By Kathryn Mangen, master’s student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program.
Do you ever wonder how you made friends so easily in elementary school? You would walk up to someone and say, “Hey, do you wanna be my friend?” and it was settled.
Now as we enter into adulthood, having potentially moved to a new state for school, leaving old friends behind, it seems much hard to make friends and especially hard to maintain them. However, social support and relationships are imperative connections in our busy lives. So, how do you maintain a lasting friendship in adulthood? Read below to find out.
Four key tips to making new friends as an adult
To begin, we need to be patient. Friendship takes time, and unfortunately, it is not as easy as it was on the playground. A study out of Kansas (Burgess, 2018) concluded that it can take up to 50 hours for two strangers to become casual friends, 90 hours for two people to form a friendship, and 200 hours to consider this person a close friend. Practicing patience is key to allowing a strong, meaningful friendship to blossom.
2. Shared experience
Friendship is often based on a shared experience. Something the two of you have had the chance to enjoy together, whether it be scary or fun (Forgeron, Chorney, Carlson, Dick, & Plante, 2015). So, picking a ceramic class or going to see the newest action movie may be what links the memory to the person, allowing you to feel closer to them. Better yet, recognizing your common interests grants the opportunity to feel understood by one another and feeling like your new friend is interested in you (Forgeron et al., 2015).
3. Try something new
One way to share an experience would be to try something new. Perhaps you find a new club on campus, stop by the coffee shop you always pass on your way home or join a local Facebook group. Whatever it be, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something out of the ordinary is a novel experience—something you will remember, and likely link that experience to the new person you may have met (Forgeron et al., 2015).
4. Utilize the internet
Now I know, the internet can have a bit of a bad rap, but there are some benefits to the age of the web. Wang and Wellman (2010) found that the internet can actually increase the likelihood of new friends while improving current friendships. Sites such as Facebook allow you to connect with old friends while finding groups for new friendships to flourish. Perhaps you reconnect with a friend from ten years ago, finding out that they now have similar interests.
Now comes the challenging step, though: making these friendships last. You did all you could to meet new people and branch out, but how do you keep them close?
Maintaining new friendships
Share compassion and kindness. For some of us, making new friends may be easier than maintaining friends. It is certainly easy to say yes to someone and then never follow through. Maybe they have more of a negative effect than you originally thought, causing you to get annoyed with their tendencies. Practicing compassion and kindness can allow you to relate to your new friend and listen to who they are and what they are saying (Berry, Willingham, & Thayer, 2000). Be curious about who they are, rather than dismissive. This little piece of empathy can go a long way.
Be present. When you’re with your new friend, be with that new friend. Practice being present in the moment. Of course, it is easier said than done, as we now all have phones that hold an abundance of possibilities. Putting your phone down, listening, and feeling present with your friend will allow you to feel like you know them. Connect. Allow the shared experience to happen – and truly listen.
Recognize the differences in friendships. Finally, take a moment to remember that not every friendship is the same. Some friends you will see every day, others you will see every other year. In practicing the strategies above, you can maintain the important relationship you have when you are with them.
Adult friendships may not have the elementary school playground as a source of initiation, but there are many ways to make friends now. Good luck as you navigate the complexities of life and forming lasting friendships, but most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it!
If you would like additional support navigating the realities of this time, the CSU Center for Family and Couple Therapy has registered counselors available to meet with you now. The CFCT is currently providing all Colorado residents low-cost individual, couple, and family online video sessions during daytime and evening hours to fit your schedule. To schedule an appointment, please call (970) 491-5991 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Berry, D. S., Willingham, J. K., & Thayer, C. A. (2000). Affect and personality as predictors of Conflict and closeness in young adults’ friendships. Journal of Research in Personality, 34(1), 84-107. https://doi.org/10.1006/jrpe.1999.2271
Burgess, K. (2018, April 24). A stranger can become your friend in 90 hours. Retrieved from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a-stranger-can-become-your-friend-in-90-hours-sxtqqvzm0
Forgeron, P. A., Chorney, J. M., Carlson, T. E., Dick, B. D., & Plante, E. (2015). To befriend or not: Naturally developing friendships amongst a clinical group of adolescents with chronic pain. Pain Management Nursing, 16(5), 721-732doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2015.04.003
Wang, H., & Wellman, B. (2010). Social connectivity in America: Changes in adult friendship network size from 2002 to 2007. American Behavioral Scientist, 53(8), 1148-1169. Doi:10.1177/0002764209356247