Every milestone in your life comes with meeting new people. As you get older, it can be harder to make and maintain friendships than it was when you were a kid. As a child, you were probably surrounded by peers at school day after day. Perhaps you were involved in activities where you could easily connect with friends who had similar interests. Merely playing together at recess was likely enough for you to foster the roots of a long lasting friendship.
As an adult, there’s no longer a cafeteria table for you to sit at or after school activities for you to attend with the same people everyday. As you become involved with life’s many obligations like making a living or taking care of children, friendships might fall by the wayside. Over time, relationships may grow apart for a number of different reasons. Since close friendships are associated with positive outcomes through life transitions1, promoting self-esteem and wellbeing2, don’t neglect this important area of your life! If you’re feeling like your current friendships are less fulfilling than you might like, try some of these strategies to make and keep new friendships.
- Surround yourself with likeminded people- Get involved with something in your community where you can find others who have similar interests. This could be volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, signing up for a sports league, or taking a class on a topic you’re interested in. Chances are there will be at least one person to connect and you’ll easily have things in common to talk about!
- Put yourself out there- It’s not easy to make an initial contact with potential friends. Get used to making small talk throughout your day. Put on a smile, and make contact with as many people as you can. You never know where you’ll find your next close friendship.
- Use social media-You might have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but struggle to think of one person to call in the midst of a crisis. Using social media is a great way to reconnect with old friends or acquaintances. It’s easy to see who’s in your area to get together with. Online forums are also excellent outlets to find people in your area with similar interests.
- Take a genuine interest-Once you have made initial contact with a new person, it’s important to take a true interest in who they are and what they’re all about. Ask questions and truly listen to what others have to say.
- Be patient-Don’t expect to have a new BFF overnight. It will likely take many encounters with one person to start feeling like friends. Give it time. Once you find someone you’d like to get to know a little better, put in the effort get together over multiple occasions and watch the friendship grow!
Friendships are a unique part of the human experience and with a little time and energy you can build your community to feel more connected and cared for!
1. Hartup, W. W. (1996). The company they keep: Friendships and their developmental significance. Child Development, 67, 1-13.
2. Hartup, W. W., & Stevens, N. (1999). Friendships and adaptation across the lifespan. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 76-79.