It’s easy to make friends when you are young and in school, surrounded by people your age who are also eager to make friends. This changes, however, as you get older. Most adults between the ages of 40-60 have busy lives, families of their own to manage, work schedules to juggle, and established social circles. As your children head off to college and neighbors start moving away, you may find yourself feeling a little lonely and wondering how to make friends as an adult.
If you are ready to expand your social networks, I’ve got some great tips for you.
Friendship Social Circle Framework
First, look at this social circle framework.
The important thing to keep in mind is that people MUST move through these circles. Besties start out as strangers, and work their way closer to you, as you build trust and connection over time. The outside circles have more people in them than the inner circles, because of the investment of time and shared experiences it takes to move people inward.
Setting Expectations for Making Friends As an Adult
1. Understand it will take time to develop good friends.
Sometimes you feel an instant connection with someone and can move through the circles pretty quickly. This is what happens when we are younger and our schedules and responsibilities are lighter. We have plenty of time and energy for bonding and connection.
As we get older, that instant feeling of connection is not enough by itself. It takes a lot more work to sync up schedules so that you can spend time together and do things, because each of you probably has busy lives and responsibilities to work around.
2. Broaden your understanding of what a friend is like.
Don’t have a narrow idea of what a friend should be. Friendships can cross decades, cultures, religions, genders — even political affiliations!
For example, don’t think to yourself, “I’d like a friend to go to lunch with who is about my age, SAHM, Christian, and who is into fitness.” Finding someone to meet that criteria will be much harder than thinking to yourself, “I’d like a friend to go to lunch with.”
I homeschooled my daughter for a few years when she was in elementary school, and people used to ask me about her “socialization”. When she was homeschooled, she had lots of friends of all ages!
After she did her work she’d just go down every house on our street, knocking on doors. There was a 2 year old baby she liked to play with, if he was napping she’d go to the 2nd grader next door, if she was still in school she’d go to the house with the dogs to see if they could play, or to the house with the girl who was home from college who used to make jewelry with her. She interacted comfortably and easily with everyone.
How to Make Friends
1. Nurture Existing Connections
Going back to our social circle diagram, the easiest answer to how to make friends is to connect with the people who are already in your social circles as acquaintances and casual friends.
Reach out to people that are casual friends or even acquaintances and suggest an activity related to the context in which you know each other.
For example, if you know someone from the gym who likes running, you could suggest running together. Or if you know someone from bookclub, you could suggest going to see a movie based on a book you guys read together. Getting together for coffee or lunch is always a safe bet.
2. Cultivate New Connections
If you don’t have a pool of acquaintances or casual friends, then you have to get some!
Follow Your Curiosity. The best way is to follow your curiosity and engage in something you genuinely like to do or are interested in, like joining a knitting club or a bible study or a fitness group or chess club. Or you could take classes in something you are interested in, like photography or art!
Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to feel a sense of purpose and connection to your community while meeting new people too! Plus it’s easier to make small talk when you are working on something together with someone, like building a fence or handing out flyers.
Reach Out to People in Close Proximity. You can also make more effort to engage and connect with people that are in close proximity to you, like neighbors or people you see around the community. Start moving them from the stranger to the acquaintance category by making small talk when you see them.
Walk Your Dog. If you have a dog, walk it! Walking my rescue mutt has been a fantastic way to meet people and strengthened friendships.
Host or Organize Something! Another thing you can do is host something for your neighbors or people in your area. Many years ago I started a community scrapbooking club that was active for a couple of years. More recently I hosted monthly art gatherings in my home where a local creator would come in and show attendees how to make something! And I used to host winter caroling in my neighborhood.
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3. Don’t Forget Online Friendships!
Consider developing online friendships too. I’ve joined many online groups and created valued friendships through them. There are Facebook groups and other online forums built around specific interests, like forums for photography or for Youtube creators. I’ve enjoyed London Writers Salon and have been considering InterIntellect.
Hopefully I gave you some useful ideas for how to make friends! It can be scary and uncomfortable to reach out and try these strategies, but the tremendous rewards of friendship make it worth doing.
I’ve also created a free pdf workbook about how to make friends based off of this post that might help you organize your thoughts, and you can download here:
Good luck and have fun!