Making friends as an adult is daunting for many. First of all, who has the time to devote to cultivating new relationships? Secondly, where do you even start? It just seems overwhelming emotionally and physically, and is it even necessary? As children, our parents and mentors are concerned about our development, and they stress the importance of making friends, but once the days of Hide and Go Seek are over, are friends really that necessary?
Experts say, exuberantly, yes! Close friendships and a supportive social network have been linked to improved physical and mental health in adults. That being said, let’s take a hard look at how to make friends as an adult and bust down some of the barriers holding you back!
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The Importance of Making Friends as an Adult
As mentioned, research shows that healthy friendships can lead to improved physical health. A study by Mayo Clinic has shown that adults with a supportive social network have lower levels of depression, healthier weight, and healthier blood pressure levels. Obviously, these parallels are general and don’t take into account the outliers of bad genetics, but the correlation still stands.
A stable network of close friends has multiple mental health benefits as well. According to an article by Psych Central, having close friendships decreases isolation, lowers stress levels, and improves self-esteem. True friends are there during times of trouble, offer a sounding board for when you need to vent, and provide comradery that improves your overall well-being. They also might babysit your kids so you can actually go out on a date… perk!
For a more detailed synopsis of the importance of a stable social circle, check out “The Benefits of Having a Best Friend.”
How to Make Friends as an Adult
1. Seek those with common interests.
People tend to gravitate to friendships based on similar interests. If you’re going to spend time together, it’s good to enjoy the same activities, after all. One of the best places to look for new friends is while you’re out doing what you already love. Introduce yourself to people at the gym. Join a hiking group while you’re out on the trails. Join a book club and invite someone from it to the coffee shop afterward. If you have a spiritual home, join a group at your church or place of worship, or sign up to play on an intramural sports team. Whatever you love, use it as a place to meet potential friends. Being in a group of people makes it easier to scope out others. You can get a feel for someone before you decide if you want to pursue a friendship.
2. Chill out on the phone obsession.
It seems the whole world is glued to a screen these days, and the social distancing of the pandemic has only made it worse. A growing number of people don’t even know how to have a conversation without a keyboard anymore. In order to make new friendships, stop scrolling and appear open to conversation when you’re in public. Just presenting yourself as approachable can make all the difference in how people interact with you.
3. Make the first move.
The hardest part of meeting new friends is overcoming the barrier of introduction. Someone has to wave, smile, or initiate conversation, and that takes many people out of their comfort zone. We envision we’ll look awkward or insane and that the person on the other end will ignore us. It’s like we all have collective social anxiety. However, rejection like this rarely happens. People are generally in the same boat as you. They would love to receive an invitation; they’re just uncomfortable being the initiator.
Don’t make it more difficult than it is. Just say hello. Ask their name and introduce yourself, or start with a compliment: “I really love your coat” or “you make that look easy.” Don’t be inauthentic, but when you truly admire something about a person, let them know. It opens the conversation on a positive note and makes them more likely to trust you.
If you have a nice conversation with someone, don’t close it out and walk away. Instead, pay attention during the conversation for hints about what they like, and then ask if they would like to join you in that activity sometime. It’s very common to leave a great conversation and then second-guess yourself on how it went. By making it known that you would love to hang out, you put the other person at ease and make future connections more likely.
4. Be yourself.
There’s no use in pretending. Healthy friendships are based on honesty and trust. We’re all busy, and nobody has time to get to know someone and invest in a relationship only to find out months later that they’re not who they said they were. Don’t waste your time or the time of others. The goal is to find a person or two whom you have a true connection with and can be yourself around.
5. Utilize a friendship app.
There are several great apps out there that help you meet people. They work similarly to dating apps, only for platonic relationships. The purpose is to connect people with similar interests and locations. They’ll also often suggest activities, host get-togethers, etc. BFF, Bumble, and Wink are all popular friend-making apps.
These apps are great for whittling down the massive pool of people to a few good options. You can converse through the app for a while and then decide if you want to meet in person. For introverts, this method works well. By the time you meet in real life, you’ll already have several conversations under your belt, making it much easier!
