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What once came second nature as a child, is now one of the hardest things to do as an adult. No longer in need of a friend at the lunch table, we now need friends capable of much bigger duties: holding our child’s hand when we can’t, lending an ear while weighing a difficult decision, or providing a shoulder during a tragic event. Making friends amidst life’s crazy adventures has many adults trying to figure out exactly how to bypass the initial awkwardness to ultimately find that close circle of friends, but as we will soon explain, you should try to embrace it fully and throw yourself out there.
Why is it important that we make friends as adults? According to Mayoclinic.org, having friends has multiple benefits on your overall health and well-being, to include increasing your sense of belonging, purpose, happiness, self-confidence, and self-worth, as well as reducing stress. If loneliness isn’t a big enough reason to reach out, perhaps a boost in self-worth is.
1. Don’t be Afraid to Put Yourself Out There
Much like the world of online dating, dating friends can also be done via social media. If you’re lucky enough to be a part of a neighborhood, school, or community that has an online social site in place, don’t be afraid to place an “ad”. Throw yourself out there and let people know you are interested in the company of good friends. Be sure to list the things you like to do — child play dates, run, coffee, spend the summer by the pool. Keep the list specific, short, and inviting. More than likely, you’ll be surprised by the number of responses you get! Respond right away and plan a date in the very near future so that the excitement remains on both ends. Be sure to follow up with another date soon after so your friendship isn’t short-lived.
2. Know Your Neighbor
Get to know your neighbors. No, really. In an age of technology and social media, where we don’t even have to leave our home (or actually look into another person’s eyes) to have a conversation any more, it’s easy to go day to day not knowing the people that eat, sleep, and live directly next to you. Perhaps you wave hello in the mornings on your way to work or while mowing the lawn, but when was the last time you shared a meal, brought them a plate of warm cookies, or held a conversation longer than “Hello”?
Getting to know your neighbors not only leads to hopefully lasting friendships, but also increases the safety of your neighborhood and will provide you and your neighbor with the occasional favor, such as watering plants or watching the family pet while away on vacation.
3. Say Yes to Birthday Parties
Yes, you most likely get plenty throughout the school year, no matter what grade your child is in. If you are trying to make friends, and you are invested in getting to know your children’s friends as well, it’s important that you RSVP “Yes“. It may seem awkward at first, especially if you don’t know any of the parents, but attending parties is a great way to get to know the other parents on a social level, rather than always in a school setting at a school function. Remember, they invited you, so take the offer with a smile, have fun, remember people’s names, and be sure to follow-up with “what a great time we had” the next time you see them at drop-off. Also, return the favor when it comes time for your own child’s birthday party.
4. Draw Upon your Passions and Build on it
When you find something that you love doing, it becomes even better when you have a good friend to share it with. One of the best ways to meet people is to join an interest group — or really a group of people practicing the hobby that you love while helping one another to grow. Bonding with others over a shared interest is a definite friendship starter. Interest groups can be running clubs, art clubs, book clubs, writing workshops, photography workshops, or even various parenting groups.
5. Maintain a Schedule & Be Consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to forming and maintaining a friendship. If you build a consistent schedule each day or week, more than likely you will begin to run into the same people on a consistent basis. For example, plan to hit the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at the same time each week and you are certain to see familiar faces. You are also more likely to strike up a friendship with someone who has also built in the same routine as you.
6. Scour your Friend List on Social Media
More than likely, whether you still live in the same town you grew up in or you’ve moved away, you have a “facebook friend” that lives near you. They are one of those people that way back in the days of high school or college you might not have had much in common with, yet thanks to social media, you now know her kids’ names, where they vacationed this summer, and perhaps what she made for dinner last night. As an adult, interests change and so do people, so reach out to former acquaintances and plan a play date with the kids, a quick coffee, or walk around a park. Catch up in person and you may just find a friend that you didn’t realize was right in front of you the whole time.
Volunteer your time to a cause close to your heart and you’ll meet others with the same kind of compassion. Whether it’s at your child’s school, animal shelter, retirement home, or homeless shelter, find a place that could use your helping hands. It is often said that the more you give of yourself, the more you will receive in return. You’re bound to come across new people with your same interests while also doing something that helps others and makes you feel good about yourself at the same time.
8. Arrive Early
Always arrive early. Whether it’s to a gym class, a work meeting, daycare/school drop off and pick up, or an extracurricular activity for your child, arriving late consistently and in a hurry ensures that you won’t see many of the other parents, nor will you have the time to say hello or plan a quick playdate. Arriving early allows you the opportunity to be seen with consistency and to strike-up small talk, or at least say hello. Tie in the fact that you’ll be much more approachable with your calm and collective demeanor, rather than rushing in late anxiety-ridden, you’ll be sure to make a friend or two.
9. Meet and Repeat
Keep in mind that the first play date, coffee date, or casual hang out shouldn’t be your last, even if first impressions don’t ignite an immediate friendship. Often when we are with new people, anxieties run high and we are less likely to open up right away. Conversation can be dry, even a little awkward — keep in mind this person is a mere stranger at first. Set up another get together in the near future right after the first to keep the momentum going, even if the first get together wasn’t as exciting as you had wished. Building upon experiences with this person will only enrich the relationship between the two of you and will open up lines of communication for deeper, more meaningful conversation.
10. Put Forth Effort
As simple as it seems, this golden rule goes back to the days of childhood: cultivating relationships takes time and effort. For adults, the need to put forth effort is heightened even more so as our lives are consumed by family needs and careers, among many other things. Gone are the days where friends were easily made on the school playground or the college dorm. Gone are the days when your friendships weren’t stressed by real-life responsibilities and major life changes: marriages, children, divorce, severe illness, and death to name a few. Be sure to cultivate the friendships you make as an adult by being loyal, dependable, giving, and caring. Take interest in others. Listen. Be supportive and encouraging. Smile. Laugh, a lot. Do for them as you hope they would do for you.