There are lots of different kinds of friends. From old friends who know us inside out, to new friends who know the most recent version of us, they all have a place in our lives. If your friendships are feeling a little shallow, however, it could be time to find a deeper connection. The idea of finding some new, genuine friends can be a bit daunting, but true friends are out there and we’ve put together our top tips to help you find them.
How to make authentic friends
What makes someone a real friend rather than an acquaintance? It’s not just about how long you’ve known each other. Genuine friends will help to boost your confidence, and won’t put you down. They’ll be there when you need them, with practical and emotional support, and you’ll be able to trust a true friend with your deepest secrets. So, if you’re ready to build bonds that last, read on to discover some ways you can make more authentic friends.
Put yourself out there
Just like with dating, if you want to make real friends, you have to put yourself out there. Meaningful friendships won’t appear out of nowhere, and they won’t just turn up on your doorstep. So be prepared to make the first move, take a risk, and get out of your comfort zone. And start saying yes to any social invitations you feel comfortable with—you never know who you might meet.
The first step to making real friends is to find some on a casual level who could progress to become genuine friends. If they’re in short supply, it might be worth looking in some new places. From sports clubs to book clubs, volunteer groups to courses, and video games to online apps, do something you love and you’ll meet like-minded people who love it too.
Taking a friendship from casual to close does take time and effort up front, but the rewards are worth it. It can take a while for those bonds to grow, so manage your own expectations about how quickly your new friendships will develop. If you’ve got a friendship you’d like to take to the next (platonic) level, start by planning in some quality time. It might be tempting to spend your free hours in the comfortable companionship of family or old buddies, but new, genuine friends won’t be made this way. So, plan a friend-date doing something you both enjoy. And don’t be shy about arranging the next one, too.
Sharing is caring
The key to reaching the knowing look and private joke stage of friendship is time. The more time you spend with a new friend, the more shared experiences you’ll have. And the more shared history you have, the more chances there are for you to bond over something big, or something hilariously funny. By getting together with your friend you’ll create more and more joint memories you can talk about. Reminiscing about fun times you’ve had together also helps to create that sense of familiarity we have with anyone we’re close to.
We all know that being in the moment is the path to true happiness, but it’s also the way to true friendship. As your relationship grows from acquaintance or co-worker to confidante and close friend, it’s important to be present when you’re spending time together. So, put your phone away and stay focused on your friend. If they feel you’re interested enough in them to give them your full attention, they’ll be more likely to open up. And that’s where the intimacy of a genuine friendship will come from.
Speaking of opening up… Friendship is a two way street, so get ready to share. You’ll only really feel like you know someone (and them you) when you know important, personal things about each other. Small talk is fine at a cocktail party or work event, but you’ve got to get past surface level conversation and go deep if you want to find, and be, an authentic friend. So, when you’re hanging out, and you feel the moment is right, open up and share something personal.
Compliments cost nothing
While many of us find it difficult to accept a compliment, there’s no denying how great it feels to receive one. So, share that love around a little and let your new friend know you like them. Blurting out “I like you” is probably not the best approach, so keep your compliments light and less intense. A simple “That was really fun” after spending time together is a less awkward way to show you appreciate them. Tell them if you like their ‘fit. Congratulate them when something they’ve done has gone well. As long as what you’re saying is authentic, you’ll both feel more confident in your new friendship.
Trust is essential in any meaningful relationship, so start to build it as early as possible. Show your friend that you can be trusted, by showing up on time and being reliable, or by following through with a plan. If they tell you something personal, treat that information with respect, and keep it to yourself. Trust works both ways, of course, so once you feel comfortable, show them your vulnerable side, ask for their help or advice, and share something private about yourself. It takes time to really trust someone, so be patient and let it happen.
Don’t force it
While making real friends does require some effort and follow-through, there is such a thing as trying too hard. And as unfair as it may seem, when we come across to others as desperate, it can be off-putting. In fact, it can often have the opposite effect than we intended, with people pulling away from us, rather than coming closer. So, learn to read the room. If you’re offering up personal information about yourself, but your friend isn’t, don’t push it. If they don’t return compliments, or don’t seem comfortable moving past small talk, this might not be the true friend for you. Don’t be downhearted, simply keep them in your acquaintance group and focus your time and energy elsewhere.
How to turn online friends into true friends
Thanks to apps like Bumble For Friends and social media, making friends online has become easier. And, just because a friendship starts in the virtual world doesn’t make it any less valid than one that began at school. But, if you want to be buddies IRL, read on.
There’s no reason you can’t have a deep and meaningful conversation over the internet, but your chances of sharing varied bonding experiences are limited when you’re not physically in the same place. If you’re a member of an online group, many of them hold meetups in the real world, so why not commit to going to the next one? If you have a good time, suggest another get-together with the people you clicked with. At least you’ll know you have an interest in common, and can build your friendship from there.
Whether you’ve met online or not, to keep the momentum of your friendship going forward you’ve got to keep communicating. So, send a quick text after seeing each other to say how much you enjoyed it, and don’t forget to check in with them every few days. If they mentioned an important meeting on the horizon, ask them how it went. If you spot something funny you think they’ll appreciate, send it to them. Keeping the conversation going between meetups will make the next hang out easier, with less potential for awkwardness.