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295: How to Make New Friends as an Adult

On Air with Ella - podcast episode 295

how to make friends as an adult - group of women

Listen here (or everywhere you get podcasts):


MAKING FRIENDS AS AN ADULT

Friendship, social engagement and connectedness all are good for the mind and soul, right? But did you know that friendship and connectedness also have physical health benefits? Yep. Having meaningful friendships in adulthood is linked to better physical health outcomes, including reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved immune system, and even longevity.


“Older adults with strong social connections, have better cognitive function, lower rates of age-related cognitive decline, and a reduced risk of developing dementia. Friendships provide a sense of purpose, social stimulation, and emotional support, which are vital for healthy aging.”


So, if you can’t get excited about making friends for friends' sake, do it so you can live to 100 ;-).


But in all seriousness, I believe that our lives should have witnesses. We need a witness to our high times, our low times, our mundane times and our exceptional times. It gives it all meaning. And if you have a life partner that is lovely, but...

  1. your partner is not meant to carry the weight of all of your social and emotional needs, and

  2. friends can offer alternative viewpoints and fresh perspectives to see things from different angles - they help expand your world in important ways.

In short, friendships and connection help broaden your horizons, deepen your experience and lower your risk of dementia. What’s not to love?


WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MAKE FRIENDS AS AN ADULT?


When you’re a kid, making friends can still be scary but you have so many opportunities to do it! Sports, school, theatre, scouts, summer camp, the neighborhood - kids are drowning in opportunity to meet new people. But as adults, our worlds constrict in this way, which is a real shame in a way.


If you’re like me, you might prioritize your family or career over making a new buddy, right?

Then you have the factor of the passing of time. As we get older, of course, your college friends may drift away, people move, and friendship circles diminish. And, conversely, it can feel like many people already have well-established social circles, and breaking into these existing circles can be intimidating.


And, it can be a vulnerable thing to make friends as an adult, so taking the time, then making the effort and then being willing to fail and try again is a HUGE ask. Right?


In reality, it’s highly comparable to dating: you have the unknown, fear of rejection or judgement - you have to employ trust and vulnerability to form genuine connections and you have to not take it personally when it’s just not a great fit. It's a useful analogy, making friends and being on the dating scene, because with each, it requires knowing what you want, engaging a proactive effort and a resilience when things don’t pan out.


TIPS FOR MAKING FRIENDS AS AN ADULT


My number one tip is to TAKE THE INITIATIVE. Don’t wait for the opportunity, create the opportunity. Arrange a happy hour, book club, an outing to a local event - this has worked for me time and time again.


Again, like dating, do not be afraid to make the first move. Finding friendships simply requires you to take chances and put yourself out there.


Yes, taking the initiative to spark conversation with someone or invite them on an outing can feel awkward at first. And If your invitation is rebuffed or you find you don’t have a strong connection, you cannot take it personally any more than when it’s not a match when dating. In both, you feel it personally and then you realize, not everyone is made for everyone and it’s onto the next.

women making friends

HOW TO MEET PEOPLE: MORE IDEAS

  1. Volunteer or participate in local activities: Get involved in volunteer work or local activities within your community. This not only helps you give back but also provides opportunities to meet people who care about similar causes.

  2. Be approachable: Smile, make eye contact, and be open to conversations. Approach others with a positive attitude and genuine interest in getting to know them. Actively listen and show empathy when someone is speaking.

  3. Be proactive: Don't wait for others to make the first move. Be proactive and initiate conversations or suggest activities with people you'd like to be friends with. Invite them for coffee, lunch, or a social outing.

  4. Be patient and persistent: Building meaningful friendships takes time, so be patient. Keep putting yourself out there and don't get discouraged if some initial connections don't develop into long-lasting friendships. Keep trying and nurturing the relationships that show potential.

  5. Be yourself: Authenticity is key. Be true to who you are, and don't try to change or pretend to be someone you're not just to fit in. Real friendships are built on genuine connections.

  6. As you build up confidence in yourself, use this as an opportunity to build self-awareness. Ask yourself what types of relationships you want to have in your life and discover what qualities you bring to a friendship. Having a better understanding of yourself can help you attract people who fit the relationship you’re looking for and weed out fickle friendships.


HOW TO START A CONVERSATION

Ok, so you've shown up at the event, how do you go about making friends and connecting with people?

  1. Start simple! Making eye contact, offering a warm smile and a simple greeting sets a positive and approachable tone.

  2. Ask open-ended questions: Questions are a great way to break the ice and initiate a conversation, especially with someone you don't know well. Ask for their opinion, impression or input on something and watch what happens! Asking a question immediately grabs the attention of the other person and shows that you are interested in their thoughts and opinions. It can pique their curiosity and make them more engaged in the conversation.

  3. Find common ground: Look for shared interests, experiences, or surroundings to establish a connection. Tip: If you notice something about the environment or the event you're attending, comment on it and ask for their thoughts. This helps to create an immediate point of conversation.

  4. Show genuine curiosity and actively listen: Demonstrate interest in what the other person is saying by actively listening and responding thoughtfully. Maintain good eye contact, nod, and provide verbal cues to show that you are engaged in the conversation. T

  5. Share something about yourself: Once the conversation has started, don't be afraid to contribute and share something about yourself. This helps create a reciprocal dynamic and allows the conversation to flow naturally. However, avoid dominating the conversation and ensure there is a balanced exchange of information.

  6. Be mindful of body language: Pay attention to your body language and ensure it reflects openness and friendliness. Stand or sit in an open posture, maintain appropriate personal space, and avoid crossing your arms, as it can signal defensiveness.

  7. Respect boundaries and be patient: Not everyone may be equally receptive to conversation or may be busy with their own agenda. Respect their boundaries and cues. If they seem disinterested or preoccupied, gracefully conclude the conversation and move on.


ON BEING AUTHENTIC

While it may seem counterintuitive, being open about your insecurities or personal challenges can actually help build deeper connections with people. Here's why:

  1. Authenticity and relatability: Sharing your vulnerabilities allows others to see the real you. It creates an atmosphere of authenticity and vulnerability, which often encourages others to open up as well. When you show your true self, it becomes easier for others to relate to you on a deeper level.

  2. Breaking down barriers: By opening up about your vulnerabilities, you create a safe space for others to do the same. It breaks down emotional barriers and fosters a sense of trust and understanding. When people see that you are comfortable with your own imperfections, they feel more at ease sharing their own struggles and insecurities.

  3. Shared experiences: Vulnerability can create a bond between people who have gone through similar challenges. By opening up, you may discover that others have faced similar situations or emotions. This shared experience can lead to empathy, support, and a stronger connection.

  4. Strength in vulnerability: Contrary to popular belief, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather an indication of strength and self-awareness. By embracing and expressing your vulnerabilities, you demonstrate courage and authenticity. This can be attractive to others and can inspire them to open up and form deeper connections.


What tips do you have for making friends? What has or has not worked for you? I would love to hear from you - you can DM me in Instagram @onairwithella or call me at (202) 681-0388.

 

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xxoo Ella


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