How to Make Friends at Any Age
There can be no doubt that friendships make life richer.
They certainly make us happier, according to Harvard research – especially if our friends live nearby. Sharing our feelings with friends has been shown to activate the brain’s reward circuits, making us feel good.
Friendships can help make us healthier, too. The bonds of friendship appear to help protect our brains against memory loss later in life.
But what if you find yourself without friends?
It happens. If you move or change jobs, or if your friends move away from you, you may find yourself without a buddy to call. You may need to learn how to make friends as an adult after a romantic partnership ends or when a longtime friendship has been lost.
We’re built to be social creatures. You can learn how to make friends regardless of your age. Here are some tips for making friends, informed by research and the advice of mental health experts.
8 Top Tips for How to Make Friends at Any Age
- Make an Effort
While circumstances can help when it comes to making friends, friendship requires effort. In fact, one study found that in people who hold the belief that friendship happens based on luck end up lonelier in the long run. You must be willing to take action if you want to make friends.
That means saying hello, introducing yourself, sharing, listening, and asking others to do things. You may have potential friends all around you, but if you don’t make an effort, a friendship might not happen!
- Pursue an Interest
Here’s a win-win opportunity: pursue an interest (preferably one that involves other people). Take a photography class or volunteer for a beach cleanup.
Maybe you can take a community hike, or perhaps you can work out regularly at the park. Whatever interest you pursue, you’ll have the joy of doing it, while creating opportunities for friendships to develop at the same time.
Showing up consistently to your group or class is important to make friends as well. Research shows that when others see a new person regularly, over time they feel more friendly toward that person. This is referred to as “exposure effect.” Make use of it!
- Say “Yes”
If you’re in need of friends, follow the rule of saying “yes” to social invitations. When your colleagues ask you to join them after work, go! Even say yes to things you don’t want to do.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to commit to an entire afternoon or evening, show up for an hour. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way. You never know where a potential friend might be.
- Try an App
Meaningful friendships can be made online, especially for people living in remote locations and elderly people who have trouble getting out. Use social media to your advantage!
Facebook has literally thousands of groups to choose from. Whatever you decide to join, really give it a go. Show up regularly and engage.
There are also apps like Meetup, Yubo, or Bumble BFF designed to make friendships. What’s wonderful about them is that you can find other people just like you looking to make new friends!
- Develop Your Social Skills
If you haven’t made a friend in a while, you might be rusty on your social skills. One way to start a conversation is to ask a question based on something you’ve observed. People love to talk about themselves!
Slip in a compliment too for good measure. For example, a new (or existing) neighbor grows beautiful roses, and you happen to love gardening. The next time they are in their garden you could say, “I love how beautifully you grow your roses, what is your secret?” Really listen. Give the potential friend your full attention.
Be genuine in your observations, questions, and compliments. Taking interest in another person helps to build friendships.
- Look for Similarities
Shared interests, values, and passions play an important role in friendships. Look at where you have similarities with others and build on them.
This is easier if you join a group or take a class. Once you have an idea of what you have in common with a new friend, you can share information about books, articles, or TV shows you both like.
Or you can really be bold and extend an invitation to an event, such as a concert or play, or activity that involves your shared interest. For instance, if you both like fitness and outdoor activities, invite your new friend to go for a hike, run, or walk.
- Self-Disclosure and Humor
Experts say that self-disclosure and sharing funny stories or inside jokes are ways to build a closer friendship. Self-disclosure is the act of sharing facts, inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions about your life and circumstances.
This kind of sharing should come with time and earned trust. Whatever it is, the intent is to be vulnerable and let that person know you better.
- Keep Expectations in Check
Not every person will become a lasting friend and friendships take time to form. Don’t place too many expectations on new potential friendships. Be patient and trust the process.
If loneliness overtakes you or you find it too overwhelming to extend yourself, consider getting the support of a qualified therapist.
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