You may have over 1,000 friends on Facebook, but your true, real-life friends may be few and far between. Making friends as an adult isn’t as easy as it was back in the days of recess and summer camp. After high school, a social breeding zone, there’s college where you live, eat, and learn alongside thousands of people your own age. Post-college life marks a dramatic shift where it gets harder to make new friends. Science has looked at the issue of adult friendships and found that without serious work and effort, it all goes downhill once you hit your late 20s.
Even as friends become harder to make, they remain a vital part of life. Friends help determine your sense of self and your life’s direction. They’re who you turn to when things aren’t going well at work or your partner is driving you crazy. But without the ease of your school years, how are you supposed to make friends without looking like a desperate mess? Fear not; there are options.
1. Join a club or activity
Take a cue from where you met your friends in high school and college. Did you meet playing sports or were you in a band together? Extracurricular activities are friendship breeding grounds. Recreate this friend-heavy atmosphere by getting involved in some of the same activities as an adult. Most cities have adult sports leagues, community events, and classes that will bring you together with adults who have similar interests.
2. Follow up
Once you’ve had a few conversations with someone and have made it far enough to exchange phone numbers, take it to the next step by following up with them. Did they mention they were heading to Aruba for vacation? Text a week later to ask how it went. People like it when you remember details of their life. Once you’ve opened the door of communication a natural conversation can begin, which may lead to future plans.
3. Become a regular
Is there a coffee shop you love or a bar that makes you feel comfortable? Don’t shy away from becoming a regular. If you spend time with the same people day after day, they’ll begin to feel familiar and you’ll naturally develop a bond. Make an effort to be friendly with the barista or bartender, tip well, and keep an eye out for other lone regulars who may also be fishing for a friend.
4. Be vulnerable
This can be a hard one. It’s hard enough to feel vulnerable with a romantic partner, but considering that vulnerability is the key to emotional bonding there’s no way around it. If you never open yourself up to another person, the friendship will feel superficial and meaningless. This means divulging your challenges with weight loss or your frustration at work. It can also mean signing up for an activity that makes you uncomfortable, which will then naturally lead you to search for comfort and support from those around you. It’s the perfect way to meet a new friend.
5. Use your kids or pets
If you have a kid, you have an instant ticket into the dad’s club. You can chat with other dads about everything from diapers to the dreaded teenage years and your common ground may lead to the discovery that you have a similar interest in lacrosse or punk rock music. If you’re a puppy parent, head to the local dog park and let your pooch do the work.
6. Open up to your co-workers
Considering you spend at least eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, and 2,880 hours a year with your co-workers, work should be one of the first places you look to meet new friends. You can bond over inside jokes, annoying cube mates, and a mutual frustration with the higher-ups. To top it off, work makes for an easy transition to out of office bonding over lunch or a post-work happy hour.