The Patient Work of Making Friends as an Adult, Part 1

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Making friends as an adult can be challenging.  If you’re lonely or struggling to find community, you aren’t alone and there are things you can do to help the cause.  I’ve been there.

I have accidentally become an expert in making friends as an adult.  As a shy, introverted person, this isn’t anything I ever expected.  But other life choices made it necessary if I didn’t want to be permanently lonely.  Now, having moved several times as a single adult without children, sometimes even without a job awaiting me (those three factors combined create the highest degree-of-difficulty move), I am well-qualified to share field-tested perspectives and suggestions.

These insights and ideas apply whether you’re in a new place geographically or have moved to a new space in life (such as an empty-nester).

 

Find other people in transition.  People who recently moved, divorced or otherwise separated from a partner, or had kids leave for school are often your best bet, because they too have the space, energy, and desire for new connections.

It takes a while to find friends and usually, a lack of follow-up from someone doesn’t mean they don’t like you.  More likely than not, it just means they’re busy and can’t find the time or energy for new friends (or the ones they already have).  So finding other recent transplants can make life a little easier.

Admittedly, there is a downside in that some new transplants are transient; they will be in your city for just a couple of years.  Or maybe you’re the one who will be leaving after two-three years.  Some people have asked if it’s really worth the effort and heart for “just” a couple years.  YES!  And I say this as both the mover and the one who stayed put when three or four friends left in quick succession.

  1. You can fit a lot of love, support, insights, and fun into each year.
  2. No one’s future is guaranteed or set in stone. The person who thought they’d stay in town forever more may leave;  the person who expected to leave may stay;  and no matter what, you have the friendship in this moment.  Why deprive yourself now because of worries about what might unfold in the future?  And if they or you do move, there are phone calls, texts, video-chats, and travel options to keep you connected—and maybe inspire a vacation somewhere unexpected.
  3. Even short-lived friendships have value in the present. 

 

Be persistent; this is a sales gig of sorts.  As with sales work, job-hunting, and dating, you may have to knock on a lot of doors to get a few good results.  No big deal.  Most rejections really aren’t personal; people are simply overwhelmed with already-existing demands and relationships.  If it does feel personal, I think of it in terms of “not a match,” rather than the other person thinking I’m not a good person.  –Again, it’s the same as dating.  I can get angry and frustrated and over-analyze the situation, or let it go and move on.  If you’re feeling stuck, recall the times you’ve been too busy for new relationships and the people you think are great, but not a match for you.

That said, my experience is that a lot of people are lonely and long for connection.  So keep trying and reach out to people two or three times before giving up on them.  Often, people mean to follow-up but then get distracted, and they’re grateful when you follow-up with them.

It can be exhausting to always be the one reaching out and organizing events, but if you persevere, the momentum will shift.  It may take 6-12 months of consistent investing and “seed planting,” but eventually you’ll find friends who will take the lead in organizing some get-togethers.

 

One great friend makes a wonderful difference.  You can get really lucky and quickly find one great friend, and that single connection makes everything else easier.  When I moved to Boston, I went out a lot in November, December, and early January without much success.  Then I went to yoga class one Friday in mid-January, met the substitute teacher, and had a best friend FAST.  We had instant click, and as she too was a recent transplant to Boston (arriving just a couple weeks before me), we both had the space and desire for new friends.  There is no guarantee this will happen, but stay open to the possibilities wherever you go—even 6:30 a.m. yoga.

 

Those are a few tips in the attitudes/perspectives category.  In the next post, we’ll move on to concrete suggestions for what to do.

 

Photo courtesy of MyKlick via Pixabay.

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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