By contributor Caylin Harris
It’s easy to go on autopilot in the friendship department after college. You’ve found/have great friends and that’s the end of it, right? But life throws you curveballs—people move, friends grow apart, or life stages vary and it gets harder to spend time with people you love. That’s why it’s important to keep your friend-making skills sharp…because it’s way harder to connect with people in a non-school setting. Over five years ago I moved to a new state and my choices were either take the train every time I wanted to grab a glass of wine with a girlfriend or branch out. So I knew I had to put some effort in. Here’s what I’ve found to be most helpful:
How to Make Friends as an Adult
Put Yourself out there
OK, so this seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many people won’t ask another person to hang out because they’re afraid of looking desperate. Yes, it requires some vulnerability (what if they say no?) but at a certain point who cares. Go to lunch, grab a coffee or a drink. Honestly, it’s basically like dating, only it can be way more fun. It also helps to expand what counts as hanging out. Sometimes for someone who’s really busy or has kids but still wants to get together, activities, like cooking dinner together or going for a walk, can allow you to get to know someone in a way that’s fun and doable for you both.
Explore Your Own Interests
It doesn’t have to be anything overly complicated. And no, you don’t have to take a pottery class (unless you want to!). Go with what you like and you’ll most likely find your people. Maybe you’re the least crafty person in the world, that’s fine. Sign up for a wine or a cooking class. When everyone is a beginner it really brings people together. Never underestimate the bonding power of bungling what scent notes you’re picking up in a cab franc.
skip small talk
I’m not saying you have to tell someone your deepest, darkest secrets, but try to keep the conversation a little deeper than talking about the weather. We’re all so busy that when you do get to spend time with friends, you should walk away feeling understood or connected. Opening up to someone invites them to reciprocate—you don’t need to maintain an air of perfection or mystery. In fact, that can be a little off-putting. Friendships are built for venting.
Maybe you and coworker snicker over the same comments in a staff meeting or roll your eyes during another PowerPoint presentation. That’s an opening, this person could be your person. Take it outside the office with something low commitment to feel out the situation like lunch or a drink after work. It’s a little trickier when you work from home, but the majority of friends I’ve made since I moved were work-related. Networking events, meetups, and working on projects or in a coworking space with someone can help like minds find one another. If you do work from home, make an effort to get out of the home office. Otherwise, it can be a real challenge to meet anyone!
Adjust your expectations
Gone are the days where you can hang out with friends 24/7. That’s called college. Honestly, with everyone’s commitments getting to see friends once a month is awesome. So roll with what feels natural for you and don’t read into how challenging it can be to get together. Get comfortable with the idea that it’s totally normal to have different kinds of friends too. Not everyone needs to be your best friend. There’s people you get together with and bitch about work. Or a friend you love to go to dinner with, or a couple you double date with. Leave the door open to let a relationship be what it is instead of trying to get someone to be all things.
Friendships take effort, so the best tip overall is to be the friend you want to have. Put the work in with people and you’ll be thrilled to find that it’s so much easier than you thought. There’s a beauty in new friends too. While old friends are wonderful, it’s refreshing to have people get to know who you are right now. Not who you’ve been over the last ten years—there’s value in both types of relationships. Don’t be afraid, it’s time to put yourself out there.