Why Is It So Hard To Make Friends As An Adult? My Tips On How To Do It!
Why Is It So Hard To Make Friends As An Adult? My Tips On How To Do It!
This is something I hear from 99.9% of adults. Specifically females, though that’s only because most of my friends & followers are females. I do know that men struggle with this too.
I most certainly struggled with this for many years but I’d always believed it was because I was an introvert and naturally, making friends is more challenging and slightly less of a priority for introverts.
As an introvert, I’d always believed that being around any other human would drain me but it wasn’t until the last couple of years where I’ve realized that being around the right people would barely drain me at all.
If you’re also an introvert and you continuously feel drained after ‘people-ing’, it’s likely due to the types of people you’re hanging around. If the people you hang around are negative, uninteresting & uninspiring it will most definitely drain you because you have to use an exorbitant amount of energy to try to keep the conversations going and engage with these types of people. Get a new group of friends & watch how less drained you are!
Easier said than done right? I mean that’s the whole point of the blog- to figure out why in the hell it’s so damn hard to make friends as an adult!
Remember when you were a child in elementary school & making friends was relatively easy for most of us?
Have you ever stopped to think why it was so much easier back then?
Here’s the reason:
As a child you have zero standards or expectations when it comes to friends. If someone simply came up to you on the playground and declared that you two should be friends, it was as simple as that. You have absolutely no idea who you are, what you stand for, what you’ll tolerate, what you won’t tolerate, what your interests are & no awareness that there might need to be more to it than simply pointing your finger at someone and telling them that they’re going to be your friend.
It’s the reason why friendships don’t always last. Often “best friends” from elementary school drift apart by highschool and the new “best friends” that you make in high school drift apart by college. It’s extremely rare and uncommon to have a “best friend” from childhood that you can still say with certainty that you’re “best friends” today as a 30 or 40 year old adult. As we grow as individuals and start to become who we’re meant to be, two things happen:
1. We grow into different people with different interests, values & views on life.
2. We develop standards & expectations for friendships that are much greater than simply pointing at someone and telling them they’re our friends.
The first point is pretty self explanatory and I’m sure everyone can relate to the fact that we grew & matured into completely different people then that of our 8 year old selves… Well, most of us anyways. So, I want to really focus on the second point- how our standards and expectations change & evolve as we change and evolve. It’s not fair to compare the fact that it was easier to make friends as children when we’re not using the same method we used as a child to simply tell people they were our friend. If we did use that approach as adults, then sure it would be just as easy to make friends as adults… but is the goal really to have more friends as an adult or is the goal to have great friends?
I hope you’ll agree with me that the quality of friendships far overrides the quantity of friendships. Here’s my tips on how to cultivate better friendships:
1. Define your values & only choose friends that have similar values. You do not need to agree on everything all the time, in fact some of the best friendships are the ones where you can feel safe to discuss & debate different topics. You do however, need to share similar values or it’ll never ever work out.
For example, I’ve narrowed my values into the top 3 non-negotiables for anyone in my life: integrity, authenticity & kindness. I will absolutely not allow anyone into my life if they don’t resemble and value these 3 things. It’s very easy and obvious to pick up on if other people share these values or not. It is obvious in the way they act in their own lives, what they choose to talk about, how they talk about other people, whether or not they stand by their word & how they deal with conflicts.
2. When people show you who they are, believe them. It’s true that it may take a while, sometimes even a few months to see someone’s true colours show through but eventually… They will. Naturally, as with any new friendship or relationship, people tend to be on their best behaviour at the beginning but rest assured that they will always fall back into who they truly are once they feel comfortable enough to do so. I’ve had this happen a couple of times where I’ve become friends with people and they appear to share similar values of integrity, authenticity & kindness, in fact they even vocally said that they valued those things except… their actions were completely the opposite of those things. It was as if they didn’t even understand the true meaning of what those words even meant. As soon as their actions showed me that they gossiped and spoke negatively about other people and even other ‘friends’ in their lives behind their backs & wouldn’t hold true to their promises… I was out. I refuse to share my life & make space for people who aren’t kind, authentic & trust worthy when there are so many other people in the world who do exemplify all those things.
