Making new friends when you are no longer in school or university is hard. Heck, it can even seem impossible.
But it’s not.
It’s not impossible to make new friends when you are a grown-up. But you will have to 1) decide you want to make new friends; 2) be open to new friendships; and 3) actually go and meet new people and make new friends.
The first step is pretty straightforward: decide you want to make new friends. I mean, it’s easy to complain and whine about the fact that “you have no friends”, and stay stuck in an endless loop of misery and self-pity. But, until you acknowledge the fact that you actually want friends, it will be hard (if not impossible) for you to make the changes necessary for that to happen.
The second step is pretty straightforward as well: be open to new friendships. Again, you may say you want to make new friends, but unless you actually do the work and make some effort, things will not change.
Now that we’ve got steps 1 and 2 out of the way, how do you go about making those new friends you want so badly, especially as a grown-up?
Here are a few tips that helped me make new friends in my 30’s, and hopefully, will help you get there as well.
1. Become a better friend to yourself
Yes, the first step to making new friends as a grownup, especially if you’ve lost the ones you had and are uncomfortably lonely at the moment, is to explore your solitude and learn to become more comfortable in your own skin first.
Unless you learn to become your own friend, and a good friend for that matter, it will be harder for you to be a good friend to someone else, and to choose people who will be good friends to you.
I’ve already delved into that question in another post that I will link below. Make sure you check it if you want to know more about how to become a better friend to yourself and make good use of this time where you have no friends.
2. Let people around you know that you are trying to make new friends and/or meet new people
It’s going to be a lot harder to make new friends as a grown-up (thus, with fewer “natural” opportunities for new friendships) if you don’t let people actually know that you are looking for new friendships.
It’s important to be honest and transparent with yourself and with others about your goals and the things your heart desires. It helps them come true.
Funny story. My older sister, who lives in a different country, apparently thought for years that I had lots of friends and was “happy” with my life. That is until I finally told her explicitly, a decade later, how lonely I really was. As soon as I actually said it out loud, I guess she unconsciously shifted to “problem-solving mode” because, a few days later, she asked if she could introduce me to a good friend of hers who had just moved to Canada, and who was looking for a new friend too.
Just like that.
Imagine how many potential new friendships you are missing on simply because you are too shy, or too stupid, to admit to yourself and to others that you are lonely, and that you actually want friends.
Just talk about it honestly. Do it simply: no need to whine or be bitter about it. Just state simply: “I am a bit lonely and I would like to make new friends”. (Some) people will naturally want to help you in your quest.
3. Reach out to this old friend with whom you’ve lost touch
Sometimes we go out of our way to make new friends when all we need is a friend we already had.
I’m not saying you should stay stuck in the past or dwell on all your old, dead high school friendships. Chances are, these friendships are dead for a reason.
But maybe there is this one friend you had in the past that you still think about often? Why have you lost touch? Did you grow up to become different people? Did something happen between you two? Or did you just lose touch because of “life”?
Sometimes, the answer to making a new friend can be as simple as working to revive a lost friendship.
But keep in mind that some past friendships are better left in the past, so tread carefully.
4. Broaden your interests
If you have no friends at the moment or have lost touch with the ones you had, it could be because you’re spending too much of your time stuck in a routine that does not involve meeting new, like-minded people.
I’m all for routines, but not all routines are alike.
Do you spend all your time at work or with co-workers? Or with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/kids? Do you have any hobbies outside your obligations? Have you lost interest in most things that do not involve your career/family?
If yes, it might be time to start finding new topics of interest.
You cannot find like-minded friends if you don’t know what like-minded means. Or don’t know what you like.
There are hundreds of activities and areas of interest you can explore. Simply do a Google search for “possible hobbies” and you will find an endless list of hobbies to choose from.
Don’t fall into the trap of “nothing interests me” or “I don’t like this, or that… and this too”, or worse: “I’m not an XXX or a YYY person” (ex. “I’m not into languages, sports, outdoors, animals”, etc.).
For the love of God! Just pick something, one thing, try it and stick to it for 2 to 4 months to see if you grow to like it. And remember, just because you didn’t enjoy something 10 years ago does not mean that you still won’t enjoy it now. People evolve and so do you.
5. Take a class, you know, with other people.
Once you’ve picked a hobby, explored it through books, YouTube videos, or Skillshare tutorials, and discovered that you might like it, it’s time to move on to the next step. That is: find a class where you could learn that thing with other people.
It sounds obvious, but the simplest way to make new, like-minded friends is to find people who are into the same things as you, and to do that thing together.
And one sure way to meet other people who share the same interests as you is to take a class with these people. Ideally, a physical class.
I know, in these times of social distancing, it might be difficult, but It’s not impossible.
