Guest post by Rachel Bell.
Girl Seeking Friend: How to Make Friends as an Adult
Since graduating college and getting married, I’ve found that it’s so freaking difficult to make friends as an adult. I’m an introvert, so the idea of going through the long grueling process makes me want to throw up.
But I had this moment a few weeks ago where I realized, if I don’t make some real friends soon, I’m gonna freak out and become Crazy Wife.
This is because, humans (and especially women), flourish when part of a community. In community, we create, encourage, care and learn to love. Without it, any woman will feel bereft even if she has a devoted husband like I do.
But we get so busy with our lives and jobs and children, that we often overlook the importance of friendship. (By no means am I saying friends are more important than your children, but they might make raising them a little easier).
Girl Seeking Friend
I was having coffee with a new friend recently, and she said, “This is a little weird, but what are you looking for in a friend?”
I proceeded to stutter for like two minutes about nothing. Off the cuff like that, I had no idea what I was looking for because I hadn’t given it any thought.
I was like, uh, I’m looking for…. A friend?
Clearly, we can’t just put an ad in the paper (cause people still do that these days…) to find a friend. We can’t just hope to kindle a new friendship amid a swirling paper tornado after knocking into a passerby on the street like some romantic comedy for friends.
As adults, we have to be proactive. We have to try. And I’m pretty much preaching at myself here. Cause I’m terrible at this. BUT here are 5 things I’m trying right now to build real friendships as an adult.
1. Don’t Pull Out Before You Get Past the Awkward Stages
Psychology suggests that lonely people stay lonely because they misinterpret (or miss completely) commitment signals from their friends and pull out of the relationship before a true friendship can form.
For example, a couple invites my husband and I to their home for dinner. We go. Perhaps the wife doesn’t laugh at one of my jokes. I immediately think, well they don’t like us, time to move on.
In that instance, they invited us into their home, indicating commitment. But I misinterpreted it because of fear of rejection and pulled out the relationship early.
If you’re someone who does that, stop it! I’m kinda talking to myself here. I literally do this every time I meet someone, talk to someone, eat lunch with someone. I’m like, well, they don’t like me, then I slowly withdraw before I can get hurt.
That kind of behavior is exactly why you (and I) don’t have close friendships as adults. Which leads me into my next point.
2. Remember: People Actually Like You Even if You Don’t Like You
Humans are made for community, and someone out there thinks you’re great. Maybe you think you’re the worst. Well, most people won’t be as hard on you as you are on yourself. Give yourself a little space to make a friend who actually likes you.
When someone shows they like you, go with it. Don’t think that just because you don’t like you that other people won’t either.
3. It’s Ok to Be Uncomfortable
This whole friendship thing takes time… A lot of time. You don’t have high school or college working on your side to help you see/hang out with someone every single day. Unfortunately, high school and college are not real life.
In college, you can walk up to someone you’ve never met in the cafeteria, ask to sit with them and become instant friends. Try this in real life at say, Starbucks or Panera, and the entire place is going to think you’re loony.
So you have to be patient. Make the effort to contact whoever your target friend(s) is. Text, call… Set up a shopping trip, run some errands together, go grab coffee.
And when you’re together, remember it is so ok to be uncomfortable. Silence is awkward. What are you supposed to talk about? Is she laughing because she thinks you’re funny or stupid? Does she actually like you? Is she ready to leave?
All these questions can make us squirm while we’re trying to make friends as adults. Open up to those emotions and grow through the discomfort.
Before you get together, consciously ask yourself how you want to respond to this person and the discomfort of uncertainty. Do you want to listen well, respond with insight and be light-hearted? Well set your mind to those things, and they’ll be much more likely to happen.
4. Rejection Doesn’t Have to Equal Dejection
The fear of rejection is a very real thing. I touched on it a little bit with the last point. What if this person simply just doesn’t like you?
How about we take a second to actually answer that question.
What if she doesn’t like you? What then? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
The worst thing might be that you never make friends and everyone hates you. But what are the chances of that? Before you go thinking, Well, the chances are probably about 100% – let me stop you.
The chances are slim, my friend. To be friends with someone, you don’t have to be super compatible with all the same likes and dislikes. She doesn’t have to have the same favorite movie and like the same type of music.
To make friends as an adult, all you need is accessibility and willingness. That’s it. You need to be able to see each other regularly, and you each have to be willing to put in the work.
So again, what’s the worst thing that could happen if someone doesn’t like you? Well, you move on to the next person. There are a lot of friendship fish in the sea. No sweat.
My mom always told me a third of the people you meet in life will like you, a third will dislike you and a third won’t care either way – you just be you and let everyone else be them. We can’t control how someone reacts to us. All we can do is be kind and caring and be ourselves.
So don’t be afraid of rejection. Just be the best you possible.
5. Put Yourself Out There
This one is pretty obvious, but easier said than done. Join a workout class or neighborhood association or volunteer organization. Take part in something bigger than yourself, and as you work alongside others, they will more naturally become your friends.
You’ll never make friends as an adult if you’re just sitting at home watching Netflix.
We also have to put ourselves out there emotionally. If you are vulnerable with someone, they’re more likely to be vulnerable with you. Tell them a struggle or epiphany you’re having. It will make them feel more comfortable to reciprocate.
Hard but Not Impossible
So let’s just acknowledge, making friendships as adults is hard. Really hard. Now let’s put that excuse behind us. We can do this. It’s not impossible. 1, 2,3 BREAK!
Rachel is a lover of home, liturgy and finding the joys of ordinary life. She teaches others how to find contentment on her corner of the internet: Wholly Unimpressive. When she’s not writing, reading or knitting, you might find her walking barefoot in the grass and enjoying the sun. www.whollyunimpressive.com
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How do you make friends as an adult? Leave a comment and let us know!