Smart adds.

2. Be authentic

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Long-lasting friendships are rarely born out of putting on a facade or being false. It just isn’t sustainable in the long term. Besides, you want your closest friends to like you for you. Otherwise, the friendship simply isn’t a genuine one and probably won’t fulfil your need for close companionship.

“Be yourself and don’t try to change to fit in,” Fox says. “You don’t need to with genuine friends. Be honest about who you are and what you like to do, and you may find mutual interests and hobbies you can share with someone else.”  

If you’re trying too hard to connect with someone, it may be that they’re not the right fit for you - and that’s OK! The phrase, “there’s someone out there for everyone” springs to mind here - and it absolutely applies to friendships too. You should want to be around your buddies - rather than see it as a chore.

In fact, Slack emphasises the importance of having fun with friends. Ultimately, that’s what they’re there for. Of course, during tough times, a good pal will give you a shoulder to cry on, but ultimately, we hang out with our friends because we enjoy their company. So, if there’s no fun in your existing friendships, try and find a person who you’re less filtered with; someone you can really let loose with.

“Be yourself, don't try too hard, have fun, enjoy, and share your life experiences,” Slack says. “When you can be your true self around people, that's when you can open up more. Positivity shows through and others are drawn to this.”

3. Reconnect with old acquaintances

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While it is absolutely recommended that you look for new connections, it may also help to reacquaint yourself with people from your past. Who knows? You may one day be joined at the hip with the girl who lived in your apartment building five years ago. And all because of one daring message.

Smart says: “We live in a time where it's easier to be in touch than ever before, but in the age of social media, the depth of these connections is often lacking. Take that extra step to message someone directly instead of just commenting on their Facebook post.

“If you see that an old school friend is moving to your city or has a shared interest with you, why not get in touch to see if they'd like to meet up? Often, it can be easier to rekindle old friendships than make entirely new ones.”

It can be daunting to make the first move, especially if it isn’t in your nature to do so, but keep your mind focused on just how rewarding the end result might be. All it takes is a simple message - one message that could potentially turn into a lifelong friendship. 

And yes, it is entirely possible that the person on the receiving end of your message will show a distinct lack of interest; they may even leave you on read, but if you don’t try, you risk missing out.

4. Show everyone your pearly whites

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Remember to flash your warmest smile when around others. This may appear to be quite a basic pointer; you may even think it’s not proactive enough. But just cast your mind back to the last time a stranger or acquaintance smiled at you unprovoked. Did it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? That’s because a smiling face is a disarming one and it instantly makes you more approachable.

Fox says: “Our faces communicate constantly and any unease we feel in social situations can unwittingly show. Yet the brain can’t distinguish between a real smile and a fake one, so even if you don’t feel like it, smile.” 

She adds: “Smiling releases ‘happy hormones’ of endorphins and serotonin, which instantly relaxes us and makes us feel good. Smiling gives off positive vibes and we look friendly and approachable.”

And if you're concerned that a smile alone won’t lead to the close friendship you’ve been longing for, then just think of it as an icebreaker. Smiling at someone will instantly make you likable to the person on the receiving end of your smile, they’ll most likely smile back and that’s when you go in for the kill.

“A simple smile followed by a ‘hi’ can start a conversation and go a long way,” Fox says. “When we smile, our eyes smile too, so this works even when wearing masks.”

5. Practice your social skills

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If you’re someone who finds it difficult holding conversations with people, perhaps because you have anxiety or because you just aren’t accustomed to it, try to use your daily encounters with people to develop your social skills.

Fox says: “Every conversation you have, whether it’s with a neighbour, a shopkeeper, or a work colleague, helps you practice your social skills. This will gradually increase your confidence and it will naturally become easier to chat to new people in the future.”

Don’t let any negative encounters put you off because, as you likely already know, not every person you come across will be willing to engage in friendly conversation. In fact, the more difficult encounters can help you learn how to better handle conversations with people who aren’t really giving much back.

You may come to find that social interaction isn’t quite as terrifying as you once thought. Ultimately, most people are too wrapped up in their own lives and their own particular flaws to focus on how well you perform in social settings.

And just like you, there are countless others who long for platonic connections. So if you’re essentially offering them your friendship on a platter - provided they’re the right fit for you - they’d most likely be more than happy to accept.

Featured image credit: Stefan Dahl Langstrup / Alamy


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