How to Make New Friends as Adults: 14 Tips That Have Worked For Me
Updated: Feb 21
When was the last time you made a new friend? How many new friends did you make in the past 2 years? Have you found it more challenging to make new friends as an adult, especially during the pandemic?
Well, you are not alone.
As adults, there is little time and energy left for friendship while constantly juggling our work, family, and miscellaneous duties. We no longer get designated "play time" every day with friends. Therefore, we need to be especially more proactive and intentional if we want to make new friends.
During the pandemic, I relocated to a new city after graduation, and began a new life. I managed to make new friends over the past year through trial-and-error. I have therefore compiled a list of tips for making new friends that have worked for me (including some of my personal failures...). I hope you find these tips useful as well!
Have the right mindset
💡 1. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Don't expect others to perfectly match all your criteria as a friend. In fact, it's probably a horrible idea to have a fixed expectation in the first place! More requirements will lower the chances of finding a friend. Accept the fact that there are no "perfect" friends, but everyone you meet will have something you can learn from.
💡 2. Be patient. Don’t expect to spot your soul mate “at first sight”. Friendships take time to develop. You may simply need more time together to find out all your commonalities. Deciding too soon that they are not your cup of tea perhaps means missing out on prospective friendships.
Participate in regular social activities you enjoy
💡 3. Regularly attend events and do activities you enjoy. Since friendships take time to build, join in recurring events to meet people with similar interests.
For example, during my graduate studies, despite a packed schedule balancing research, teaching and classes, I maintained my social well-being by attending weekly group exercise session. This way I can regularly catch up with my friends.
💡 4. Start with questions that everyone can connect to, such as your shared surroundings, what you experienced together, or universally intriguing themes. Start with simple questions such as what they like to eat, cook, or their favorite restaurants.
💡 5. Ask questions you know well. This will help you appear more confident and ensure you have interesting things to discuss. If you like to travel, ask someone about their favorite destination. Don't do what did: I have almost no interest in video games, yet I once asked a gamer, "What games do you play?"Then that talk went nowhere...
💡 6. Pose interesting questions that spark interesting conversations that will help you get to know each-other better. For example: "What are you looking forward to the most?", "What interesting projects are you working on?", and "What do you like to do outside of work?"
💡 7. Ask the "whys". I love asking "why" since I'm naturally intrigued about the motivations behind others' actions and thoughts.
Last time we went skiing with new friends, I I asked them why they enjoyed skiing. It turned out everyone had different motivations for skiing - some admitted they just tried to hang out with friends, others went because their kids enjoy it, while others just wanted to get out of the city.
By asking many whys, you'll soon learn the inner motivations behind others' thoughts and behaviors, which might otherwise take much longer or you'd never know.
💡 8. Be an active listener and not the conversation killer. In a conversation, someone will say something dull at some point. Instead of completely shifting the conversation, ask a question to demonstrate you listened and are somewhat interested in what they said. For example, you can use the "whys" from the last tip.
💡 9. Be vulnerable and share your struggles. Share your challenges to the extent you feel comfortable. When you show others you trust them by exposing your vulnerability, they will trust you more. This will invite them to discuss their challenges, strengthening your bond.
Create value & offer to help
💡 10. Offer to help others solve a problem. For example, if your friend is looking for a job, you may help them by connecting them with others who are in the same industry or offer some suggestions on job hunting based on your own experiences.
💡 11. Be generous with your strengths. We're all good at something and can help others proactively. For example, I enjoy cooking and have offered to cook for others.
I have also offered to host personality workshops for my friends (an area of my expertise).
Ask them to help you or teach you something
💡 12. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Because we typically only ask close friends for support, asking for help will make others feel connected to you. For example, knowing your friend likes dogs, you may mention you need someone to watch your dog while you're away.
💡 13. Ask them for guidance or to teach you something. Ask a buddy who's lived in your city for advice on places to visit and eat. Asking them about something they're skilled in and confident in will make them like you more.
💡 14. Be the first one to suggest a follow-up hangout if your first one went well. If everyone waited for others to reach out, then no one would have any friends. If they don't have the time this time, you can always suggest another time.
Friendship is very much like a delicate plant. We need to water and nourish it with curiosity, generosity, openness, trust, patience, and give it time and space in our lives for it to grow. Meanwhile, we need to be optimistic and trust that it will blossom and put a smile on our faces when we need it the most.
Next time you interact with someone new, try out some of the tips above!
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As always, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have or anything else you'd like help with!