The average American hasn't made a new friend in 5 years — here are 12 tips for changing that
- To make friends, find a hobby that you enjoy so that you can meet others with similar interests.
- It's also important to initiate plans and stay consistent so that your relationship can develop.
- You can also try using
friendshipapps to meet people, like Bumble BFF or Friender.
If you have trouble making new friends, you are far from alone.
A 2019 survey of 2,000 US adults found that 45% of people find it challenging to make new friends. They also found that the average American hasn't made a new friend in five years.
Add this to the fact that a 2018 survey of 20,000 Americans found that 46% of respondents always feel lonely. It's clear that American adults could benefit from making new friends. Not to mention, having solid friendships is healthy and linked to longevity and a reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease..
However, making new friends is easier said than done.
Here are 12 tips for making new friends as an adult.
1. Be yourself
First things first, always stay true to yourself. If you start off a friendship with lies, you might feel compelled to keep up the act and continue to be someone other than your genuine self.
2. Take baby steps
Take things slow at first in order to avoid overwhelming yourself or your potential friend. This could mean that you only hang out once a week or less to start.
Additionally, take note of how the potential friend responds to requests to hang out, and be aware of how busy they are with responsibilities at home and work.
"Gradually building a relationship is a great way to ensure that trust and safety are incorporated into the friendship from the beginning," says Phillips.
It's also okay to wait a bit before sharing more vulnerable things about yourself or your family like trauma or mental health struggles.
"It's okay to learn one another gradually, and let the relationship shape itself naturally," says Phillips.
That being said, being vulnerable eventually is key to a flourishing friendship. A 2020 paper found that cultivating vulnerability is one of the best ways to strengthen a friendship, whether you are the one in need of support or providing support.
3. Find a hobby
Not only does picking up a hobby or pursuing passions offer personal gains, they also result in opportunities to meet like-minded people who can potentially be your friend, since you'll already have something in common to talk about.
"Joining clubs, kickball teams, D&D groups, or community organizations will widen the pool and offer you the necessary introductory conversations to begin fostering a connection," says Ashera DeRosa, LMFT, therapist at Whole Stories Therapy.
4. Ask questions
Once you've found yourself in a group or team, don't be afraid to start asking questions to break the ice. For example, you can ask someone how they first got into that particular hobby or sport, or ask for tips on how to do something, says DeRosa.
Opening up the dialogue is the hardest part, and once you've done that, you can continue to make progress with your conversation and get to know someone better.
5. Look for common ground
Connecting with someone who's in similar shoes to you is a great way to start a friendship, says DeRosa.
For example, if you're a new mom, try to connect with other new moms in the area through local mom Facebook groups. It's likely that you'll be able to relate to each others' struggles and provide great support for one another.
A large 2017 study found that pairs of friends were very much alike in terms of what they valued and how they enjoyed spending their free time. Researchers also found that these similarities are most important at the beginning of a friendship.
"That being said, don't write someone off if their life right now looks very different than yours. Having a variety of friends adds different perspectives to your life," says DeRosa.
6. Initiate plans
While you might feel awkward or embarrassed to ask someone new to hang out with you, it's important to step out of your comfort zone and make moves, says Nicole Sbordone, LCSW, social worker in private practice.
It can be as simple as asking, "Would you want to get coffee?" or "Would you ever want to hang out?" It may help to remember that your potential friend likely feels the same way about being nervous to make a first move.
Another option is to initiate plans in a way that feels less intimidating to you. A 2007 study found that people with social anxiety prefer text messaging over phone calls –– so if you're anxious about making plans over the phone, try texting instead.
7. Practice getting back out into the world
If you've been working remotely and typically stay at home all day, making new friends can feel extra daunting.
You can get more comfortable by purposefully going out to different places (as long as it's safe to do so), even if it's just to the supermarket instead of ordering your groceries for delivery.
Getting out there and experiencing human connection, no matter how small, can help you gain some social confidence, says Sbordone.
8. Use friendship apps
While we typically associate apps with dating, apps can be helpful for making friends, too.
This method is particularly useful if you're a very busy person, since it's easier to open an app to discover potential friends rather than joining a club or team, for example. Plus, it only takes up as much time as you're willing to commit to it, whether that's a few minutes a day or several hours.
To start making new connections, try some of the following apps:
- Bumble (there is a Bumble BFF feature)
- Hey! VINA (a friendship app for women, created by women)
- WINK (swipe through potential friends locally or around the world)
- Friender (discover new friends specifically with similar interests)
9. Search for relevant meetups
You can look for meetups relevant to your interests on meetup.com, says Sbordone..
Whether it's a book club, game night, or meetup for professionals in your industry, you're sure to find something that you'll be into.
Additionally, you can look for meetups specifically for people looking to make new friends, which can make things a little easier for you.
10. Stay consistent
Don't forget that friendships require maintenance, says DeRosa. Periodically invite your new friend to hang out and make future plans so they know you want to stay connected with them.
Spending time together consistently is crucial for a burgeoning friendship. In fact, according to a 2018 study, it takes about 30 hours of time spent together for a casual friendship to form.
On the flip side, if they cancel plans constantly or ignore your texts, they might not be in a place where they can have a genuine, consistent friendship.
A 2020 paper found that unsurprisingly, the relationships that result in the most satisfaction are the ones where there is mutual reciprocity.
"Finding someone who can return the amount of energy you're sending is important to build a friendship out of an acquaintance," says DeRosa.
11. Meet up in public at first
Whether you've met a potential friend in person or online, you should opt to meet on public neutral grounds, like a coffee shop or restaurant.
"This way, if it doesn't go well, both parties can choose to leave at any time. This helps prevent awkward moments if it doesn't go well, and there's not an easy or polite way to make an exit," says Phillips.
If your first couple of public hangouts go well, you can move on to hanging out at one of your homes, if you wish.
12. Pay attention to red flags
Red flags aren't just for romantic relationships. Phillips says you should pay attention to your gut feelings when you think something might be off.
She says some red flags at the start of a friendship could include:
- If they don't make room for you in a conversation, only talking about themselves without allowing you to contribute.
- If they tell you your opinions, decisions, or life choices are wrong.
- If they say mean or hurtful things about other people behind their backs.
- If they ask for favors right away, such as asking you to lend them money, drive them places, or watch their kids.
If you aren't comfortable with the new friendship, you aren't obligated to continue it. "It's better to cut things off in the early stages rather than letting the relationship progress and finding yourself having to end a friendship at the cost of someone's feelings," says Phillips.
Making friends can feel intimidating, especially if you're out of practice and haven't met new people in a while.
However, initiating and growing long-lasting friendships is important for your health as studies show it can help boost confidence, happiness, and overall wellbeing.
The hardest part of making new friends is getting started. Follow the tips outlined in this article to step out of your comfort zone and create new genuine connections. You'll have some new friends in no time.
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