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How to Make Friends as a Grown-Up

How do you make friends? Has it become more difficult as you’ve gotten older? Do you struggle to find ways to meet new people?

I’ve recently had several clients ask me how to make friends as an adult. And living in Vancouver, Canada, I often hear that it’s really hard to make new friends because the city isn’t all that friendly. But is that really true? That hasn’t been my experience, so let’s explore what’s going on here.

Where Do You Go to Meet New People?

All you have to do is leave the house and you’ve already increased your opportunity to make new friends. That is the easy part. Here are a few ideas on where to meet new people to get you started:

  • Work

  • School

  • Night classes

  • Dog park

  • Volunteer Work

  • Meet-Ups

  • Workshops

  • Sports teams

  • In your building/neighbourhood

  • Current friends

Just a note: If you are participating in workshops, classes or other activities, make sure it’s something you actually like to do, not just something you think would be good for meeting people!

Another option is to reconnect with old friends with whom you think it might be worthwhile to re-establish a relationship.

How Do You Make New Friends?

This is where we get hung up. Most of us are presented with many opportunities to make new friends, but we’re not taking them. Maybe we don’t know how to take them. I really get the sense that this is where we get stuck. We meet new people, but how do we progress from there? How do we grow a one-off encounter into a friendship?

Making a friend involves taking a risk. As we get older, I think we have a tendency to be less willing to take risks, especially personal ones - whether it’s because we are worried about what other people are going to think, don’t feel we have the time or energy, or believe people won’t like us. It’s not that we’re not meeting new people, it’s that we’re not as willing to put ourselves out there as we used to be. With that in mind, here is my recipe for making new friends:

  1. Go out on a limb and take a risk. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. Why should it be up to someone else to choose you as a friend? You can choose them! Invite someone you’ve met and like to go for a coffee or attend an event. Just ask. It’s amazing what we get when we just ask for what we want.

  2. Be consistent. Keep up the communication with someone you’d like to befriend. Email, text or call them regularly. Friendships are created, they don’t just magically happen, which means you need to invest some work into creating them.

  3. Don’t give up. If the person you’d like to befriend can’t make it the first time you suggest getting together, a) don’t take it personally, and b) try again. Them being unavailable doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it simply means they are unavailable. Try again. Give it a good three tries before you move on to the next person.

  4. Be patient. Establishing a friendship takes time, and certainly more than two or three coffees or nights out. It can take months, if not years to establish a deep bond. Putting in the effort now will pay off in the long run.

  5. Don’t limit yourself to one new friend. Make several. The more the merrier (to a point of course, you only have so much time).

Why Are You Doing All the Work?

I found a nice little blurb on about initiating plans:

Initiate plans. Many of us will invite someone out once, then think it's the other person's turn. If she doesn't step up, we assume she doesn't like us, because our fear of rejection is so high. What you should be thinking is: Did that person say yes? Did we have a good time? Great. Repeat. As long as she says yes two out of four times, keep asking. Most relationships have a primary initiator; the other person may give in different ways—she could be the primary listener.”

Some people are initiators, and some are not. If you are an initiator, it can be frustrating to feel like you are always the one doing the organizing. If it really bothers you, have a conversation about it with your new friend. Using the feedback formula is helpful. Otherwise, take pleasure in the fact that you’ve connected with someone new and find a way to accept your role as initiator.

Meeting new friends. It doesn’t have to be hard, it just take a dash of risk and a pinch of effort, and before you know it, you’ve made a new friend.

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