Social Strategies for Building Adult Friendships
Posted on 11/13/19 in Transition to Adulthood by Haley Dunn, MA, LPC
Making friends takes work at any age, but as you get older, it can become increasingly more difficult.
According to a study done by University of Kansas communications professor, Jeffrey Hall, it was found that it takes somewhere between 40 and 60 hours to make a casual friend, and that number jumps to 200 hours or more to become what is considered "close friends." This information is shared not to overwhelm, but to help note that someone is not going to become a friend overnight or even after a few weeks, so it is normal for forming a new relationship to take time.
All that time could be worth investing - there are many proven psychological benefits that come from maintaining strong friendships, such as improved mood and overall happiness.
So what are some practical strategies to use when building a new friendship?
Initiate the conversation
Sometimes initiating the conversation is the hardest part of the whole process. It can be anxiety-inducing to think about what you might say to a person. If you are able, have a current friend or family member introduce you to the new person.
If you know something about them already, lead with that information, especially if it is something that interests you in developing a relationship with them. For example, if you know that they really like to go out to the movies, you could approach them about a recent movie you have been to which will get the conversation started.
You will likely need a few conversations with this potential friend before they share their contact information. Think about how you best communicate and what contact information you will be willing to share with the new person.
Text your new friends
Texting is a popular form of communication and creates less pressure than a face-to-face conversation, because you have time to form a response. Text the person a thought or question, but give them time to respond. It is always important to remember that people are working, going to school and tending to their personal lives. This is a natural part of being an adult. Just because they do not respond right away does not mean that they are not interested in speaking with you.
If a person was responding but suddenly stopped and you haven't heard from them in a while, they may not have the time to dedicate to building a friendship and that's okay. It is better to know so that you don't spend too much time on something that is not going to result in a productive outcome.
Communicating through text can be tricky, so if you have a trusted person that can help you navigate, have them help you determine if the person is just too busy right now or if they are not interested in talking to you.
Meeting friends as an adult
Meeting people at work or school can be an easier place to start to develop a friendship—mostly because of proximity and potential time spent together. To move from being a co-worker or schoolmate, you will need to ask them to do something outside of work or school, or you will need to accept the invitation from them asking you to meet outside of work of school.
If you want to do something with a potential friend, be clear and specific. Give examples of the activities that you could do and have days and times that you can propose to meet up. When there is a concrete day, time and plan, it is more likely that you both will follow through. Otherwise, you might get into the conversational trap of saying you should get together sometime, but never do it—which is an easy trap to fall into as an adult.
Be flexible about the options for a meet-up. If you want to go out to eat and a potential friend does not like your favorite kind of food, try something they like - friends make compromises to show they value one another's time and company.
Another way to meet new people and potential friends is through shared interests. If you have specific passions or interests, apps and the internet provide many options that may help you meet people who have the same interests as you. Do you enjoy politics, roller coasters, or magic? There is a group or club for everyone and everything! MeetUp is one way to search for specific interest groups locally.
Make notes of birthdays or other special events in friends' lives and celebrate them or congratulate them. You could send a text to say that you are thinking about them and value their friendship. Make a concerted effort to know what is going on with them; this conveys to people that you truly care about them and their happiness.
Overall, making friends takes work from both people. It will take time and mindful effort to develop, but if both parties are interested and willing to work at it, a rewarding friendship can be established!
Looking for more individualized support for developing social skills or friendships? Milestones Autism Resources offers family and individual consultations to help you create a plan and work toward your goals.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Haley Dunn, MA, LPC, works with individuals with ASD to help them transition to adulthood. She has experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities and ASD to transition from school to work, as well as providing mental health counseling services. Haley has a deep passion for connecting people to their community, whether it is through employment, volunteering or life enrichment activities.