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How to Make Friends in Adulthood

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Be Ok being alone

Have you ever met someone that reeked of desperation? Ever wonder what they did to get like that? Well, it’s pretty simple, really. They had an idea in their head about how things should go. They wanted a friend, or even something more. They had a plan of what they were going to do to get what they wanted. Whoever came within spitting distance would work if they’re willing to go along with the plan. Usually when in the middle of a vicious cycle like this, the person can’t see it themselves. They don’t understand there’s something much simpler they can do in order to get friends. Be ok being alone. If you view friendship as a bonus rather than necessary, you won’t put pressure on yourself or your new friend.

It’s ok to let go

Sometimes you will lose friends as you head in a new direction. Friend circles are an ever-evolving structure. Think about it like a plant. New sprouts come up, they start as little shoots, but the deeper the roots go, they grow taller. If the conditions are right, the plant grows and shoots off in new directions with new branches or vines much like meeting mutual friends. Sometimes, when a certain part of the plant is no longer serving the plant as a whole, it will pinch parts off. Trees will actually quarantine and reject diseased parts of themselves in order to preserve the rest of the plant. They will also secret chemicals into the air warning other trees around them there’s danger nearby. Not saying you should go on Facebook and “warn everyone the way the trees do,” but, it’s ok to let go when it’s what’s best for your whole being.

As you gain new friends, the fear of being alone could spoil what you have while you have it. Be ok being your own friend and welcome friendship as it comes rather than trying to force it.

Believe it’s possible to make friends

After being burned so many times, it can start to feel burdensome to make new friends. You put a lot of effort into the relationship, just to find out you have major differences in important areas that can’t be overlooked. I have to be straight with you, that’s life. People come and people go. You never know what’s going to pull people in different directions. “My mama always used to say; People are around for a 1. A reason, 2. A season, or 3. A lifetime. You can’t know which until after the fact.” This goes right back into not holding onto friendships that aren’t healthy for you. Part of believing you can make new friends, is finally letting down that brick haven of a wall you’ve built around all your soft and tender parts. It hurt in the past to be vulnerable, and have the effort go unrecognized, so why try again? Why get hurt again?

This person you’re trying to befriend, is not the same as the person/people who hurt you before. The best you can do is give this new person a chance. If you’re revisiting old friendships, remember you drifted apart for a reason, and make sure to sit with the possibilities of what could happen in the near future if those reasons were to resurface. It’s not fair, however, to hold what someone in your past has done to you, against someone different.

“WHAT?!” You must be thinking. I know. It goes against everything you’ve learned. Over your lifetime, you’ve taken circumstances and categorized them in your head. You put them in little boxes of “good experiences,” and “bad experiences.” You have a file folder of red flags tucked neatly under your arm at all times. I get it. It’s a typical thought pattern, especially for those who suffer from anxiety. I’m not saying disregard everything you’ve learned. By all means, notice what comes up as a red flag. It’s smart to have a plan for your thresholds of tolerance for red flags ahead of time. All I’m suggesting; Don’t judge a new friend based on someone else’s actions. Let your new friend show you who they are.

Your new friend might be exactly like your old friend, but when you have a pre-determined threshold, you can make that decision with a clear head and judgment-free, with the knowledge you’ve gathered throughout your lifetime as a tool rather than a crutch.

Allow yourself to hope.

Try to see the good in people before you focus on any bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and let them prove you wrong, rather than requiring them to prove their worth. Most people won’t stick around for a friendship where they have to be constantly proving themselves. If you lower your expectations, people will surprise you in the best ways.

Know Yourself

Now that we’ve gotten all that business about giving people a chance out of the way, it’s time to talk about knowing your worth and respecting yourself when it comes to decisions that serve you best. If you lack a sense of who you are it’s likely you struggle with trust. Your fear would be that if you let people close they will realize you are a mess and reject you.

This starts with being strong in your identity.

  • Know your values. Values are the deep-seated beliefs that guide your decisions whether you like it or not. If you know what’s important to you, you can decide what doesn’t align, and needs changing.

  • Know your biases. Everyone has them, figure out what yours are, so they can’t hold you back anymore.

  • Make your own decisions.Take input from everyone. Listen to the advice of others, but make decisions on your own, for yourself.

  • Spend time with yourself. A good way to know who you are, is to spend time with yourself. Try journaling, see what comes out.

  • Know where you’re at, and accept it. If making friends on Reddit is where you’re at, that’s where you’re at. Don’t push yourself to do things you aren’t ready for. Baby steps.

  • Get good at saying no. A necessary skill for choosing what’s right for you, and setting boundaries. Free boundaries worksheet.

  • Remember: People probably like you more than you think they do. Most people struggle with their self-esteem. If you are already thinking you’re average, then you’re probably also average in the fact that you’re more likeable than you believe yourself to be.

Skip the apps.