Sign up for a creative writing class at your local college; join a boot-camp program; a CrossFit group class; a watercolor group course for beginners; etc.
Don’t over-think it; just do it.
6. Adopt a foreigner’s mindset in your own city
You know who else has no friends? The people who are new to a city.
Every day, thousands of new people arrive in your city to start a new life: foreign students, workers, people on work-holiday visas (WHV), or simply just tourists…
These people are acutely aware that they don’t know anyone in their new city and so, they adjust their behavior to make sure they meet new people and make new friends.
They leave the house, hang out in new spots, have random conversations with strangers, ask around for advice, visit new neighborhoods, sit in parks, try new restaurants, go on group trips, etc.
But the key element here is that they stay open to the possibility of making new friends every day. Every person they meet could be a potential new, fabulous friend.
So, don’t miss out on opportunities by being opinionated, and sticking stubbornly to what you know or what you’ve always done.
7. Hang out in the right spots
There are places and activities dedicated specifically to people who are looking to meet new people and making new friends.
There is a board game bar in my city that (used to) offers (pre-Covid) a “meet-up/singles night” once a month, specifically for people who had no or not enough friends to make up a full table of players. Two years ago, I didn’t even know such a thing existed.
CouchSurfing events. A friend of mine made TONS of friends while traveling, yes, but also while she was at home in her own city, just from hanging out at meet-ups and events organized through the CouchSurfing’s app. Simply narrow your search to the city where you are currently living, and try it. I’ve been to one of those and met a few really cool people. And the fun part is, you meet people of all ages and from an impossibly wide background.
Join Meet-up. Meet-up is a service used to organize online groups that host in-person and virtual events for people with similar interests. There are groups for every possible topic you could be interested in, from Yoga for new moms + baby, to group photography, to day trips, to jogging, to group writing, etc. And it’s a great way to make new friends. They even have groups based on your age, if age matters to you.
I’ve also discovered the following groups in Montreal. I share this here hoping that it might give you a few ideas as to what is possible, and what type of activities you could look for where you live.
- Les Compagnons maraichers: they organize volunteers into groups that travel to different farms around the Montreal area to help farmers. From spring to fall, they drive you, feed you, give you a bed or a tent, free of charge but in exchange for a day or two of labor. You meet awesome people, hang out in beautiful settings, and sometimes, you even have a few hours of freedom, to dive in a lake before heading back home.
- Vincent trip. Vincent organizes day or week-long trips in different areas across Quebec and Canada. A friend of mine from France made her first good friends in Montreal through this.
- Goethe Institut. The Goethe-Institut is Germany’s cultural ambassador, and it promotes the German language and encourages international cultural exchanges worldwide. Places such as the Institut are a great way to meet people and make new friends as they regularly host events and activities for their members to meet and mingle: movies night, board games night, reading night, and other types of events. Just search for another equivalent in a language you are interested in learning, and go mingle!
My point is, there are lonely people everywhere looking to meet new people. You just have to look for them and ask around. Ask travelers, look up Facebook groups, volunteer on the weekends, sign-up for a day trip…
8. Try dating apps
I know, I know, you are looking for a friend, not a romantic partner. BUT, just because you go on a couple of dates with someone, does not mean that you will be romantically attracted to that person. And just because you are not romantically attracted to someone does not mean that you can’t be friends!
I actually made a guy-friend through Tinder. The one and only person I decided to meet in person during my short time on Tinder turned out to be an okay friend. We didn’t hit it off in a romantic way, but I guess we enjoyed each other’s company enough to remain friends.
9. Actually talk to people
If you are trying to make new friends, now is not the time to overthink everything you say and shut people out. Do talk to people; watch your posture; adopt a more open demeanor. You know, be friendly.
Related article: How to be more attractive? P.S. It’s not about makeup.
Ask yourself: do you push people away with your mean, frowny, “don’t talk to me” expression?
People will come to you if you let them. And you should go to people too. It goes both ways.
And don’t be too afraid of rejection. If rejection happens, don’t dwell on it. Self-assess, apologize if you’ve done something wrong or said something out of line, but learn to brush it off and move on quickly after you’ve experienced setbacks. They will come, but don’t make them bigger than what they should be.
10. Make the first move; and the second; and maaaaybe the third. But not the fourth.
If you want to make new friends, you will have to actually engage with other people. That could mean making the first move.
You know: “Hello, what’s your name”; “do you come here often”; “I’m new to this; are you?”; etc.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, but don’t appear too needy either. (i.e., don’t stay glued to that one person who’s showing interest in you. They are not a lifeboat, so don’t cling).
Related post: Why you are so needy and how to stop.
Engage, be friendly, opened, ask questions, and be interested in them, but don’t be a nuisance.