6. Accept invitations… even when you don’t feel like it.
The other most common hurdle to forming adult friendships is overcoming the busyness and tiredness that our crazy schedules impose on us. We all make excuses for why we can’t go to drinks after work, see that basketball game on the weekend, or join that fun cooking class. While not wanting to wear real pants on Saturday is valid, before you know it, years have gone by, and you’ve missed out on all the fun parts of adult life.
There’s so much more to life than Netflix and couch days, and almost every time you agree to go out with friends, you’ll have a good time. So, accept the invitation! Show up, and 99.9% of the time, it will be well worth the effort. You can’t find a life partner without going on a date, and you can’t find a best friend without spending time with people.
7. Join a group activity.
For some introverts, the idea of a large group is very intimidating, and you might do better one-on-one, but for others, being in a group setting takes some of the pressure off. You don’t have to hold the conversation on your own, and there is more than one person to talk to if you don’t mesh well with your first attempt.
If you have met someone new that you think could be a future friend, invite them to hang out with you and an already established friend. In a similar manner to double dating, having a mutual friend or a person you already know in the mix can make things less awkward for everyone. While we are on that topic, friends of friends often make the best matches. So, next time your coworker or best friend invites you to go somewhere with a group, go! You’ll likely have something in common with their crowd, and it will make it easier to bond.
8. Don’t overdo it.
In reality, while you may or may not have a wide social circle, true friends are few and far between. Having one or two close friends is normal. Everyone else is generally just an added bonus. Focus on the quality of your friendship rather than the quantity. Adult friendships have to work around marriages, jobs, children, and community responsibilities. You can’t devote the necessary time and effort that meaningful friendship requires to much more than a couple of people.
9. Keep your expectations reasonable.
Adult friendships often look very different than your high school ones did. Again, this comes down to busyness. If you’re truly looking to form deeper relationships, take the schedule of your intended friend and your own into account. Don’t pour your emotions and efforts into a friendship with someone who just doesn’t really have time right now. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, set realistic expectations, and let the relationship develop naturally. Be open and make the effort, but know that not every person you meet and initiate a conversation with is going to become your new best friend.
10. Volunteer with a cause you love.
What better way to find a compatible friend than to meet others who share the same passion as you? The things we choose to volunteer our precious time to usually have an important place in our hearts, so it makes sense that hooking up with those who have that same passion is likely to work out well. If nothing else, you’ll have shared experiences to base your first couple of conversations on, which makes the initial hangouts easier. While you’re volunteering, pay attention to others in your group, and ask someone to hang out one-on-one afterward.
11. Schedule meetups and follow through.
Once you have met someone at work or in a group event and you hit it off, don’t hesitate to plan your next meetup. Don’t just say, “We should hang out sometime.” Instead, be specific and proactive. Go with something like, “So, a coworker and myself are having drinks tomorrow night at 6; would you like to join us? I think you two would really hit it off.” If they say yes, get their phone number and text them the location and details immediately. The next day, text them to let them know you’re looking forward to hanging out with them.
If you make plans with someone, give every effort to follow through on them. Nobody likes to be stood up. It never fails that when we put a hangout on the calendar, something will come up, or you’ll not feel like going. Hop the hurdle and make it happen. Integrity and showing up for the other person are important parts of any relationship.
12. Make good friends by being a good friend.
While we are discussing integrity, let’s hit a few more important aspects of friendship. It’s important to remember that a relationship is a two-way street. You aren’t the only one in the scenario that is searching.
When you’re conversing with a new potential friend, practice active listening. Be engaged in the conversation. Ask questions about their lives, and pay attention to the answers. Make mental notes on their likes and dislikes. Try your best to be available when they need you. Initiate contact regularly, and strive to be the kind of friend that people feel safe around. Be the friend that offers encouragement, seeks to see others succeed, and offers a helping hand.
13. Reconnect with old friends.
There’s no written rule that your childhood friends can’t carry over into adult ones. While the early 20s are a common time to lose track of old friends, that doesn’t mean it has to stay so. Childhood friends know us in a way that’s hard to reproduce in adulthood. You share a common heritage and the memories of your formative years, and you likely know each other’s families and have many mutual friends. Those bonds are hard to replicate. If you once had a healthy childhood friendship, why not reach out and try to rekindle it?
