Content and Editorial Director
I distinctly remember my first day of kindergarten and the friend I made within minutes. Amanda was the first of lots of pals I made that day, many of whom I still know. Throughout my life, I’ve never found it difficult to forge deep and lasting connections with people quickly. Which has got me wondering lately — why does it seem so hard to make friends now that I’m older? And how do I fix it?
One obvious reason is situational. I’m not in school anymore, where friendships form organically. Since I don’t have kids, I’m not coming into contact with other moms. Plus, I work from home and Zoom meetings don’t exactly help to foster friendships. Lots of people are facing these challenges and others. Many of us are working remotely or moving to new cities where we don’t know anyone. Some of us have gone through divorces in which the ex-spouse got custody of the friends. However, that doesn’t mean we have to live solitary lives. Here are some ways to forge meaningful friendships, no matter your age or situation.
Cultivate Existing Friendships
This is akin to the idea of “shopping in your own closet.” Maybe you have acquaintances you sense could become close friends with some time and attention. Reach out to them and make plans. And then put some time into cultivating the relationship, because it will take time. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships calculated that, on average, it takes about 50 hours with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends and about 200 hours to become close friends. So consider whose company you already enjoy, and then take the time to convert these acquaintances into valuable relationships.
Prioritize Your “Superconnectors”
There is one person through whom I’ve met the vast majority of my closest friends over the years. And my experience isn’t uncommon. Odds are you’ve met a disproportionate number of your friends through just a handful of people. These are your “superconnectors.” They’re the ones who can provide you with an ongoing supply of potential high-quality friends, so make it a priority to spend time with them. You could even ask them if there’s anyone they think you should meet. Mine that rich vein for as many valuable new friendships as possible.
Put Yourself Out There
That “superconnector” I mentioned? I met him in my early 20s when I crashed his party. My friend mentioned she was going and I told her, in no uncertain terms, I was coming along. And it changed my life. I’m not usually quite that brazen, but I have found the more things I say “yes” to, the more friends I make. A concert at the Hollywood Bowl. A wine tasting in Malibu. A last-minute ski trip to Mammoth. These have all led to lasting, later-in-life friendships. So these days, I’m trying to accept, and extend, more invitations.
Become a Joiner
Many pal-seeking people have found that joining a group is an almost effortless way to develop deep friendships as an adult. A book club, a games night, a hiking group — the type of organization doesn’t matter, so long as you enjoy it. Interestingly, according to a University of Oxford study, singing has been shown to be a particularly effective way to cement friendships. And while I won’t be joining a local choir any time soon, I just might consider participating in a dinner club in the foreseeable future.
Get a Dog
Making new friends in your neighborhood is a special pleasure, and a great way to do so is by walking a dog. A recent study involving 2,000 dog owners found they have met an average of four new people through their pet while out for walks or at puppy training classes. Dogs are a natural icebreaker, allowing people to start conversations instead of simply passing by.
Try an App
It might seem weird to Bumble for besties, but lots of people are doing just that. Start by downloading the Bumble app, and selecting the mode that matches you with friends instead of romantic partners. Upload photos, and give an honest evaluation of yourself and what you’re looking for. To give your future friends an even better glimpse into your personality, consider linking your Spotify and Instagram accounts to your profile. And who knows? You might just swipe your way to a new soulmate.
If you’re looking for new friends, no matter your age, consider putting some of these ideas into practice. With a bit of effort and a little luck, your foray into friendship-finding just might net you a calendar full of friends who nourish and enrich your adult life.
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