11. Be interested in the other person: i.e., make them talk about them.
Sometimes, when we are trying to meet new people and make new friends, we obsess and worry way too much about what we are going to say to them.
Truth is, you don’t have to say much about yourself. People, just like you, are mostly interested in themselves.
Doesn’t that thought relieve at least some of the pressure you might feel about making a new friend?
This does not mean that you should put all your efforts into creating a new friendship with someone who is completely self-centered.
But remember that, if you don’t know what to say, you can just make the other person talk about them.
It’s actually better than to babble non-stop about yourself.
Ask them questions about them:
- where they are from;
- how many siblings they have;
- where they grew up;
- what interests them;
- do they like animals, art, books, sports, whatever!
Just be interested, and try to ask them at least a few questions about them.
12. Let that potential friend know you are open to/interested in new friendships
Maybe others will disagree, but personal experience has taught me that things flow more easily when you let someone you like know that you are interested in expanding your circle of friends, or that you’ve enjoyed meeting them and are curious to know more about them.
There’s no point in pretending you are uninterested or playing coy. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. But there’s no point in being needy either. It’s about finding the right balance.
But all in all, honesty and straightforwardness are always the best policy. That way, if they are not interested in you, you can move on to the next person.
13. Ask them out/or for their phone number
Yes, making new friends as an adult is kind of like dating.
You have to present yourself well, go to the right places, meet the right people, make contact… and if there is some chemistry between the two of you, you might have to ask them out.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal or become awkward. But do ask them out for coffee next week; or tell them about that new exhibit showcasing that artist you both like; or maybe a drink sometime after work?
Don’t leave things to fate and hope you will magically meet again at some random event.
If you like them and your exchange went well, ask for their phone number (or their FB or whatever people are into these days), or ask them out.
14. Follow up after a great encounter
If you’ve had a nice chat with someone you think could potentially become a cool new friend, send them a quick text to tell them.
Nothing fancy. It can be as simple as a: “Hey, I really enjoyed meeting you yesterday. It was fun. Hope we can meet again soon!”.
It’s polite, shows you’re interested, and it paves the way for the next meet-up.
15. Return invitations
What if someone else made the move and either 1) texted you a few times or 2) asked you out/invited you over?
Well, it’s important to reciprocate.
If a potential new friend has texted you a couple of times in the past weeks, now is your turn to return the courtesy by sending them a message or extending them an invitation.
Don’t expect them to always make the move because it is very likely that they will get tired of it and stop trying. And also, it’s basic politeness.
16. Don’t chase
If you’ve made a few moves and the other person never returns invitations or does not text or call… then you must also know when to stop.
If you want to build a friendship, it’s important to put some effort into it, but you shouldn’t chase either, no matter how cool they seemed or how much you liked them or wanted things to work out.
If you’ve been making the first 2 or 3 moves and the other person doesn’t reciprocate, then perhaps it’s time to take a step back.
Don’t blame them! Don’t bitch or whine.
Just take a step back. If they come to you, fine. If they don’t? Move on.
17. Don’t take rejection personally
In my quest to making new friends, I have been lucky enough to meet a couple of girls I thought were absolutely amazing.
The problem was, I was still engulfed in my own problems, worries, shit loads of work, all while trying to figure out how to manage my health.
As much as I wanted (even needed) to nurture those new friendships, I just could not give them the attention they deserved. And so, I let things die between us.
It’s nothing they did. It was all me. But I can’t help but think that if the roles were reversed, I would probably feel a little hurt.
And so, remember: when someone rejects you, often, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. So don’t beat yourself up too much when things don’t work out.
Unless someone explicitly tells you that you did something wrong, or unless you feel you’ve done something bad to someone else, don’t overthink it. And definitely don’t spend your days telling yourself how much you suck.
The key to surviving this process of making new friends as an adult, is to be open and vulnerable, but also to protect yourself from the mean things you say to yourself when things don’t go as you’d expect.
Because, very often, you are your own worst enemy.
18. Good reads on the topic of friendship
Lastly, I recommend two books on the topic of both friendships and living alone (they kinda go hand in hand, you’ll see):
- How to win friends and influence people, by Dale Carnegie. Of course, a classic. But it’s a classic for a reason. And there are valuable lessons in there on how to, well, make friends.
- Live alone and like it: the classic guide for the single woman, by Marjorie Hillis. I love this book. It’s a bit outdated (who cares!), but so witty and on point. And best of all, M.J. teaches you both the art of living alone, and the art of maintaining a circle of friends.
These two books were written ages ago (1936), but they are easy, very interesting reads, and they have both profoundly influenced me for the better.
There you have it, my top tips on how to make friends as a grownup.
Good luck, and I hope you find that special friend.
If, beyond just making new friends, you are interested in going deeper with your newfound friendships and want to build more meaningful relationships, check out this next post: