100 Quick Tips for Making Adult Friends

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Photo: Adina Voicu

Here’s 101 habits we’ve discovered lead to more satisfying and successful friendships.

    1. Start slow. Just try adding one social event or gathering to your month.
    2. Inventory your social circles. Who do you already naturally cross paths with in ordinary life?
    3. Make a list (or at least a mental list) of people you’d like to get to know better.
    4. Look for natural opportunities. If someone says they’re a big sports fan, say “Hey, we should go to a game sometime!”
    5. Be accessible. Don’t over-schedule your life. If you have only one time-block in your whole week that is free, it’s going to be really hard to meet and keep friends.
    6. Take initiative. Be the one to find something to do and suggest it.
    7. You’re going to have to plan more. Get over it.
    8. Be well. Take care of yourself first. Rumor has it that desperate people have a harder time picking up new friends.
    9. Look for what you have in common. Build on similar interests, hobbies, and beliefs.
    10. BUT, accept you might have less in common. It’s okay to enjoy differences too.
    11. Listen for the click. Do you “click” or hit it off with one acquaintance more than others? Put more time into that friendship. Let good chemistry guide you.
    12. Quality over quantity. Focus on building a few good friends first, then add on more acquaintances around that.
    13. Set a goal. Example: I’m going to invite two acquaintances to do something with me this month.
    14. Ask for help. Know someone who is really good at connecting socially with others? Compliment them by asking for their secret sauce.
    15. Be braver than usual. So you wouldn’t normally say or do it? Who cares? Flex yourself.
    16. If you don’t naturally invite people to hang out with you, schedule the ask. Write it on your calendar once a month: invite someone to do something. Then take your calendar seriously.
    17. Set aside a few minutes everyday for friend maintenance. Text and check in, send an encouraging email, like something on Facebook. Show you’re still there.
    18. Start small. Don’t try to become the activity coordinator for 50 people overnight. Focus on one person at a time.
    19. Reach out. Is someone having a rough time? Had a recent loss? A divorce? Be the person who doesn’t get all awkward about it.
    20. Get out of the house. Yes, you can endlessly surf friends’ profiles on social media. But for the most part, staying home won’t expand your social circles.
    21. Focus on the nearby. People who live in your immediate community are easier to become friends with than someone who lives 30 minutes away.
    22. Look for friend-friendly environments. It’s easier to get to know someone over coffee, than, say, try to talk over a movie.
    23. Hang out in settings that you love. You relax more when you are enjoying yourself.
    24. Is one of your friends not available? Try connecting with a friend you know through them. Concerts or other one-time events are a great place to start. Talking point: [Mutual friend’s name] couldn’t make it, so I was wondering if you’d like to go. Easy, right?
    25. Go to places where people are. Who cares if you don’t love cheese? If everyone in town is talking about the cheese festival, that’s where your potential friends are at!
    26. Upgrade a work friendship. Suggest a co-worker join you for dinner or to unwind after work.
    27. Don’t underestimate the power of rituals. If you visit the park every day at the same time, you’re more likely to talk to the same people every day. And the more time you spend together, the more likely it is a friendship will pop up.
    28. You’re doing errands anyway, right? Ask someone to come along for the ride. Maybe stop and do a few of their errands too. Way less boring. And very friend-y, don’t you think?
    29. Watch the local events calendars.  Most newspapers, as well as cities, have one posted.
    30. Join a class. Learn something new. Kickboxing, painting, whatever. Doesn’t matter. You’ll both meet new people and stretch your comfort zone.
    31. Meet your neighbors. Welcome new neighbors with brownies, take Christmas cookies over, invite them to hold a joint yard sale. Make up an excuse and get over there.
    32. Regularly walk…with or without dogs or baby strollers. Say hello, comment on the weather, strike up a conversation. Many a friends have been made with the opening line: What breed is he? Or, how old is she?
    33. Volunteer. There’s often opportunity to meet an organization’s staff, other volunteers, and people who are serviced by the organization. Your whole community could be one volunteering experience away! (Besides, volunteering makes you feel good and get’s the emphasis off me-myself-and-I.)
    34. Be fit. People who work out often naturally need to connect to others. They need lifting or running partners, they go to exercise classes with others, they recruit other people for kickball or softball or volleyball teams. Find those tennis shoes already!
    35. Browse around…the web. There are lots of places, like Meetup.Com or Eventbrite.com, that will cue you into groups already getting together in your area.
    36. Get on the phone. Don’t have time to connect with someone in person during this stretch of life? Pick up the phone and check in.
    37. Send a card. It’s old-school, but old-school is sometimes THE BEST school.
    38. Join an organization. It might be based on service or a hobby. It won’t matter. You’ll do things together with these people.
    39. Become a regular at a local restaurant, pub, or coffee shop. Stop every Thursday after work. Invite co-workers. Learn the owner’s name. Make it a thing.
    40. Throw a party. There’s a million reasons to throw a party. Host a jewelry or makeup party, throw a super bowl gathering, put on a get together to watch the Oscars. You only need 3 things: People, food, and an excuse.
    41. Start a group. Reading club, anyone? Morning walking group? Breakfast group? There are a gazillion things you can build a group around.
    42. Join a networking group or professional community. There are likely already professional groups meeting in your area. Google your city and the word “networking” and let the world open up to you.
    43. Buy something fun to share. A trampoline? An above ground pool? A pool table? Some awesome board games? The point is, you have something fun, and you’ll share.
