Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Thank You for Being a Friend: Making and Keeping Adult Friends -- Guest Post
Making friends as a child seems so simple. "You like blocks? WOW, ME TOO! Let's be friends."
That makes it even more frustrating when, as an adult, the process is not only more complicated but more difficult. It’s nothing like what I thought when I watched Spice World or Friends as a teenager. You may not regularly be in situations where you can find common ground with other adults. Everyone is busy, and they don't have time to chat with you or just drop by- they're off to their next appointment.
And making friends at work can be tough. Maybe your co-workers are different enough from you in terms of stage of life, politics, interests, whatever that you can't connect on more than a fairly superficial level. Maybe you don't want to mix your personal and your work life much. Maybe you always have to run out at the end of the workday, so regular happy hours and other work functions aren't an option for you.
And maybe you have those life-long high school or college friends that you always keep in touch with, but you don't live near them anymore, or something else is keeping you from the social face time you need. So how does an adult make friends, then? How do you keep up a social life with all the other stuff you have going on?
I've found a few things that have worked for me for making and keeping adult friends:
Join something. Volunteer groups, professional organizations, take a class, do something else with a group that you find inspiring. You'll automatically have something in common with others there, and even if you don't meet a potential new friend, you still get a benefit. You get the opportunity to talk and work together with others on a common goal. Some of my best friends I met through volunteering.
Schedule your social time. One of the big barriers for me to having an active social life is that I get lazy about social engagements, and then after a couple months of living in a cocoon I realize I'm really lonely. Regularly scheduled social time makes a huge difference. I have a set time once a week where I get together with a group of friends- we eat takeout and watch Netflix, nothing big, but it really helps me get much needed social time. It doesn't always happen, but definitely more often than not- and having the standing appointment means I don't have to think ahead and plan something out. It helps me maintain my relationships too- that way my fragile adult friendships don't wither from neglect.
In the same vein- book your social time well in advance. People are busy and have well-developed routines. It's hard to do last-minute lunches or movies or coffee outings with friends who have a lot going on. I try to book things about a month ahead of time- yes, even casually grabbing coffee. So much easier to work around schedules that way. I have a few friends I can get together with on short notice- but those are few and far between.
Use social media. I try to check in with friends every so often using instant messaging or Facebook. It feels a bit more superficial than going out for coffee, but it really helps to keep that connection alive. As well, it can help you build a connection with a new friend- you might find that that cool person you met at yoga also loves incredibly spicy Thai food, has kids of similar ages, and loves going to cheap matinees and having weekend Netflix binges. A couple of quick Facebook conversations can take you from casual acquaintances to great friends.
Be forgiving. Again, people have a lot going on. It's easy to get frustrated when people frequently cancel plans, but it's also tough to keep social plans when you've got kids and jobs and a million other things competing for your attention. For sure, don't just be a social doormat, but also, cut people some slack. This is also a good reason to build up a group of friends- if your regular coffee date hasn't been able to make it in a while, maybe invite another friend for a Thursday morning latte for a while.
What have you found has helped you to make and keep friends as an adult?
When she’s not making play-doh spaceships with her two young sons, Jenny Hill, CPLP creates engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences, so learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferreneehill.