There’s nothing wrong with you if you have a hard time making friends as an adult.
During our developmental years, most people have opportunities to make friends in school or through extracurriculars. As adults, we’re often working, navigating romantic relationships, and dealing with life, which can take up a lot of our time.
Making a friend as an adult may take more initiative and intention, but it can be done.
Both extroverts and introverts desire and need friends, but their styles of engaging with people may vary. Some people may need to be more strategic and intentional when seeking to forge new friendship bonds.
The first step is understanding that making a friend takes time and energy, much like finding a romantic partner. New friends don’t typically suddenly appear. You have to seek them out and attempt to connect and build a relationship.
Transitioning from work friend to outside of work friend is one of the easiest transitions you can make. At work, you have a pool of friendly colleagues at your fingertips.
But first, it’s important to evaluate if you’re in the kind of industry where you may want your work colleagues to remain just work colleagues.
For example, in certain industries, such as medicine, the focus on intense and serious medical procedures may require a level of attention that makes small talk and friendly banter distracting.
If you want to connect with a work friend on a deeper level, you can try approaching them and asking if they want to grab coffee or dinner. If they’re into a similar activity, like walking, consider asking if they want to go for a walk together on your lunch break.
It’s absolutely possible to maintain the friendship, but you may have to be a little more creative than when your friend was closer.
Maintaining long-distance friendships is easier than ever with technology and social media like Facebook, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. For example, using FaceTime to video call a friend is a great way to stay connected following a move.
Another fun way to stay connected is to use streaming services, like Teleparty, that allow you to watch shows or movies remotely with friends. This type of activity has low emotional stakes but can feel quite positive.
When someone is watching a show and commenting about characters and plots, there’s less pressure to share personal feelings and be vulnerable. Some find this a safe way to build familiarity before venturing into a deeper and more emotional connection.
Finding common ground is a good way to nourish a friendship. For instance, if you and your friend both have small children, you can put the kids in the stroller and take a walk together. Book clubs are another great way for people with common interests to connect.
Carve out time to text, reach out, or make contact with new friends. By putting it on your schedule, you’ll view it as a priority, which can help you be consistent in reaching out to new and potential friends.
Make things even easier by putting a reminder in your phone to make a friend date just like you would schedule other activities.
New babies can change the dynamic of a friendship. You want to maintain a connection and value the person while recognizing that something in their life has drastically changed.
If you don’t have children and don’t have a soft spot for them, you may designate yourself as the adult touchpoint when your friend wants to go out for a drink or talk about anything other than babies.
It’s also important to shift your expectations and talk about how to support one another to ensure feelings don’t get hurt. New parents and caregivers often feel stressed and lonely. They may also find it difficult to know how to reach out.
Ultimately, being supportive, flexible, and available is important.
Dealing with friendship rejection is like any other type of rejection — it can sting. But don’t let it hurt too long. Remind yourself that the friendship may not be meant to be for many reasons.
Some work friends want to keep their professional life separate. And some people need fewer connections. It may even be an instance of poor timing, meaning you may have the opportunity to reach out again.
But if the connection doesn’t happen, try to tell yourself “onward and upward” and continue to move forward in your pursuit of friendly connections. This may not be the right friend for you. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s OK.
Not everyone will be a good friend match for you. Some people have different values, and that can strain a relationship.
If you find yourself doing most of the inviting and your new friend doesn’t reciprocate, you may want to start investing your energy elsewhere.
You may find the other person monopolizes the conversation and seems to not really care about your needs. It’s a good idea to approach friendships like romantic partners — you only have so much of you to go around and want to ensure you surround yourself with those who nourish you, elevate you, and bring you joy.
Dr. Lori Lawrenz is a psychologist at the Hawaii Center for Sexual and Relationship Health in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has been a licensed psychologist for 20 years, with licenses in Missouri and Hawaii. She is passionate about addressing trauma, shame, grief, and mental health issues to assist her clients to live more productive and happy lives.