Making friends as an adult can be a challenge. Not only are we busy with work and family, but we adults tend to become less open as we age. In adolescence, we start developing a shell to protect us from rejection, embarrassment, and vulnerability. While your five-year-old self became instant besties with a new kid every week, as an adult you may struggle to ask a coworker to check out the new yoga studio together.
Does it matter? Isn’t life busy and full enough without friends?
Making Adult Friends is About Mindset and Effort
Thinking of making adult friends as you think of maintaining your adult body. It takes effort and intention you never needed as a kid. You have to make space, show up, and repeatedly exercise specific muscles.
- Do your (mind) stretches: The first exercise to practice is having a growth mindset. Think of building friendships as a move that grows and enriches your life. You’ll want to plant as many friendship seeds as possible without overthinking if you have too many friends or if that person’s age, race, religion, career, interests, or marital status perfectly aligns with yours.
- Put in the reps: Try new things, attend classes, ask coworkers to lunch, accept invitations, and follow up on new connections.
- Relax those muscles: Not only will you have to risk rejection to move a relationship from acquaintance into friendship, but you’ll also have to open up a bit about yourself and be vulnerable. But take it slow: the right amount of vulnerability at the right stage in a friendship can draw two people together, while an early info dump can push them apart.
- Do the heavy lifting: Possibly the best way to make friends is to be the person that organizes events, includes new people, and makes introductions. If your social anxiety just kicked into overdrive, fear not. One strategy is to organize a group for a service project. Serve dinner at a women’s shelter or clean up a park. Not calling it a social event (even though that’s your goal) relieves the pressure from everyone and puts the focus on service.
Seven Places to Start Finding Friends as An Adult
- Attend local events and meetups: Look for events in your community that align with your interests. Book clubs, hobby groups, fitness classes, adult rec leagues, community gardens, community committees, and hiking groups are all excellent ways to meet like-minded women.
- Join online communities: Participate in online forums, Facebook groups, and other specialized platforms that cater to people with similar interests. Participate, share your knowledge, and organize a group meetup.
- Volunteer for causes you care about. Getting involved with local charities, nonprofit organizations, or community initiatives is a win-win move. You’ll make a difference and meet people who share your values.
- Take up a new hobby or class: Enroll in a cooking class series, art workshop, or any activity that interests you. It’s an opportunity to meet new people while exploring a new skill.
- Attend networking events: Look for professional networking events in your industry or local area. If you’re nervous about going alone, invite a friend or coworker and make it a game to see who can introduce themselves to the most people.
- Leverage your existing connections: Reach out to friends, colleagues, or acquaintances and tell them about your interest in expanding your social circle. They can make introductions or invite you to events where you can meet people with similar interests.
- Coworkers, the parents of your kids’ friends, and your neighbors are all obvious choices. Maybe you’ve been unconsciously writing these people off because they aren’t your exact age, or you think your interests don’t align. Take a fresh look with an open mind and ask them about themselves while actively listening. Sally in accounting may turn out to surprise you!
Four Moves for Maintaining Adult Friendships
- Be proactive: Take the initiative to reach out and make the first move. Don’t wait for others to approach you. It really is as simple as “ask, and you shall receive.”
- Practice active listening: When having that coffee date, show genuine interest and actively listen to what the other person is saying. Ask open-ended questions. Active listening helps build rapport and shows that you value the time they’re giving you.
- Follow up and stay connected: Don’t let the connection fade away after meeting someone new. Follow up with a friendly message, invite them for another activity, share something you think they’d find interesting, or ask about their recent vacation. Building a friendship requires consistent effort and thoughtfulness.
- Have a standing date: Make spots on your calendar for the things you’d like to do. It could be weekday coffee for two, a Saturday hike, or an annual girls’ weekend. Then work to fill that spot by inviting, following up, and being open to new ideas and people.
The biggest myth about adult friendships is that we can magically “find our tribe.” Our future friends aren’t out there waiting in a huddle for us to discover them. Be patient and persistent. Building meaningful friendships in adulthood takes time.
Keep planting seeds and doing the work, and you will build your tribe.