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Friendships give us so much. She writes regularly about connection for Psychology Today and has been a featured connection expert in publications including The New York TimesThe Telegraph and Vice. She is currently writing a book, Platonicon how to make friends as an adult.
She lives in Washington, DC. Edited by Christian Jarrett. Friends are a treasure. In an uncertain world, they provide a comforting sense of stability and connection. We laugh together and cry together, sharing our good times and supporting each other through the bad. It is a relationship of great freedom, one that we retain only because we want to. But the downside of all this freedom, this lack of formal commitment, is that friendship often falls by the wayside.
Our adult lives can become a monsoon of obligations, from children, to partners, to ailing parents, to work hours that trespass on our free time. Those with kids had lost out even more. For instance, a study by the Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst found that, over a period of seven years, people had lost touch with half of their closest friends, on average. A meta-analysis by researchers in Germany published in combined data fromparticipants across studies, concluding that friendship networks had been shrinking for the preceding 35 years.
Friends give us so much, which is why we need to invest in making them. Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part. Especially if you are shy by nature, putting yourself out there can seem scary, triggering fears of rejection. These fears might lead you to engage in two types of avoidance that will inhibit your ability to make friends.
Both these forms of avoidance are caused by understandable fears of rejection. So Adult friends how much easier it would be if you knew that, were you to show up in a group of strangers, most of them would love you and find you interesting. This mindset actually has a self-fulfilling quality — an American study from the s found that volunteers who were led to believe that an interaction partner liked them began to act in ways that made this belief more likely to come true — they shared more about themselves, disagreed less, Adult friends had a more positive attitude.
If this is you, you might take comfort from research that found, on average, that strangers like us more than we realise. The paperby Erica J Boothby at Cornell University and colleagues, involved having pairs of strangers chat together for five minutes, to rate how much they liked their interaction partner, and to estimate how much their partner liked them.
Across a variety of settings and study Adult friends — in the lab, in a college dorm, at a professional development workshop — the same pattern emerged. What wisdom should we take from this research? It can remind us to go into new social events assuming that people will like us. It can keep us from being paralysed by fears of rejection, pushing us to question some of these fears. Try working on your internal dialogue, your inner voice that perhaps makes overly negative assumptions about how people will respond to you.
Doing this will help give you the confidence to go out there and start initiating friendly contact with strangers. As she put it:. This experience made Vellos realise that she needed more friends, so she created and executed a plan to make some. Eventually, she was running two successful meetup groups, and had established friendships with people she liked and wanted to get closer to. How did she Adult friends her life? She initiated. Vellos set aside time to reach out to people regularly, to revitalise old relationships and to awaken new ones, to check in, to find time to hang out.
Her story reveals how initiative can change the course of our friendships. To embrace the importance of initiating, you must to let go of the myth that friendship happens organically. You have to take responsibility rather than waiting passively. Science backs this up.
Consider a study of older adults in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The participants who thought friendship was something that just happened based on luck tended to be less socially active and to feel lonelier when the researchers caught up with them five years later. By contrast, those who thought friendship took effort actually made more Adult friends — for example, by showing up at church or at community groups — and this paid dividends, in that they felt less lonely at the five-year follow-up. This means introducing yourself to other people, asking them for their phone s, following up and asking them to hang out.
Initiating is a process, one that we must do over and over again to make new friendships. Initiation is particularly important for people who find themselves in new social settings — such as people who have moved to a Adult friends city, started a new school or job. In a study of first-year undergraduates at the University of Denver init was those students who rated themselves as having superior social skills who managed to develop more satisfying social relationships.
Although we might fear that other people will turn us down if we initiate with them, the research finds that this is a lot less likely than we might think. When the American psychologists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder asked research participants to open up conversations with their fellow train commuters, can you guess how many of them were shot down?
As far as we can tell, it posed no risk at all. I learned this lesson when I moved to Atlanta to start a job as assistant professor. At first, I was proactive at making friends. I showed up to events, asked my friends if they knew anyone in the area, and went to some meetup groups. I met a few people, but most of these friendships fizzled. I was good at sparking a connection but struggled to sustain it. According to Rebecca G Adams, professor of Adult friends and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, sociologists have long recognised that friendships thrive when we have continuous interaction.
