When you were growing up, you may have met your best friend in class. Maybe you made friends in the most organic of ways, by just running around in the playground. As adults, we don’t have the systems built in to make friends like we did when we were children. While it’s socially acceptable to say “I’m looking for a long-term committed (romantic) relationship”… “I’m looking for a best friend.”? Not so much. Making friends as an adult can be organic, but it can also be a lot like finding a romantic partner.
Envision Your Friend
Think about the kind of people who you enjoy being around and who bring out the best in you. Think back to your childhood friends and what made them fun to hang out with. Are your ideal friends extroverted or introverted or a mixed bunch? Are they creative and artsy, academics, or interested in socially-conscious awareness? Do they love the outdoors? Are they movie buffs? Do they enjoy home-cooked meals and engaging in hours of conversation about existentialism?
Think about the qualities you want in a friend in the same way you think about the qualities you want in a partner. It is important to keep in mind that an ideal friend, just like an ideal partner, will not be perfect. Keeping this in mind will keep your expectations based on reality and you’ll be less likely to be disappointed by imperfections while making friends as an adult.
Go Where Your Friend is Likely to Hang Out Too
Now that you have put some thought into know what kind of person your ideal friend would be, think about what that person would be doing. Where are they on the weekends? Where do they shop or like to go out to eat? What are their interests and where would you find those interests? Got the idea? Good! Now make plans to go to those places.
If you’re an outdoorsy person and want an outdoor-loving friend, find outdoor meetups. Try a hiking or walking group, or sign up for a new fitness class. Keep in mind as you test the waters that you won’t find your friend on your first outing. Just as when you’re looking for a partner, it takes more than just one try. As a matter of fact, it may not only take a bit of time and patience, it may also take a bit of “putting yourself out there”.
Let’s Hang Out!
When you’ve found someone who you are beginning to feel comfortable with and would like to get to know more, think about something that you are both interested in and ask if they want to go with you. Choosing an activity that you are both interested in takes the pressure off of needing to keep a conversation going if you are on the shy side, and it also takes the edge off of hoping that you’ve chosen something to do that the other person will enjoy. It doesn’t have to cost much money either!
For example, inviting your friend to go watch your favorite sports team or TV series at your home, or to experiment with a favorite recipe does not have to cost much and can help to bond the friendship in an organic way.
Any good relationship will require attention and nurturing- your budding friendship is the same and that will happen naturally as you spend more time together. At times, anxiety sets in, and the thought of making a new, most awesome friend can conjure up feelings of insecurity that you will sabotage the friendship. Allow yourself to take it slow and steady, and don’t take anything too seriously- including yourself! Too much too fast could set you up for a friendship that’s not going to work, or might make the other person feel smothered. Too little attention or lack of response will make you seem uninterested.
You can deepen the friendship by thinking about your individual life goals and dreams. Can you help each other meet each other’s goals, if even by giving each other emotional support? Perhaps you both have fitness goals that you can hold each other accountable for and in that way, motivate each other to stay on track. What are each other’s strengths and how can those strengths be meaningful and helpful to each other?
In today’s world of tech and social media overindulgence, making friends as an adult can be challenging, and this can be especially difficult if you struggle with self-esteem, confidence, or in social situations.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.