A child runs over to the swing set at the park and smiles at another child, asks if they want to be friends, and they skip off to the sandbox together. Why isn’t friendship this easy for adults? Why is it so difficult to make friends in adulthood?
Adults tend to prioritize family, career, and home above all else, leaving little time or energy to maintain healthy friendships.
How can we break this cycle and make friendship a priority in our busy lives once again?
Let’s start from scratch and assume that you have no friends. This might sound harsh, but it is quite common in this day and age. Someone moves away from home, gets involved with work and spending time with their family, and one day they realize that they never reached out to build a circle of friends. Instead, they are in a sea of co-workers and friendly acquaintances.
How to Meet Friends
First and foremost, you need to leave home. Think about places and activities that interest you and start spending time there. You will meet like minded individuals who may have the same interests or hobbies as you do. Brainstorm ideas would be church, the gym, coffee shop, dog park, dance class, community volunteer events.
Now, it’s not enough to just show up at these places, you must talk to people once you are there. Now, you shouldn’t use any creepy come on lines like, “Come here often?” but it’s important to initiate conversations with others to see if there is a connection.
Here are a few ice breaker questions. Remember these are just some general ideas to help get you started, but you’ll need to tweak them to your situation for them to make the most sense and feel the most natural saying.
Very general question - What brought you here today?
Can be used at a party - How did you meet the host/hostess?
Sporting league like billiards, bowling, axe throwing - Have you been playing long?
General question where location can be changed - How long have you been coming to the church/school?
Dog park question - How old is your dog?
Here is an amazing collection of icebreakers that will be an extremely helpful tool making new friends, or in any situation where you are finding the need for a starting point.
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Taking the Next Step
Now that you’ve got a good conversation going, what happens when it’s time to leave? How can you plan to take the next step in this potential friendship? Here are a few phrases that will help keep this budding friendship going.
“I had a great time getting to know you today. If you are free later this week, I’d love to grab coffee and learn more about <insert what you were talking about>.”
“I was wondering if we could exchange contact information and maybe get together soon for lunch; I’d love to hear more about <insert your conversation topic here>.”
“It’s been hard getting to meet people in the area, and you’ve been so kind to chat with me; would it be okay if I got your number and texted you so we can meet up again?”
Expect that not everyone is going to say yes, and that’s okay. We never know what is going on in someone’s personal life, and they may just be in a space where they don’t feel like they can expand their circle right now. Keep trying though, because many people will be receptive and will feel grateful that you are taking the first step. People are not meant to be alone. We crave relationship and togetherness.
If you find it a little difficult to put yourself out there, I highly recommend reading the book, "How to Talk to Anyone about Anything." This book walks you through the steps of improving your social skills, small talk, and teaches you how to make and nurture genuine friendships.
You’ve Got the Number, Now What?
After one, or several attempts, you have a new potential friend willing to swap contact information with you and there is a hypothetical friend-date looming on the horizon. Now what?
Don’t wait too long to contact and reach out to your new friend. You don’t want to let too much time go by and create an awkward scenario where you are almost reintroducing yourself. Instead, send them a text the following day after receiving their number. Keep it brief, yet direct and always with a plan for your next meet up.
“Hi! It was great chatting with you yesterday. I’m free for lunch Thursday or Friday of this week if either of those days work for you to get together?”
Something simple like this allows your new friend to know that your interested enough to reach out and desire to see them again. While the days and times that you propose might not work for them, the ball is in their court now, and if they are interested in pursuing the relationship you will soon know one way or another. Here are two examples of responses that you may receive back.
“Hi! Thanks for much for reaching out. I’m sorry but lunch won’t work for me this week, I’m swamped at work. It was good to meet you, and I hope we see each other again soon. “
This response is what might be considered a gentle let down. There was no attempt to make an alternate time to see one another and it was left very open ended. At this point you can decide if you want to keep pushing forward and select another day or respond back with a general response sounding something like this; “No worries, just text me when you have some free time, and we can get together then." This puts the ball back in their court and you will know if they want to be friends if they do in fact reach back out to you further down the road.
The second response that you might receive back, would be more encouraging.
“Yay, so glad that you texted me. Lunch on Friday sounds perfect as my daughter is in preschool that day. Have you tried the new salad place on the corner of 5th and 10th? Does noon work for you?”
As you can see this reply shows that your new friend is eager and willing to spend time with you and ready to take your friendship to the next level. Take out that planner of yours and get that friend date on the books!
You’ve got your time and place and your friend is walking in the door to meet you for your lunch date. It may seem silly, but a friend date isn’t much different than a romantic date in the sense that you may be nervous and have butterflies in your stomach from all the adrenaline pumping through your system. What if there isn’t enough to talk about? What if we don’t have as much in common as assumed? Will there be awkward silences? Stop putting so much stress on this. If you realize that you don’t click, that is ok. The world will not come crashing to an abrupt end. There will be other opportunities to meet new friends. Take the pressure off and see this for what it is. A chance to get to know someone better, and see if you both feel like this relationship, this friendship, is worth pursing further.
Now, that you’ve put the situation into perspective it is time to have some fun getting to know your new companion. Start off by talking about what drew you to them in the first place. Do your kids go to the same school? Do you attend the same church? Are you neighbors? If you are frantically searching for an ice breaker, try something simple as talking about the place that you chose to meet up at.
At the end of your time together, you can choose whether you want to set up another time to meet up or leave it open ended so you both have time to think if another friend-date is wanted on both sides. If you end up feeling this isn’t the match for you, but your new potential friend wants to set up another time to meet, try to accommodate. Maybe they can see something that you can’t yet. After two or three times of meeting up, if you are still feeling like this isn’t going anywhere for you, then you can part ways.
Bless Myself Blog
Certified Life Coach, Mother of Five, Wife, Christian, Homeowner & Friend