My problem with sustaining connection was that I lacked the opportunity for repeated encounters. Going to a lecture, or a happy hour, or a networking event afforded me only one opportunity to connect. When I was living in Atlanta, I became successful at making friends only once I ed a coworking space where I started seeing the same people continually. This is our tendency to like things more the more familiar they seem, and it applies to people too.
Consider a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh in the s, in which four women were planted in a psychology classroom for a varying of classes. At the end of the semester, the researchers showed the students pictures of the women and asked them which one they liked best. The women who showed up for the highest of classes were liked the best, whereas Adult friends ones who showed up for the fewest classes were liked the least — presumably because greater familiarity, even at an unconscious level, increases likability.
The finding shows the social power of simply showing up and being present. In this case, researchers presented female participants with profiles of two female students.
The two profiles were similar, except that the participants were told that one of the women would be their partner for ongoing discussion groups. The participants reported liking this woman more. The lesson here is that, if you want to make friends, you should commit to showing up somewhere for a few months. I remember the exact moment one of my coworkers turned into a true friend, and it provides a clue as to how to deepen friendships.
We were out for coffee together, and I decided to admit to some struggles I was having at work. It felt like a vulnerable move on my part, but it paid off, and reminded me of the power of vulnerability for cementing friendship.
Now that Adult friends know how to initiate connections, vulnerability is the next step towards deepening them. I like to think of an acquaintance as someone you know ofwhereas a friend is someone you know. To make true friends, you have to share things about yourself and ask people questions, so that they share about themselves too. Adult friends advice here is based on research from the s that found that first-year undergraduates who were more open about their vulnerabilities to their roommates tended to form deeper friendships with them too. More recent studies have found that, when strangers are getting to know one another, the more they share about themselves, the more they end up liking each other.
In sum, the secret to making friends as an adult is that you have to try. You have to put yourself out there, ask people to meet up, show up at events, and keep doing this, over and over again. But these opening acts matter.
They can open the doors to friendship, sending us down a track towards closeness and intimacy that would never have been possible without those very first steps. The following pointers are deed to help you prep before meeting up with strangers, practise ways of engaging with them, and help you turn these initial meetings into friendship. These steps might feel daunting at first, but the more you practise, the easier it will get. I talk about how to make friends, but also how to deepen and maintain them. The book All About Love: New Visions is a fabulous deep dive into what love truly means, written by the Black intellectual bell hooks.
The collection The Psychology of Friendship edited by the psychologists Mahzad Hojjat and Anne Moyer provides a comprehensive summary of the academic research on friendship. The guidebook We Should Get Together: The Secret Adult friends Cultivating Better Friendships by Kat Vellos is an easily digestible handbook to building friendships, peppered with useful information, comics and practical activities. Stories and literature. How to gain more from your reading. Deepen your appreciation of literature through the art of slow, attentive reading. The body and physical health.
How to breathe. Whether your aim is improved health, Adult friends calm or achieving transcendence, breathing techniques can help you get there. Love and relationships. How to enjoy being single.
Charlton Lido, London. Adult friends G Franco is a psychologist and author. Tweet Share. Need to know Friends are a treasure. What to do Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part. Assume that people like you Both these forms of avoidance are caused by understandable fears of rejection. I was craving a different kind of life — one that would give me abundant access to friends who wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see them.
Get vulnerable I remember the exact moment one of my coworkers turned into a true friend, and it provides a clue as to how to deepen friendships. You need to make a deliberate effort to meet new people. To turn an acquaintance into a friend, start practising vulnerability.
Share more about yourself Adult friends ask the other person questions to get them to share about themselves. Find an event: look for an event that you want to attend. Find the time and place that the group meets, and commit to showing up. Put the details of the event in your calendar. Prepare yourself to interact: right before the meetup, there are a few things you should do to increase your confidence in interacting with new people.
A few hours before the event, do something to put you in a good mood. This might be chatting with an old friend, listening to music or doing some exercise. Whatever your strengths, keep reminding yourself of them. Also right before the event, tell yourself that people will like you and be excited to meet you.Adult friends
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How to make friends as an adult