Apps are a manufactured way to find people who are also looking for friends. If you haven’t tried it, it can’t hurt. If you have tried it, and didn’t find yourself any less lonely, don’t go back to a broken system.

be social in the things you already love

Join social media groups for your hobbies. Love a particular breed of animal? Have a skill for crafting? Good with your hands … and wood? *snickers* There’s a group for everything, just search and join the ones that stand out to you. If you’re gregarious, it’s not uncommon for newcomers to announce themselves and why they joined the group. For those of us that are more low key, you can just respond in comments, or even reply to already existing comments. Again, know where you’re at and meet yourself there.

If you’re using social media to make friends, you might want to conduct a purge. Get rid of any negative friends. You can unfollow them if unfriending them is too out there, but at least get their shit storm off your feed.

If you see something you like, go further than a like or save and comment on it. It helps the social media algorithms know what you want and to give you more of it. If you’re enjoying the things you see, you’re more likely to have a positive interaction, and possibly make a friend or two.

Try doing the thing you love alone, but in a public setting. Set yourself up for success so you can meet new people. If you like to read, don’t limit your page turning only to poop time, take yourself to a coffee shop or a park. Of course, with Covid-19, we should always be safe, but find a way to get yourself out there.

Find local groups that do what you love. If there isn’t a local group to find, make your own! Often times newspapers give free listings to groups like this, so find your local paper online and” Cntrl F” your way to finding a group that matches.

Invite your friends along to try the things you like. Who knows, maybe your cousin is super into cosplay and would be down to design costumes with you late into the morning hours.

Find new things to love.

Starting a new hobby can be daunting. Where do you even start? Have you ever heard of Groupon? It’s a great website to find opportunities to take classes for things you’re interested in both virtually, and locally. If you’re a scroller, Pinterest is a great option. It’s not just for women, either. I know plenty of men, and non-binary people who love pinterest as a way to organize their hobbies and scroll through things they like.

Making a bucket list, and setting goals within it is a brilliant way to find new things. They don’t all have to be “Climb Mount Everst” or “Go sky diving.” You can put smaller, more achievable goals on your bucket list as well. Set achievable

Schedule friend time

You can’t really expect to be able to improve an area of your life without improving an area of your life, right? Invest your most valuable asset, time. Once your friend time has a firm standing in your calendar… fill it. Text someone and ask them to hang out, or use one of the many ideas above and below to fill that time and make more friends.

Volunteering is an amazing altruistic way to help people. If you like helping people, you will probably run into other people with similar views when volunteering. If you can’t find a volunteer opportunity near you, you could very well make one yourself. Find a cause and fundraise for it, or ask for donations of needed items and deliver them to the cause. Get your friends and family involved and watch the web of people you meet grow.

I know I said earlier to be good at saying “no”, but you need to be equally good at saying “yes.” If someone invites you or includes you, give it a try. It might not always sound like the activity you want to do, but you might be surprised at how fun it could be in good company. Once, I was invited to do a 5k run. I am not a runner. I always joke that if you see me running, you should run too because whatever is after me will be following shortly after me. My first instinct was to say no. I hadn’t trained, or really prepared at all. My preparation went as far as drinking water the next day and making sure I had a Gatorade to take with me. I’m grateful I said yes, because that 5k run ended up being a mud run. If you don’t know what those are, they’re basically 5 kilometers of mud fighting. It was so much fun. I went on 2 more 5 kilometer mud runs that summer and invited other friends who wouldn’t have normally been open to the idea, too.

Reach out to old friends

No, I don’t mean hitting up your old flames. That’s never a good idea. Your relationship, or whatever you want to label it, ended for a reason. Let it stay ended. Friendships are another story. You can drift apart for much more subtle reasons. It may be worth reaching out to people you already know you get along with, if there weren’t any major hangups that created the distance in the first place. Remember, people probably like you more than you think they do.

The best friend advice I’ve ever gotten came from my Dad. “Be the friend you want to have.” He might have gotten it from a country song, but all the same, it made an impact on my life. I have continuously tried my best to be the friend I would hope to have. When someone calls with an emergency, I drop what I’m doing and help. I hope my friends would do the same for me. Be the friend who gives more than you take. Do your bet to “outgive” your friends. Do nice things for them, just trying to do more nice things for them than they do for you. It is way more fun to have a friendship where both parties try to outgive each other, than one where you keep a checks and balance spreadsheet of what they owe you, or what you owe them. Do without expecting anything in return and you will be surprised the thoughtful things your friends will do for you. Once, I had a friend make a jacket pin made out of a “Super Moist” Cake box. It was a simple craft, but the thoughtfulness and time spent will always be remembered. *Keep in mind, people generally like to take more than they give. Make sure your thresholds are pre-determined so you know how much you’re wiling to give without getting before the friendship feels unbalanced

If you want your friends to get to know you and to feel included, invite them out/over. Host a dinner or game night. With Covid, this can still be achieved with zoom game nights, and ordering in. Be creative and the world is your oyster. Most importantly, show up for your friends when it matters. There is nothing that solidifies a friendship like being there for your loved ones when they need you most. Sometimes you won’t know what to say, and that’s ok. Just be there, and do what you can. There’s no right or wrong way to be a friend.

