There have been some events in my life recently that made me question, “Why it is so daunting to make friends as an adult?” And “How can we actually do it?” What do we do when the magic that happens in 30 seconds when we are children disappears, when we no longer find it easy to say, “I like to play ball. Do you want to play ball? Let’s be friends.” I believe there is a woman friend for everyone, somewhere there is a woman with a great smile, key to cracking the shell of any social group, someone we think of as cool, maybe she even works in a similar industry, or has similar interests to us, or totally opposite that could be great fun.
When the husband of a dear friend of mine died recently she not only had to get over the grief, but also to find a new life for herself. Good friends are really supportive in this situation, but while one is comfortable with the care and support, my friend needed to escape the pity and the past memories and start afresh.
When I moved to the UK 8 years ago (because I met the love of my life) I struggled to start again and create new bonds. For months I did not feel the need of new friends. I had friends, they were miles away, but they were still my friends. I spent time and had coffees with them over Skype, but within a few months, the fun of our virtual time vanished and we all felt the need to having someone sitting across the table from us.
Friendships are important for our health and wellbeing. “Having close friends has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, decrease your risk of depression, promote a sense of belonging and lower the heart rate, as well as reducing cholesterol and decreasing blood pressure,” says Irene Levine, a psychologist and professor of psychiatry specialising in the science of friendship.
Good friends help you find important things when you’ve lost them: your smile, your hope, your courage. So we all need good friends, no doubt about it. But do we need new ones? And how many do we need? And do we have time for everyone in our life?
So do we need new friends?
Friendships don’t last forever. People change, their interests and priorities change, they move away, they start families, and sometimes a divorce or the death of a friend shakes things up in friendship circles and we go different ways. And let’s face it, we don’t have space in our busy life for many more than 5-6 good friends.
Oxford University psychologist Robin Dunbar found that we all need a set number of friends: 5 close friends, 15 good ones, and up to a 150 in our outer circle. “Each of these layers correspond to a particular level of emotional closeness and to the frequency of contact: the limits on the layers are at least once a week, once a month, about once a year,” says Dunbar.
How do we make friends as adults?
Children are brilliant at making friends in less than 30 seconds: “Do you want to go on the slide? I like to go on the slide. Let’s be friends!” It’s a simple as that and they can play together for hours. But for us adults it’s trickier. So what happens to us?
The rules are easily set in the children’s playground, but adults need to make time to set the rules and let the other person know who we are and what we like doing. We also need to be able to really listen to the other person and be in the moment.
Making friends as a mum or a dog owner might seem easier. You start asking questions about the child or dog, then arrange a play date or a walk and from there you can take it to the next step and try to meet up without the children. But what do we do when they are not interested in new friends?
Here are a few tips based on my experiences of making new friends:
- Make space for new bonds. Let go of the ones that are dragging or not so good as they used to and make some time to find new friends. Remember we all need to make new friends at some point.
- Great things happen when you say “YES”. Start saying yes to yourself, yes to trying new things, yes to meeting up with new people at work, in your community, at a new course or club.
- Don’t take it personally if someone turns you down. Their friendship book might be full right now, but they might get back to you in the future.
- Go out more. Going out with people is always a bonding experience. A girls’ night out with a few cocktails is a sure-fire way to form new connections!
- Join a club or a course. Having the same interests is a great start for a friendship.
- Try meeting people online. Thelma & Louise can help! At Thelma & Louise Club people meet online first – through organising a meetup or sharing an interest in the same destination. Then it’s easy to take the relationship offline and meet up for a coffee or cocktails, a chat and to plan trips together.
Have you had to make new friends? How have you tackled this? What have you learned? We’d love to hear your tips!