3. Establish boundaries. Every healthy relationship starts with setting boundaries & respecting the boundaries that your friends have set for themselves. If you’re someone who hates when friends show up uninvited and unannounced, and you’re friends with someone who loves to do that, the friendship will never last unless you make your boundaries clear with them. The only people who will not respect your boundaries are people who do not have boundaries themselves. These people are especially dangerous to be friends with because it’s very hard for someone to respect your boundaries when they don’t have any of their own. They just won’t understand them and they’ll think you’re being mean or that you don’t really like them. The truth is that you respect and love yourself enough to set boundaries in order to create healthy relationships. If you don’t love yourself enough to have boundaries then you’re incapable of offering love to anyone else. I once started a new friendship where only about a month into the friendship this girl tells me she's an ‘extremely needy’ friend. Not knowing what that meant at the time, I just laughed and thought it was cute. Little did I know that being extremely needy meant that she’d be jealous of me hanging out with other friends and would be texting me 50 times a day asking why I wasn’t replying quick enough. As if running my business & living my life should come second to meeting her ‘needs’. Trying to have a conversation regarding boundaries was like a foreign language to her where she interpreted boundaries as her not being important. Having friends who don’t have boundaries is almost always a disaster waiting to happen. Looking back on that comment now, I realize that was a clear indication that boundaries were lacking in her life and I’d never pursue a friendship with someone lacking boundaries ever again. I’ve realized that it’s easy to spot if someone lacks boundaries in their own lives. Pay attention to what they complain about. If they often complain about how their sister drives them crazy or how they’re going to hang out with so and so on the weekend but they’re really dreading it, they have zero boundaries. If they had boundaries they wouldn’t feel obligated to constantly do things that made them want to complain.
4. Seek out friends who have a similar mind-set as you. If you’re someone with big goals, dreams and ambitions, you’re not going to have very much in common with someone who has no desire to learn and grow. It’s easy to assume that everyone thinks the way you do, but they do not. You can tell if someone has a similar mind-set by paying attention to what they share on social media or what they talk about in person. Is that something you would share on social media or say in person or did it make you cringe? Pay attention to these details; they hold a lot of important information.
5. Intelligent people have less friends. This is actually a fact. If you type this into google you’ll find article after article backing this up. My opinion on why intelligent people have fewer friends is because they have higher standards for what they will and will not tolerate and also because the topics that interest intelligent people would bore the shit out of an average person and vice versa. Intelligent people are also extremely diligent and particular about where and with whom they spend their time. They understand that time is the most valuable currency and won’t see the point of hanging out with anyone just for the sake of hanging out with them if they don’t add value or inspiration to their life.
6. Make the first move. Stop complaining about lack of friends and not doing anything about it. My favourite saying of all is either complain and do something about it or don’t complain at all. If you don’t make the first move to ask them out on a coffee date or to go for a walk then chances are you’ll continue to have no friends. Don’t be offended if they’re too busy or say no. Who cares? Move on and try connecting with someone else. Fear of rejection will always hold you back. A helpful tip- pay attention to the person you want to develop a friendship with and ask yourself if it would actually be a good fit or not before you even ask. It helps to strike up a conversation online first to see if there’s any common ground or mutual values there. If someone asks me if I want to go on a hike or for a coffee date and I think we may share similar values, then sure I’m more likely to say yes because those are two things I love doing. If someone asks me if I want to go to a comic book festival, I’m more likely to pass on that out of sheer lack of interest and also wonder why they would ask me when I’ve never shared any remote interest in a comic book festival. So do your research & make sure you have things in common, share similar values & make the first move.
7. Plan dates & schedule them in your calendar. If you don’t do this, chances are you’ll both get too busy and it’ll never happen. As an introvert, I tend to need less people time than extroverts. I have a lot of extroverted friends. Whom I love so much. They are usually the ones to reach out and make the plans because as the joke goes if two introverts are friends then no one will ever take the initiative to make the plans. It’s just not as top of mind for introverts to be plan makers because we already live in an extroverted world where making quiet time is much harder to schedule and prioritize. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to hang out ever, socializing is just as much part of our needs as a human as anyone else, it just isn’t as top of mind for us as extroverted people who rely on people's interactions to fill their cups.
8. Don’t cancel plans. Obviously, if there’s an emergency or you're sick then totally understandable but, if every other time you make plans and there happens to be an emergency or you're sick… well, it’s probably just that you’re a plan canceller. Nothing will kill a friendship faster than being a plan canceller. What’s even the point of making plans if you’re just going to cancel them? If you’re someone who gets excited to make plans only to cancel them when it comes time to actually show up then you need to do a deep dive and ask yourself why this happens or why you do this?
It’s either because you don’t actually enjoy spending time with the person and you’re too afraid to just say no when they ask to hang out or because you’re suffering from mental health issues. I totally understand and can relate to the mental health issues being a struggle in the ‘making plans’ department. I struggled with this myself, but it’s not a valid reason to keep doing the same negative and destructive behaviour over and over again. Figure out a solution that aligns with your mental health and you’ll find that it actually helps you feel better over all such as maybe not making plans in advance and only doing last minute things. You’ll want to communicate this to your friend though otherwise they won’t easily understand what the issue is. A good friend will want to support your mental health and do whatever is easiest for you.
I hope these tips help you in cultivating better friendships and maybe change your perspective on why as adults it ‘seems’ harder when actually we just grow up to have higher standards for friendships. As we should. Have any tips or ideas on making friends as an adult? Share them in the comments below!