Making Friends as an Adult: Tips for Building Real Female Friendships

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I shared recently about how I celebrate Galentine’s Day with girlfriends and it sparked an interesting conversation: how to make & keep friends as an adult. I think for many people, once college is finished, it’s hard to connect with new people in a meaningful way. Add to that jobs, relationships, family obligations, and everything else – it’s tricky to make time for making and deepening friendships. It’s totally understandable that it’s difficult to do, but I really believe it’s possible to make new friends and have rewarding, fun, meaningful friendships.

Friendship is super important for our well-being: people with good relationships live longer, have healthier lives, and have better mental health. Even introverts gain a lot from regular social interaction. Friendships are not just frivolous and fun, they’re good for you, too. It’s clear that most of us value friendship and want more of it in our lives (but not always sure about how to achieve that goal), so today I’m sharing some tips and insight on how to make friends as an adult.

Think of how you would feel

A big stumbling block that I hear again and again from people wanting to make friends is that they feel like a loser trying to make them. It’s crazy that we think this as full blown adults! It’s really unlikely that anyone would think that (and if they did, you don’t want them in your circle, anyway!) What’s more likely is that someone would be excited and flattered that you want to be their friend: so go ahead and say it! “I think we should be friends!” is a great place to start.

Don’t put yourself in a box

I think one of the biggest downfall in friendship-making is putting yourself in a box: don’t decide too early what ‘kind’ of friend you are, or what kind you’re looking for. You might be thinking you need a new mom friend you can relate to, but by doing that you unintentionally shut down other great friendships that could develop.

The same way, it’s important to be open to friendship with people that are not like you. Some of my greatest friends are different than I am and it makes me treasure our relationship even more. You might think you don’t have common ground, but you’ll find that you can build a friendship with people who are vastly different than you. Be willing to open up to someone who doesn’t look like you, dress like you, isn’t in the same life circumstance as you – and you’ll be surprised how much you genuinely get along.

Put down the phone

Social media is amazing for so many things, but making friends is best in person. I always try to put my phone away when I’m meeting new people or talking to someone, and definitely when I’m at a get together with friends – it’s important to connect with who is right in front of you and that’s really hard to do with the constant buzz of a phone distracting you.

Be willing to host

To me, there’s nothing that will deepen a friendship more than hosting someone in your home. You learn a lot about someone seeing where they live and it’s an act of trust to be vulnerable by letting someone in your home. I think it’s important to be the first to open up your home – even if it’s not picture perfect or your not the fanciest host – it’s being together that matters most.

Being interested is more important than being interesting

I heard this from a podcast once and it’s stuck in my mind ever since: Being interested is more important than being interesting. When it comes to making friends, a lot of us want to be interesting (do they like my style, do they think my job is cool, do they agree with my decisions?), but we don’t always think enough about being interested. Being interested is paying attention to others, asking questions, getting to know them more, and being invested in your relationship. Being interesting might get you noticed, but being interested makes you friends.

Be a matchmaker for friends

One of my favorite ways to make friends (and deepen my existing friendships) is to play matchmaker. I get such a kick out of introducing friends that I think would get along and making them into friends. I’ve found that in doing this, your circle gets stronger and you feel a greater kinship to both friends. It’s also likely your good deed will be reciprocated – I’ve made so many great friends by being introduced by another bestie.

Be enthusiastic

One of the biggest things that has made making friends easier for me is by showing my honest enthusiasm. I think as adults sometimes we’re conditioned to ‘tone it down’ or ‘play it cool’; don’t like nerdy things, don’t be too excited about your favorite show, don’t show how much you like things. But honestly, being enthusiastic has been one of my greatest gifts. Showing enthusiasm for the things I love (organizing, good food, trashy tv) makes other people more likely to open up about what they’re into, because they know I won’t judge them for it.

It’s also amazingly refreshing to be around someone who is enthusiastic to be with you. My husband once told me that I greet my friends like a golden retriever (I’m taking it as a compliment). I love to show enthusiasm for the people in my life by giving them a warm greeting, cheering on their accomplishments, and sharing their joy. Don’t be too cool to show you care. Caring is cool.

Set a recurring get-together

The old saying says that familiarity breeds contempt, but I think that only applies to a husband going to the bathroom with the door open – not with friendship. In most cases, science shows that we like things – and people – that we are repeatedly exposed to. A more true phrase would be that familiarity breeds fondness.

To become familiar with someone, you need to actually see them (or speak with them) on a regular basis. I’ve found the best way to do this is by setting recurring get-togethers with friends. I’ve written posts about some of my favorite ways to get together including our sharing book group, a favorite things party, and celebrating Galentine’s Day.

More low-key ways to make time for each other would be to host a lunch-bunch: a once monthly lunch date at someone’s house (kids can come and tackle each other to their hearts content in the playroom, while moms munch on salad and catch up). I’m also a big fan of building friendship into your daily routine: take a workout class once a week together, set a weekly playdate at the library with kids, or call a far-away friend on the phone on your Friday commute home.

Be a blessing

I have so many wonderful girlfriends who are blessings in my life. One of them had babies a little bit before I did, and sat with me while I nursed my baby and picked me up to go on walks and get out of the house during those loooong days of having a newborn. Another friend lost her father shortly before my mother died, and she was always willing to share her experience and listen to my feelings. One friend moved into our neighborhood when I was lonely and was up for a party as much as I was – we ended up cohosting lots of events together in our first year of friendship!

They all taught me that to have friends, you need to be a friend. And to be a friend is, in essence, to be a blessing in someone’s life. A shoulder to cry on, a cheerleader, a phone call therapist, a shopping partner, a kid’s-birthday-party-picture-taker: having someone in your corner for it all makes a world of difference. Look out for the ways you can bless someone’s life and lean into it: ask a new mom if you can bring her a meal, invite a new neighbor to book club, tell a friend about the show you’re into and invite her to watch with you.

I hope this inspires you to reach out and make a new friend, or to grow closer to the friends you already have. I am so grateful for all my friends and consider you one of them. Cheers!

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