Many adults find it difficult to make friends. In grade school and college, you may have been surrounded by people and had so many solid relationships that you barely had time for them all. As people graduate and go their separate ways, though, they tend to focus time on partners and family, forgetting about their friendships until they realize that their social circles have gotten incredibly small.
The good news is that you probably still have the skills now that you did when you were surrounded by friends. Even if you don't, you can always develop them. Here are a few tips to refresh your memory.
Adopt a Positive Mindset About Yourself
Many people have a hard time getting started when it comes to making new friends. They are lonely and want that to change, but deep down they suspect it's their own fault. Inevitably, they then behave as if being disconnected is all they can expect or that maybe it's even what they deserve.
Examine your own self-talk to see if your opinion of yourself may be holding you back. You may not embrace the extreme of thinking you actually deserve to be alone, but you may believe that no one is interested in getting to know you. Start by being your own friend by reminding yourself of the many redeeming qualities that make you an excellent person to know. This confidence boost may be just what you need to encourage you to ask that fascinating acquaintance you recently met over for a cup of coffee.
Join a Group
One reason it's so easy to make friends in college is that students have built-in opportunities to see the same people on a regular basis. Every time they show up for class or a student organization meeting, they have another chance to forge connections with those around them.
You can recreate this phenomenon later in adulthood. You can actually sign up for continuing education classes through the public library or the local community college. Alternatively, you can join a group that centers around one of your interests:
- Local political group
- Book club
- Nonprofit organization
You don't have to add five new things to the calendar every month. Just joining one new group can help you meet new people with whom you already have at least one thing in common.
Make the First Move
Every friendship starts with a conversation. Few people enjoy being the first one to say hello, but someone has to do it. The little bit of bravery it takes for you to walk up to someone and initiate an interaction can have a big payoff in the long run. Remember that the other person is probably just as nervous as you are and is likely to be grateful that you made the first move.
Don't Force It
Not every conversation you start is going to lead to a deep, lasting friendship, and that's OK. It's important to know when to pursue someone further and when to let go. People who seem noncommittal often act that way on purpose. It's better to stop texting them or constantly adjusting your schedule to spend time with them than to put a lot of effort into something that will probably eventually fizzle out anyway.
Making new friends as an adult may not be as easy as it was when you were younger, but it's not impossible. You just need to go back to the basics that you used when you were in college or high school. Find ways to meet new people, and give them the chance to get to know how great a friend you can be.