Get out of your shell

5 Seconds of Courage

Have you ever seen the long-ass movie “We Bough a Zoo”? Matt Damon stars as a widower father of 2 who buys a zoo. His son feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of talking to a girl, is reassured when Matt’s character explains his mantra of 5 seconds of courage. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s moving forward despite the fear. To be known for your courage, it only takes 5 seconds. If you can muster 5 seconds of courage to start a conversation, you have a good start at making friends. You can do all the things listed in this blog post, but if you don’t start any conversations, you’re unlikely to make a friend out of the deal.

Be persistent

People are stuck in their own worlds. Everyone has so much of their own drama going on, that when a new person enters their life, they don’t really know how to fit them into the mold. If you keep yourself known by being persistent, you can get in more with your friends. *Be careful here. There’s a fine line between persistence and creepy, and the difference is only how the receiving person takes it. Unless you deal with chronic anxiety, listen to your gut if it tells you someone is avoiding you. They aren’t worth your time.

Be friendly to everyday people

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, do you know the name of the nice gas station attendant at your regular stop? Do you know anything about the “everyday” people in your life? Just like you, they want someone to notice them, to care. Why don’t you become that person? If you’re wanting to make friends, just changing the way you go about every day life will help. The personal stories you get without solicitation will amaze you.


Talk to your current friends and your family. Ask them what they like about you. What ways you contribute well, and what your good friend traits are. If they’re struggling, you could ask them to write a Eulogy for you. You could write one for them, too. Remember that bit about being the friend you want to have? Show them why you value them, and make it easier for them to open their minds about why they value you

Evaluate the way you handle conflict.

If you were your friend, would you tolerate the way you handle conflict? Would you feel valued and understood in a conflict with you? In a conflict with you, would you feel like your points were validated? When dealing with conflict, it helps to focus on behaviors and events rather than people and personalities. If you do, you can identify points of contention where your disagreements lay. Once that’s figured out, you can work on the conflicts one by one and develop a plan together. Make sure to stick to your plan, because this is a test for your friendship, one you want to pass if you value the relationship.

Work on Yourself

Reading, worksheets, and workshops are all excellent ways to improve yourself. If you’re actively working on improving your social skills, it only makes sense that your friendships will benefit from the effort. Actively working on your skills creates a growth mindset. In a growth mindset, you’re more likely to work towards solutions rather than getting stuck in the mundane issues that cause problems, but can’t really ever be fixed or solved creating a sore spot in your friendship. Choosing an area to work on is easy if you’re actively listening to the people around you. They will be happy to tell you what you need help with, if they think it will actually make a difference AND they feel safe telling you. This takes checking your ego, but it will benefit you greatly in the long run.

Check out the bottom of this post for suggestions to get you started in the self-growth department. These are affiliate links, but at no cost to you, your purchase helps fund the outreach of mental health.

Ask questions

There’s only one way to know. To ask. Asking questions gives you perspective and insight you normally wouldn’t have access to. You can’t predict how someone will perceive a situation. You can guess, but you can’t be 100% certain. People can be unpredictable that way.

Some questions to ask your friends and family to learn more about yourself:

  • When it comes to listening, what do you wish I knew?

  • If you could wave a magic wand and have a best friend perfectly made for you, what qualities would they possess?

  • What do you think disappoints me?

  • Who do you think I will be in 10 years?

  • When do you think I am embarrassed?

  • Is there anything I do that grates you?

  • When were you most impressed by me?

  • When were you most disappointed in me?

  • If I won the lottery, what would I spend it on?

  • If we had met earlier, what would our friendship be like?

Don’t discredit online friendship

True, there is nothing like in-person interaction. There’s something about being able to see the small movements of someone and being able to read their non-verbals that really makes the friendship experience. True, people can hide behind screens, and not show you their true colors. True, you can get catfished. These things can happen. You can also get in a car accident on your way to work, or be hit by a bus while you walk to work trying to avoid a car accident. The truth of the matter is; people can be shitty. Sometimes they are, usually they aren’t. Please go back to the “Have An Open Goddamn Mind” section above and learn to open yourself to different situations. You can’t always run out and meet a friend for coffee, so get creative and find Covid-friendly activities to meet people in.

Covid Friendly Activities

  • Dinner around a firepit

  • Wine night with masks and straws

  • Walk with the neighbors

  • Delivery zoom dinner

  • Drop off a coffee to a friend at work

  • Join a book club

  • Cinco De Mayo Celebration

    • Put a table outside your house and invite your neighbors. Have them mask when dishing, and hand sanitizer before dishing. You can social distance outside.

  • Outdoor neighborhood movie

  • Collaborate on a project. Make a difference in the world, or your community.

Winter Covid Friendly Activities

  • Car train looking at lights

  • Drive-up outdoor movie

  • Drop off dinner with a friend

  • Ornament exchange

  • Secret Santa

  • Hot cocoa hut. Bring outdoor heaters and hats!

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