Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? Seinfeld had a bit on exactly this issue. (It helps to read this in Jerry’s voice…)
When you’re an adult it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing; you’re not looking at any new people; you’re not interested in seeing any applications. They don’t know the places. They don’t know the food. They don’t know the activities. If I meet a guy in a club in the gym or someplace: ‘I’m sure you’re a very nice person. You seem to have a lot of potential, but we’re just not hiring right now.’
Of course, when you’re a kid, you can be friends with anybody. Remember when you were a little kid, what were the qualifications?
If someone’s in front of my house NOW, that’s my friend. That’s it.
‘Are you a grown-up?’ ‘No.’ ‘Great! Come on in. Jump up and down on my bed.’
And if you have anything in common at all, ‘You like Cherry Soda? I like Cherry Soda! We’re BEST friends!’
In other words, as the New York Times stated so perfectly, “As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
So, when we were little, we made friends where we found them. You live next door!? Friend! You sit next to me at school!? Friend! Generally, we had similar but limited interests. But as adults, we filter out people we don’t agree with politically, socially, etc. With the few people that are left, only a very small pool of potential friends is left.
How do we overcome this? Your first step is to get ready to be uncomfortable. You have to push yourself out of your own personal boundaries. I’m assuming that you don’t have friends or you haven’t had friends; chances are you have a touch of social anxiety. In order to meet people, you’ve got to be willing to be uncomfortable, which means you’ve got to go places you wouldn’t necessarily go. It means you must talk to people you wouldn’t necessarily talk to. But this is key!
Being uncomfortable is okay because I have a sneaky suspicion that your new best friend or circle of friends will NOT be your pizza delivery guy. Well, he could be — who knows, maybe you both have a mutual love for pepperoni, and you discover this when your pizza is dropped off. This could happen, but gentlemen, my guess is that it’s not going to, and you’ve got to understand that part of the process is being uncomfortable.
Now it’s time to get social. You, my friend, need to be a bit of a social butterfly, and there are two ways you will find new cool things to do. Use sites like meetup.com, where you plug in your zip code, and you can just peruse all the different groups and activities that are going on. The online resource is CitySearch. There are lots of websites that will talk about different happenings and cool things that are happening in your town. I recommend picking one or two things to do each week.
Another option is to create new habits or hobbies, such as joining a gym and working out. You can meet many people there, but the problem with fitness centers is everyone has headphones in, and nobody’s really talking or conversing. So this is a definite problem! But you could join a church, sports league, intramural football, softball, Frisbee golf, or more. You could also volunteer in a soup kitchen or for Habitat for Humanity. Get involved — this is a good thing!
Another great idea is to get a 10-15 hours a week part-time job at some cool place to put you around your peers while making some extra cash. This part-time position will surround you with other co-workers and customers that you will have to interact with.
To be social, accept every invitation that comes your way. Here’s the deal — you might not be wild about this person, and you may feel that you won’t hit it off with him. That crappy attitude can prohibit you from making friends. So instead, think of the social invitation like this: realize that these people have other friends, and so if they are introducing you to some of their friends, you may hit it off with one or more of them. The key is to expand your social circle.
So, you’ve got to engage people, but it’s not just as simple as, “Hey, how are you doing?” That’s going nowhere. You have to take it a step further. Get in the habit of asking questions: “Hey, what do you have going on this weekend?” Now you’re probing and creating dialogue. This communication will help to propel you to the next level.
You don’t have to rush things. It’s almost like with dating — don’t rush it if you know you’ll see him next time. Don’t look too eager. And you have to bring something to the table. Be happy, be engaging, be you, gentlemen.
Friendships are tough to develop, but getting yourself out of a rut and out of your comfort zone is essential to making new friends. You have to meet as many people as possible – you’re not going to like them all, and most of them you won’t have anything to do with after that interaction. But in the end, when you do that enough, you will develop some solid long-term friendships!