For a few tips on pursuing relationships with former friends, check out “15 Ways to Reconnect With Old Friends.”
14. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to form stable and trusting relationships without putting yourself out there emotionally. Taking a small risk of rejection is often necessary to form lasting relationships. If you really like someone, don’t be afraid to tell them so. Don’t be weird about it. You don’t need to declare your undying love from the rooftops or anything, but people love to be appreciated and know they are valued.
If you love spending time with a coworker, tell them so, and then ask if they want to go for drinks. If your partner in your cooking class has you rolling every week, tell her that she always makes you smile, and ask if she wants to hang out on Friday night. It will feel awkward in the moment, but the payoffs are worth it. We are all drawn to open and honest people. They tend to make us feel safe, so putting yourself out there for a minute might just be the moment that leads to your next great friendship.
15. Use social media interest groups.
Perhaps you don’t have a lot of time to devote to an in-person group, or maybe there aren’t that many options in your hometown. Try a special interest group on Facebook. There are groups for gardeners, travelers, fans of certain sports teams, book clubs, parenting groups, and just about everything else under the sun. Join in. It’s easy. It doesn’t take much time, and you can start conversations with people that at least share one common passion with you. Who knows where it will go from there?
16. Join a senior citizen’s center.
If you’re a mature adult looking for new companions, you aren’t alone. If the loss of a spouse or friend has left you feeling lonely or you no longer have the company of coworkers to keep you socialized, consider joining a senior citizen’s center. The good ones arrange group tours to nearby tourist attractions, gaming days, and much more. Senior citizen’s centers are the perfect place to meet others who are in the same life stage as you, and they present a great opportunity to get out of the house to do something fun. Retirement doesn’t have to equal isolation and boredom. Some retired adults also find friends by picking up a part-time, post-retirement job doing something they enjoy.
17. Don’t downplay your worth.
You are an individual with amazing gifts and talents, and you have something to offer that other people need. If life events have in some way made you feel that you aren’t valued or that your companionship is unwanted, know that that isn’t true. There are millions of people just like you who are looking for a good friend. Put yourself out there as the awesome person you are, and surround yourself with people who appreciate you for being that person. Drop the rest. If they don’t get how cool you are, that’s their loss.
You might not be the life of the party. You might be awkward in conversation, or maybe you have never been popular. These are not prerequisites to having meaningful friendships. People just want to be seen, encouraged, and appreciated. If you can provide that for a friend, you have everything you need.
It’s common to lose sight of the importance of friendship as careers, families, and adult responsibilities set in. You aren’t the only one. Making new friends in adulthood feels overwhelming for most people. However, don’t make it harder than it is. Put yourself in situations where you have the greatest chance of meeting like-minded people, and be open-minded. Not everyone you approach is going to turn into a pal, but no harm no foul.
With realistic expectations, a positive attitude, and a little effort, we’re sure you can build a fruitful social circle with people you love and who make you laugh. The biggest hurdle is just making the first move, so don’t delay any longer. Hop on social media and connect with an old friend today. Ask a coworker over to watch the game this weekend or join a group. The best time to start is now.
What’s your favorite way to make friends as an adult? Share your wisdom in the comments!
Looking for a fun activity to do with friends? Check out one of our amazing city scavenger hunts! We have hunts in more than 400 cities, and they’re perfect for a team of two buds or a whole clan of friends.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, January 12). The health benefits of good friends. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860
Barkley, S. (2022, December 9). Why are friendships important? 9 health benefits. Psych Central. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://psychcentral.com/relationships/benefits-of-friendship#maintaining-friendships
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s common to feel overwhelmed at the thought of making new friends. Put yourself in situations where you’ll meet like-minded people. Join a sports team, church group, or volunteer group!
Looking for fun friend adventures? Check out Adventures From Scratch: Friend Edition. It’s loaded with fun scratch-off challenges, conversation starters, and much more!
Many adults feel they lack solid friendships. This is mostly due to past hurts leading to a lack of trust, busy schedules, and the flawed assumption that adults don’t really need friends.