How Do I Make Friends as an Adult?

Posted by Barbie Millner, Care Ministry Resident, on Aug 14, 2023

How Do I Make Friends as an Adult?

Has anyone else faced an internal panic attack after entering a party or large meeting and having to decide where to sit? Maybe you have social anxiety like me. Or maybe that kind of situation takes you back to your high school “who do I sit with in the cafeteria” days. Either way, we’ve all had to deal with the uncomfortable feelings of loneliness and relational uncertainty. We’ve all had to figure out how and where to make new friends.

A younger version of you might be surprised that this still happens in adulthood, despite having things that are supposed to bring confidence and fulfillment (like a college degree, a spouse, or a home).

Maybe you’ve stumbled through your wild and awkward growing-up years, looking ahead to the “end zone” of adulthood with its newfound sense of independence, only to take a second look around and find you're there alone, without friends or family nearby.

Or maybe, through an unexpected series of events, you find you’ve lost your community and are once again wondering, “Where/with whom do I sit?” “Where do I go to meet people in my neighborhood?” “How do I make friends?”

 Loneliness and wanting friends is nothing new; it's hard-wired into us as communal human beings. But making friends as an adult is a vulnerable and confusing process, and if I can be perfectly honest, I don’t think we're very good at it most of the time. 

I certainly haven't perfected it, but I have learned some things along the way and hopefully, they help you feel less alone.

1.     Treat making new friends like dating.

Before you get weirded out, let me say that obviously the goals of dating and making friends are different. However, there are some dating mindsets that we could benefit from when making friends. For example, examine what you are looking for in friendship: are your friendship goals realistic and healthy? Looking at your own capacity, are you willing to spend time and energy investing in someone else? Or are you only looking to fulfill your needs? To have good friends, you must be willing to be a good friend and make time for others and their needs.

This also means maintaining realistic ideas of friendship. Not every offer of friendship is going to be equally reciprocated. But we need to value effort and compromise over a 50/50 split. In other words, you both put forth effort in the friendship, and you meet in the middle. You may be the one to consistently reach out and make plans, but your friend is the one to consistently come to your hometown or offer to pay for your coffee. The point is that the level of commitment to invest in the friendship is the same for both friends, even if the specific gestures are not.

2.     You are not everyone's cup of tea, and that’s ok.

 You may have experienced this on a date: you meet someone you think is interesting, so you plan a time to get to know them better, only for the conversation to fall flat. When you make new friends, you're putting yourself out there. It's a vulnerable and maybe even scary feeling, so not getting along with someone can make you doubt yourself. But think of it like a date that didn’t go well—it’s not you, and it's not them either. It just wasn’t a good fit and that’s ok. Just don’t let that stop you from putting yourself out there in the future. 


3.     Value people's character and potential to grow, more than similarities or stages of life.

 Think about it this way… you and your potential friend could both love jogging, Mexican food, and training golden retrievers, but that doesn’t mean anything if they are disloyal or talk behind your back.

Shared life stages and similar interests alone don’t necessarily make good friends. Although some people might look great on paper, the reality is that people and circumstances change. However, if we look for someone who has good character and who’s willing to grow alongside us, change doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Look for people who not only appreciate how you are similar but also embrace how you are different. Life is beautiful when we can be who we are and allow others to do the same, without fear or a need to control. Differences in background, interests, and life stage just might help form the beginning of a long and healthy friendship.


4.     Just go for it!

I get it, I really do. It can feel awkward chatting with other moms on the playground. It can seem needy to ask someone if they’d like to grab lunch sometime. But the reality is there are many more people in the same boat than you’d think. So take a deep breath and go for it: ask the mom on the playground if her kids want to have a playdate with yours sometime or ask the person in your small group to get coffee. The worst that happens is they say no or it's awkward (and that’s nothing you haven't faced before). Go ask already!

Those uncomfortable feelings of loneliness and social uncertainty may not go away overnight. But remember how far you’ve come, and imagine how much further you'd go with people who’ve got your back. So take a few minutes to decide how and with whom you can take the initiative this coming week. Hopefully, it will be the start of a new adult friendship!

At Chase Oaks, we don't go it alone. Groups are a perfect way to meet some new people and build potential friendships. Find more info about our groups (starting at the beginning of each fall and spring semester) here.

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