Grown-ups need friends, too

Making friends when you’re in that weird area between being a student and being an adult is strange and, for some, overwhelming and scary. Check out 10 tips for how to bite the bullet and find some buds.

Making friends is pretty easy in school. But it seemed as soon as I graduated from college, it felt like I had closed my membership to the Insta-Friend Club. It’s not like I didn’t keep the friends I made in college. I did, and they’re some of my best friends. But, as life generally has a way of doing, things changed, people moved,1 and I found myself trying to make some new friends in a college town while I myself was not in that demographic anymore. It got harder once I moved away.

I cannot be the only one to face the challenge of making friends post-college/post-grad school and come away confused and frustrated.2 Making friends when you’re in that weird area between student and more grown-up is strange and–for me–overwhelming and scary. This is partly due to the fact that I moved a bit during my teenage years and have some pretty bad anxiety about moving and meeting new people. It is HARD for me. Maybe it’s hard for you too, friend.

But the truth is, I’m beginning to think everyone’s a little messed up in this area, because according to the State of Friendship ‘13 report, 75% of Americans are not satisfied with their friendships, and 63% are not confident in their friendships. Uff. And also….yay? Because reader, that means you are not alone…even if you feel like it.

So, what to do? I will tell you this from experience: being a hermit doesn’t help. The good news is, I’ve pulled together some things I’ve learned as an introvert trying to make friends. As I go through them, keep this in mind: according to that same study, more people want deeper friendships, as opposed to simply more friendships (68% vs. 32%). Some of these tips address that too. So…

BEHOLD my learnings!

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1. Surround yourself with people who have a lot of friends.

If you’re awkward like me, this is kind of the lazy way to go about it, but it worked for me, so there! This does mean you need to become a hanger-on to your more social-butterfly-type friends, so you have to have a core to work from. In my case, I straight-up told my friend hey, I want more friends, invite me to everything and I will go–and then I followed through and went when the texts arrived. If you’re an introvert, this is a great solution, and it can ease you into more friendships without it feeling overwhelming or scary.

2. Join a team.

In my case, I joined kickball with River City Sports & Social Club. Notice the Social Club part. It is one! And you don’t have to be good at the sports, thank goodness, and you get to go out to pubs as a team after games, so you can get alllllll your socializing done in one fell swoop.

3. Make friends at work.

The Harvard Business Review reports that:

…friends at work also form a strong social support network for each other, both personally and professionally. Whether rooting for each other on promotions, consoling each other about mistakes, giving advice, or providing support for personal situations, comradeship at work can boost an employee’s spirit and provide needed assistance.

Obviously, work friendships can be a little tricky, and you want to figure out a balance that works for you, but don’t write off making friends at work if you really do click. Particularly if you’re new to an area–you have to start somewhere. If anything, use your colleagues as a way to scope out the friendpool in the city: where people go after work, what people do on the weekends, etc.

4. Volunteer.

I started volunteering at a horse rescue farm, and I’m happy to admit that I’m doing it for me as well as the horses. Find something you care about, and use that as a catalyst for meeting other people with the bonus aspect of accomplishing something good. The worst thing that can happen is you end up not making friends, while still doing some good somewhere, and in my case snuffling some velvety horse noses. That’s a pretty good outcome.

5. Remember: Social media does not necessarily equal being social.

I try to interact with people on a one-on-one basis sometimes, even if that means simply texting them directly instead of liking a post on Facebook, or making a throwaway comment that doesn’t really advance our friendship. Be proactive instead of passive in your social media use. This is true particularly if you’re looking for deeper friendships, rather than more of them. Focus your attention not on the news feed, but on a person, as a person, rather than a contact in a list.

Spending time commenting on a status update may feel like it’s participating in a friendship, but I would argue it’s kind of like playing tic-tac-toe on a plane; you’re doing it to pass the time because you’re both there rather than because it matters. Not many of my memories start with “Remember that time when I commented on your status update?”

6. Be brave.

I met someone I clicked with at a store, and I basically said, I like you, here is my number, let’s be friends. Finding friends is like dating. Sometimes people won’t call, and sometimes they will. You have to be brave and take a chance that this person you enjoyed having a conversation with would like to have more of them with you. And this goes for deepening friendships too. Be brave enough to disagree. Be brave enough to apologize, too.

7. Accept that not all friendships are going to be close.

There’s a lot of pressure to become instant good friends, especially (I think) when you’re female. Not every friend is going to fill my every need, and I’m not going to fulfill every need of my friends, either. I have friends I will call on when I’m crying, and I have friends I will call on when I just want to bitch over a beer, and sometimes those are the same person and sometimes they’re different people. Having someone to call for grabbing a beer is just as important and grounding as having a soul-mate friend. My partner, while I love him, is not the only person I want to rely on for all of these things. I need balance. He does, too.

8. Take a class.

OK, I haven’t actually done this, but everyone keeps suggesting it to me, so I will probably get there. I’m thinking something fun though…like archery. Or falconry. Because if I’m trying to make friends, I want some badass friends. Badass friends who could defend me with bows or a falcon? EVEN BETTER.

9. Don’t get discouraged.

Yes, I get discouraged and lonely all the time, but I’m going to give this advice anyway, in the hopes that you are not me, or if you are, that you maybe need it just as much as I do. Don’t get discouraged.

It takes time and effort to build friendships, and I think in college it’s easy to let your circumstances do the work for you. It gets harder after college because you have to put forth more effort, but just because it’s harder doesn’t mean it’s impossible. So keep trying. Keep talking to people at shops and where you get your lunch and at the dog park, and eventually you will strike up a conversation, and leave them your number, and hope it goes somewhere. Don’t be sad, friend. It will get better if you make it better.

10. _____________ (FILL IN THE BLANK).

What have you done to make new friends, or deepen the friendships you have? Share, please!

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  1. Including me, eventually. 
  2. Oh please don’t let me be the only one! 

Photo by: yyy100

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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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