6 Tips for making friends as an adult

Starting new friendships as an adult can feel difficult and intimidating. During childhood, you could meet new people who were in similar life stages through school or extracurricular activities. But when we’re fully engaged in adulting, our lives tend to become more consumed with changes and obligations that differ for each person, from romantic partners to young children to long work hours. 

However, studies show that close friendships can have a profound impact on your overall health and happiness. According to a 2010 report in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, having strong social ties can even boost your immune system and help you live longer. So how do you make (and keep) friends as an adult? Here are our six top tips.

Group of adults laughing together.

Table of contents

1. Keep a positive mindset2. Initiate, initiate, initiate3. Practice vulnerability4. Accept invitations5. Look out for local events and group meetups 6. Use your network

1. Keep a positive mindset

First and foremost, making new friends requires stepping beyond your comfort zone and putting yourself out there. If you experience social anxiety or fear of rejection, try to confront your inner voice and adjust any negative assumptions you might have about how people will respond to you. 

A 1980s study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that volunteers who believed that a person they were interacting with liked (or disliked) them began to act in ways that made this belief more likely to come true. This suggests that if you go into social situations with the confidence that most people will like you, it’s more likely that this will actually be the case. Remind yourself of your likeable qualities and be open to the possibilities.

2. Initiate, initiate, initiate

This step is particularly important for people who find themselves in new social settings, whether you’ve recently moved to a new city or started a new job. The best way to initiate a friendly interaction with a stranger is by sparking up a conversation and putting your communication skills to work. But how? 

One simple way to approach this is to say hello, offer an observation or insight that applies to the current situation, and then follow it up with a question. For example, if it’s your first day at a new job, introduce yourself to a colleague and tell them, briefly, about your position. Then ask: “What is your role?” or “How long have you been with the company?” 

Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is open to having a conversation with strangers at all times. Before you initiate a chat, be sure to pay attention to what the person is doing: Do they seem upset, hyper-focused, or in a hurry? If so, you might try again later—or with someone else.

3. Practice vulnerability

Studies have found that when strangers are getting to know one another, the more they each share about themselves, the more they end up liking one another. What’s more: good rapport often ramps up when people realize they have something in common—so if you’re looking for ways to deepen your connections, don’t be afraid to get vulnerable. If you want to establish deep, meaningful friendships, ask other people thoughtful questions that get them to share about themselves, practice active listening, and be ready to open up to others about yourself, too.

Group of adults with their arms around each other on top of a mountain at sunset.

4. Accept invitations

If someone invites you to do something, try your best to make it happen. If you’re experiencing social anxiety, remind yourself that this person invited you to get together because they want to spend time in your presence. If you’re sick or busy and have to decline their invite, make an effort to reschedule the plans and put them on the calendar so you’ll remain accountable. 

5. Look out for local events and group meetups

Find an event, class, or meetup that you want to attend using local directories or social media. If you can, it’s best to sign up for activities that give you multiple opportunities to connect with a group of people, such as a book club, a language class, or a hiking group.

6. Use your network

Leaning on your current connections can be a great way to meet people. At work, mention to a coworker that you’re looking to grow your social circle, or consider inviting your colleagues to go out for drinks after work or attend a yoga class. You can also reach out to old friends or acquaintances, like former roommates. 

Go through your contact list and reach out by asking to grab a coffee or talk a long walk to catch up. You probably have plenty of shared experience to bond over, and you might even revive an old friendship or expand your circle of friends. 

Establishing a connection is the first step in creating a new friendship, but to transition from strangers to good friends, you have to follow up and make plans on an ongoing basis. Research shows that forming a friendship can take up to 90 hours and becoming best friends can take more than double that time. 

So make sure you’re regularly reaching out to your new friends—the best way to make and keep new friends in adulthood is to show an interest in the things that are important to them and be present in their life.

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