Making friends as a grown-up
Updated: Jul 19, 2019
About three years ago, I relocated to this area from Maine. Before the move, I was living in a small town where I knew just about everyone and had a large circle of friends, acquaintances and business associates-most of whom I’d known for years. I frequently went out to dinner or drinks with a gaggle of women, knew all of the yoga teachers at my local studio by name, and bumped into people I knew everywhere I went.
When I met and fell in love with my husband and decided to move to this area to be with him, I didn’t feel any hesitation. I was excited for my new life with him, for new career opportunities, for the chance to be in a city, and for the ability to take advantage of all of the interesting cultural and artistic offerings that are part and parcel of metropolitan life.
What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be facing the challenge of making new friends because all of my old ones were now a state away. Luckily, I’m an extrovert so I promptly started joining groups, getting familiar with coworkers and going to events where I might meet like-minded people. Soon, I had a busy social calendar and was meeting oodles of people in the area.
Although this sounds like a textbook example on how to make a successful geographic transition, I noticed one snag: making friends at this stage in my life, with the balance of family and work obligations, is more difficult. A lot of people in my age bracket have similar challenges and, as a result, it seems to take much longer to establish a meaningful connection with a new person. According to Shasta Nelson’s book “Friendships Don't Just Happen!” when you’re making a new friend it takes around 50 hours to establish what she calls a casual friendship and about 200 hours spent together with someone to establish a best friendship!
That’s a lot of time! So why invest that kind of time in making new friends if you already have a loving family and 800 Facebook friends?
If you google the search term friendship you’ll find hundreds of articles and studies that outline findings purporting face-to-face friendship increases your happiness level, boosts your immune system, and increases longevity. One Australian study found that longevity increased by 22% among participants who had friends versus those who did not and that those who had the most friends lived the longest (July 2005 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.)
Friendship, the feeling of connectedness, and knowing that you are part of a group are powerful needs for humans. Making new friends can be an exciting and also scary endeavor. Grown-up friendships are not as easy to foster as those ties made in childhood.
Well friend, you’re in luck. I’m going to share my tips and tricks for making new friends so you can reap the benefits of all of my research and field hours. Read on for nuggets of friendship-making gold!
How to make friends “Grown-Up” style:
Variety is the spice of life: When we were kids in school, we were thrown into classes with others who were like us and some that were very different. As a result, we bonded with a variety of people. As adults when we meet a possible new friend we might have the expectation that a person should share all of our interests, have a similar sense of humor, or be in the same life stage that we are. I say, don’t limit yourself. If you’re married, you don’t “have” to have all married friends. Maybe there’s a cool single lady that you met at yoga class. Why not give her a chance? Maybe there’s an elderly person who lives on your street and is a kindred spirit. Sometimes you have to lean out a little to see what potential is there.
Be the one to make the invitation: Making a new friend can feel awkward. It can be scary to work up the courage to put yourself out there and invite someone to hang if you’re fearing rejection. I say, what have you got to lose (worst case, losing a friend you didn’t have anyway?) My rule of thumb is if I have fun the first time we hang out, I’ll invite you again if I don’t hear from you (because perhaps you’re an introvert.)
Be consistent: Since friendships are based on bonding with another person over time, you must give yourself time to cultivate a friendship. Whether that’s going to the same art class, getting together for coffee once a month, or arranging weekly playdates so you can chat with your son’s classmate’s mom, try to work some consistent friend time into your schedule.
Well there you have it. Three simple things you can do to expand your friend group to add some new faces.
These have worked for me and others and I hope they work for you!