There’s a conversation that I’ve found myself having with a LOT of 23-40 year olds as of late.
It usually comes up pretty naturally, when we’re either catching up or getting to know one another.
Most of the time, it requires me to stick my head out a little bit in a moment of vulnerability and admit it first:
Making friends as an adult is harder than I ever expected.
It seems as though every time I say it, the person I’m talking with nods in agreement instantly.
When I was a kid, our family moved around a bit for my dad’s job. He was progressing in his career and it required us to relocate about five times before I hit the fourth grade. I think this influenced my adult personality in a lot of ways. Among them was the fact that I figured out how to make friends relatively easily. I think I’m pretty okay at it.
Throughout high school and college, I rarely spent a Friday or Saturday night in. In fact, I rarely spent much time alone at all. There was always a friend to talk to or hang out with.
When I moved to St. Louis after graduating a semester early from college, I was smacked in the face with the loneliness of having no friends. I didn’t know what to do about it and was crippled by self-doubt.
I spent a LOT of time at home alone watching Chopped and feeling sorry for myself.
Then I realized: making friends isn’t easy for a lot of people.
…And a whole lot of twenty-somethings (and older) were in my same boat.
So from then on, I resolved to become infinitely more friendly. And began to realize that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to make friends.
After that realization, I began to think a lot about how to make friends as an adult and realized that I needed to stick my head out a bit more. Be a bit more vulnerable. Do things that make me feel uncomfortable. And by golly, I needed to ask for people’s phone numbers (why is that so hard?).
Two years later, I feel pretty solid with my post-grad friendships. Do I have as many friends as I did during college? No way. Do I see them as often? Nope, definitely not. But they ARE really interesting, kind people that bring color and vibrance to my life. I like them all quite a bit.
Which brings me to today. I thought I might provide a few reassurances if you’re a 20-something (or 30-something, 40-something or older… basically if you’re an adult) that wants a few new friends or is feeling a little bit lonely.
9 Reassurances for Adults Just Trying To Make Few New Friends
- You are not alone. Lemme repeat that: you are not alone. You’re not the only person your age that feels lonely and inadequate in the friendship department. Really take this one to heart.
- Someone has to make the first move. I read somewhere the other day that one of the best ways to get past caring at all about what other people think of you was to be vulnerable in your daily life. The author mentioned lots of ways to be vulnerable regularly (blogging was included!) and making the first move toward starting a friendship is certainly one of them.
- You have to put yourself in situations where friendship can bloom. Best thing I did to meet new people here? Join an adult sports team.
Going to meet-up groups, happy hours, bars and coffee shops where other people your age hang out ups your chances of making a friend. Put yourself there.
- It takes time. Think about it this way: when you’re in grade/high school, oftentimes your friends have known you for 10 years. They’ve seen you through your awkward phase, they know your family and you spent every day inside the same walls of your high school. In college, you literally lived with your friends, in many cases. As adults, we often spend 40 hours a week working. Then we have to run errands. And exercise. And have romantic relationships. And a million other things. Our friends aren’t in our lives for as many hours. It takes time to get close to them.
- You’re probably not being creepy. I know I’ve complained about this before, but I think my generation uses the terms “creepy” and “awkward” WAY TOO OFTEN. Talking to someone is not creepy and it is not awkward. Be genuine, don’t ask super personal questions and act like a human being, and you’re probably not being creepy. If someone thinks you’re creepy for talking to them like a normal human, they’re probably a square that you don’t want to hang out with anyway.
- It’s not you, it’s LIFE. When someone can’t make it to hang out or seems to have an impossible schedule, it’s probably because they really do have an impossible schedule and a lot of responsibility. Don’t take it personally.
- Invest in yourself. This blog came about when I decided to start living a bit more intentionally, thinking through things a bit more thoroughly and working toward being a slightly more interesting person. As a result, I’ve learned two coding languages, read a bunch of books and met a ton of other really interesting people. Do something that makes you interesting. Even if it requires you to invest a little bit in a hobby.
- You have to be your own best friend, too. I’m not denying the fact that we all need social interaction. But there’s a certain power in being able to be alone with yourself and enjoy your own company..to be content spending an entire day going places, eating in restaurants, shopping… ALONE. If you don’t want to hang out with yourself, why would anyone else want to hang out with you?
- A smile goes a long way. Trust me on this one. Smile at people and look them in the eye. Servers, checkout people, coworkers, etc. SMILE and be nice. Karma is real people, karma is REAL.
Let’s discuss: what have you found to be the most difficult aspect of making friends outside of your school years? What’s the best thing you did for yourself to make them?