Making Friends as an Adult Can Be Hard. Here’s How to Make it Easier.
By Ashley Edwards Walker
Let’s admit it: making new friends as an adult can feel awkward. While Bumble BFF makes it easier by connecting you with people who are also looking to expand their social circles, putting yourself out there in search of platonic connections can be intimidating and time consuming. Still, making the effort is crucial. “Our connections are pretty much the most significant predictor of our overall happiness,” says Dr. Marisa G. Franco, a psychologist and friendship expert. Friendships also help us shape our identity, so it’s important to continue making and building new relationships throughout our lives.
While there’s no shortcut to making new friends, there are a few things we can all do to help make the process of making and maintaining new platonic relationships a little easier. In the end, what it comes down to is consistency, vulnerability, and time. Check out what experts have to say.
Look for similarities
“Activity similarity,” or someone who likes doing the things that you do, is one of the key characteristics that form most friendships, explains Jeffrey A. Hall, a professor at the University of Kansas who has studied friendship. “That’s important from childhood to adult friendships because you need a reason to be together,” he says. Luckily, Bumble BFF makes it easy to discern who shares your interests. Whether you like to spend your free time taking your dog to the park, rock climbing, or going to see live music, including photos on your profile that show you in your element, adding tags, and mentioning your hobbies in your bio will help potential friends identify you as someone they could hang out with, and vice versa.
From there, you can explore other types of similarities, like personality, values, religion, and background. These things are more difficult to advertise on a profile, but can be discovered naturally through conversation. Showing interest in how they grew up and asking questions about how they spend their free time will help you pinpoint any other commonalities that might strengthen your bond.
Be consistent about staying in touch
There’s a reason it felt easier and more natural to make friends when we were younger: between school and extracurricular activities, we had an infrastructure that gave us consistent time with our peers. As adults, we “lack that consistency,” says Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness. Outside of the workplace, it’s hard “to spend enough time together to make those memories, to have those shared experiences, and to facilitate consistent interactions that end up becoming friendships,” she says. When you match with someone on Bumble BFF or meet someone you’d like to become friends with, the first step is making plans. Then, once you hit it off with someone over dinner or happy hour drinks, keep following up.
Even if our busy schedules may not allow for a bi-weekly or even a monthly meet-up, it’s important to stay in touch. “People think they can only reach out to make plans, and that’s not the case,” says Franco. “You can also maintain the relationship by just reaching out to check in with your new friends.” Shoot them a quick text to ask how their work presentation went, or ask them what they have planned for the upcoming weekend.
Reciprocity is key
People tend to “overestimate their likelihood of being rejected” and “underestimate how liked they actually are,” explains Franco. “The people who are really good at making friends are the people who reassure others that they’re not going to get rejected.” If a new friend reaches out to make plans or inquire about what’s new with you, make sure you reciprocate. One way to ensure these interactions feel balanced is to pay attention to how quickly and often a new friend is getting back to you. “If you’re reaching out to them twice a week, they’re responsive, and they start to reach out to you, then that might indicate that this is a good amount of time to invest in the relationship,” says Franco.
Focus on meaningful conversation
We all want to spend time with people who “get” us. But achieving that depth of friendship requires vulnerability. That doesn’t mean you have to reveal all your deep, dark secrets right off the bat, or take on the emotional work of processing someone else’s big feelings. What’s important at the start of a potential new friendship is getting to know the other person, and slowly building the trust it takes to be vulnerable with each other. You can also start creating a meaningful connection by talking about what’s going on in each other’s life right now. “The most important thing we can do in a brand new friendship is show up with curiosity,” says Nelson. Show up with one or two things you want to share and discuss that are meaningful to you, then ask questions to ensure your companion has the opportunity to do the same.
Consider how you make them feel
People often think making friends is about being intriguing or smart or funny. But actually, it’s more important to make others feel valued and ensure your time together feels good. “Basically, people like people they think like them,” says Franco. An easy way to do this is through affirmation. If a new connection shares a funny story from their childhood, let them know how much you enjoy hearing about that part of their life. If something reminds you of them, shoot them a text to let them know they’re on your mind. If you like their outfit, tell them. “We’re only going to want to be consistent with people who leave us with positive feelings,” explains Nelson.
That doesn’t mean you have to be falsely positive or upbeat all the time. It just means when a friend vents to you, meet them with empathy or validation. And if you want to get something off your chest, thank them for listening. “That helps them feel understood and they’ll leave with a positive emotion,” explains Nelson.
Finally, give it time
In addition to shared interests, consistency, reciprocity, vulnerability, and positivity, it takes time to build lasting friendships. In fact, Hall published a study called “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?” in 2019 which concluded that it typically takes 40 to 60 hours of talking and hanging out for an acquaintance to become a casual friend, 80 to 100 hours for a casual friend to become a friend, and 200 hours or more for a friend to become a best friend. Of course, plenty of friendships develop faster or slower.
“It’s not realistic to think you’ll become friends with someone after meeting just once,” says Hall. “However, there’s plenty of very good research that says that we know whether we’re likely to be compatible with somebody pretty quickly.” So, when you do meet someone you can see yourself befriending, keep following up with them, he advises. “You’re not going to be able to establish that relationship unless you actually make plans.”
Making new friends as an adult isn’t easy, and it definitely takes time. But as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there, show up with curiosity, and make an effort to stay in touch, expanding your social circle can actually be fun. In the end, you might just wind up with a new best friend.