How to make friends as an adult

Why is it that everyone around you seems to have a better social life than you? Is it your vivid imagination or are others more engaged, connected and popular? Well, you are probably only partially right in your assumptions. Illusions created by social media, coupled with your perceptions of reality can certainly mess with your sense of self. But when it comes to happiness is making more friends really so important?

Let’s calm down and take a step back. Aristotle decided that “Humans are by nature social animals.” Well, if anything’s going to up the pressure that statement will. Sure, it’s an undisputed fact that we are indeed social creatures that need social interactions to be healthy1. But now Aristotle’s famous aphorism has come under fire. Yes, we possess the natural ability to show consideration, empathy, kindness and care … but it doesn’t come easily nor automatically. In fact, we save our love for our nearest and dearest family members and often save our (natural) competitive aggression for our outer circle of acquaintances2 – not so good for movie night bonding!

What can we do to make more friends?

So making friends just got a whole lot trickier, but if we know the benefits (longer life expectancy, less stress, more endorphins …) perhaps that will spur you on in your quest for a friendlier life. We now know it’s not a natural ability; we do have to make an effort. The first thing is to remember the façade that others like to portray is … just that. Bear in mind, too, the much-used quote about counting the number of true friends on one hand … in fact anthropologist Robin Dunbar (University of Oxford MIT Technology Review) states that whether you are a nervous nerd or an easy extrovert, you can only actually have five close friends.

That’s put things into perspective and we now have an achievable goal so let’s get cracking:

  • Be ready for friendship; put it out there. Even design an ideal friend list and tell yourself it’s happening
  • Encourage your more gregarious friend to organise a boys’/ girls’ weekend away and ask to be invited
  • Connect with other GrownUps members using Find a Friend, Meet Ups, or talk on the Discussion Boards.
  • Read Kate Leaver’s book, The Friendship Cure; knowledge is power!
  • Think about joining a book/ wine/ dog walking group and you can get clever, sozzled and fit all in one fell swoop (maybe change the order). GrownUps have a Clubs Directory to help you find clubs near you. 
  • Make eye contact (but not in a creepy way) with a co-worker. Then suggest popping out for a coffee. So simple!
  • Put aside your issues and realise, wallflower or not you are an integral part of the personality mix that makes up any group of friends.

Making friends as an adult is not all that different from childhood. The good thing is that being older you have the added benefit that once gained, adult friends are often on a similar path so they tend to stick around. We also learn to value quality over quantity.

Even better, the longevity advantage kicks in just when you need it. Enjoy!

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 2010

Adam Waytz, Psychologist Associate Professor, Northwestern University