The Quick Guide to Making Friends as an Adult

A young woman researching how to make friends as an adult while sitting in loungewear on her couch, staring at her phone.

Today, I think it’s fair to say that most of us are experts at making ‘friends’ on social media — but maybe not so much in real life.

Ask yourself, have you made a new close friend since school? If not, you aren’t alone.

Many young adults struggle to make and maintain new friendships. Thinking about how many followers and friends you have isn’t as comforting when you find yourself longing for a buddy for that mud run or a partner to check out the premiere of that new movie. I’m not going to tell you to just ‘put yourself out there’ more (such advice is as bad for friendship-making as it is for dating) — but there are practical things you can do to nurture new, close friendships.

Here’s what extroverts and introverts alike need to know about making friends as a young adult.

It’s going to take a little courage (and probably time and effort).

Acting as the friendship initiator can be intimidating (maybe even more than dating!), but if someone really wants to be your friend (or you really want that person to be), then it is worth the effort!

Group settings are a great place to start, but not if you want to define the relationship. Asking a potential friend to a one-on-one activity may feel intimidating, but it will either help you solidify an awesome new friendship or let you know that he or she is not interested.

Start by reconnecting with people you already know.

Life can get hectic in your 20s with some friends starting new jobs while others pursue academic endeavors or get married (or both)! It’s totally normal for some of your friendships to be put on the backburner while you focus on other things. But if you’ve made it through the transition and find yourself a little older and lonelier, reconnecting is a great first step.

If you’ve moved to a new city, your high school and college friends may not be available to watch the big game together, but they are only a call or text away! Or maybe there’s that girl you’ve seen in spin class every week for the past three months — and maybe it’s time to move past ‘hey’ and onto ‘hey, want to grab a smoothie across the street?’ after your workout.

Work friends can actually make really awesome friends.

If you’re rolling your eyes at this one, just know that I used to be just like you! I was extremely skeptical (and even cynical!) about coworkers as friends. But it turns out that the office is one of the most likely places to foster meaningful relationships with new people. Plus, research has shown workers are happier in their jobs when they have friendships with coworkers.

Your office-mates will understand what’s going on in a major part of your life and can relate to stressful work situations in a way that your other friends might not understand. These people could be the saving grace to make your days more bearable and, by getting through it together, you might just find your new best friend.

Be open to people who are different than you.

New friends offer you an opportunity to see the world through a new lens, which is an invaluable experience. When you face challenges, they may offer perspectives you never would have considered. Having friends who see situations differently than you will help you have a more complete understanding of your options and help you make more informed decisions.

Spending time with friends who are different than you is an easy way to get drawn out of your comfort zone once in a while. We all have different strengths. If you and your crew are all good at staying motivated to work out every day, that’s great. But think of how a friend with different strengths could help motivate you to get better at other things, like volunteering or professional networking.

You don’t need to hide your quirks to make people like you!

It might be tempting to change the way you dress or act in an attempt to make friends with people who dress or act a certain way — but it’s not worth it to compromise yourself. It’s one thing to try new things because you’ve made a new friend, but to change yourself in an attempt to get people to like you? I’ve seen enough teen rom-coms to know that that situation will only end in disaster.

I’ll admit it: making new and lasting friendships isn’t as easy as it was in childhood. There’s good news, though: “Young adulthood is the golden age for forming friendships,” Professor William Rawlins told The Atlantic. So let this be your last weekend wishing you still had frat house parties for mixing and mingling.

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