    44. Tap the family rolodex. Hang out with a sibling or cousin. Because you’re family, it will be easy to tagalong in their social circles as well. And their friends will naturally be interested in you just because you’re related. Make sure to bring fun (but not embarrassing) stories and nice things to say about said relative.
    45. Use social media. See a local event you’re interested in? A charity fundraiser perhaps? A run? Post it on social media and ask who wants to go with you.
    46. Don’t forget alumni. Your college probably has alumni events where you can connect with others who share your university pride. And don’t forget those high school class reunions.
    47. Go to work events. Is there a holiday Christmas party? A work softball team? Go! Even if you aren’t really “in” to softball, at least go and involve yourself. Bring snacks for the team. Cheer them on. Organize going out for drinks after the game.
    48. Explore your city or region. Make it a point to read up or take any tours that will help you get to know your city. There are likely places and events and groups you don’t even know about that are hoping to recruit newcomers just like you.
    49. Be positive. We naturally want to be around people who focus on the bright side.
    50. Share. Did you just find a great burger joint or an awesome new gym? Spread your learning about resources, ideas, hobbies, and passions.
    51. Make eye contact. While an unbroken stare can be intimidating, looking at someone is demonstrates you’re interested in them.
    52. Smile. Smiling is contagious. And when we smile, it prompts feelings of openness and happiness.
    53. Push yourself to small talk. Are you stuck in a waiting room with someone at the doctor’s office or oil change shop? Strike up a conversation.
    54. Pay compliments. Don’t make up insincere flattery, but if you like someone’s shirt or if you notice their child is well behaved, begin a practice of mentioning it.
    55. Be helpful. Open doors, help carry groceries, walk strangers down the street to help them find the place they’re searching for.
    56. Be real. Don’t try to be the grown-up version of that popular kid from high school. Be you. Pretending to be more perfect than you are will make social settings more taxing than they need to be.
    57. Be willing to be vulnerable. Did you set a goal to lose a few pounds? Are you trying to read a book a month? Are you sad over being passed up for a promotion? Share what you’re working on.
    58. Focus on others. Listen, ask questions. Say “uh-huh” and “that’s great” or whatever other “attentive listening” phrases suit you.
    59. Remember what your friends value. Is your friend a big sports fan with a favorite team? Do they collect ceramic hippos or baseball pennants? Do they love a certain band? This gives you a heads up on buying a Christmas present they will actually like. And, it gives you the chance to tune into local events or news headlines related to their hobbies so you have more to talk about.
    60. Ask what people are doing for the upcoming weekend. They may give you an idea for something to do. And bonus? There’s at least a small chance they may invite you along.
    61. Ask what people did last weekend. Again, you’ll get ideas. And there might be a natural place to add, “Oh, you’re into that too? Me too!”
    62. Practice these words: “We should get together some time.” If you say them and the hearer responds encouragingly, plan to hang out. It’s a chance to deepen a friendship. If they don’t seem interested, it’s not a very big risk since people say “let’s get together” all the time and never do.
    63. Talk about the things you already do too. This gives other people the chance to express common interest or their desire to get involved as well.
    64. Say thank you.
    65. Show some care. Did they just have surgery? Is their car in the shop? Offer to help run an errand or give them a lift. Be the person who notices a need and fills it.
    66. Put your phone down. Social rule: give the people you’re with priority over the people you text or Facebook on your phone.
    67. Don’t be a perfectionist. So someone has an annoying habit of interrupting or retelling the same story three times. That’s not the BEST thing, but it’s also not the WORST thing. Give them time to show off their awesome qualities that balance out their weaknesses. We all have our strengths and weaknesses after all.
    68. Give second chances. Did they put their foot in their mouth or do something inconsiderate? Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re not permanently rude, maybe they just have bad days too.
    69. Talk through tensions. If you somehow accidentally do something offensive, call yourself out. You wouldn’t believe how far you’ll get with the following sentence: “Oh, I’m so sorry. That totally came out wrong. Forgive me.”
    70. Make a point to say yes. If people invite you to something–even if it’s a lecture about something you don’t have much interest in–coach yourself to say yes. What’s the harm? You’ll probably learn more from a lecture than you will staying at home watching TV.
    71. Celebrate holidays. Plan something fun to do together at Christmas, take them out to lunch for their birthday, invite them to your 4th of July barbecue. Friends who celebrate together, stay together.
    72. Support their dreams. If they mention a goal in their life, make a point to believe in them. Congratulate them for hitting benchmarks, connect them with resources, email them an article you run across that is related to their aims.
    73. Verbalize that friendship is important. One of the easiest ways to make sure people understand they’re important to you? Say it. Out loud.
    74. Friendship requires flexibility. You might have to sometimes do things outside of your normal preferences and you may sometimes have to work with other people’s available time.
    75. Don’t expect adult friendship to work like childhood friendship. It’s different. That’s okay.
    76. Take your time. Most adults don’t have overwhelming amounts of free time, so we might only be able to carve out social time here and there. Getting together will still build a friendship eventually, it will just build a little more slowly.
    77. Be willing to change your friendship patterns. Maybe you’ve always been one to sleep in on Saturdays and lay around in your pajamas most of the day. Think about making a switch, and forging ahead with a new Saturday morning ritual that helps you interact with people more. You can always switch back.
    78. Accept that, when you’re putting yourself out there, risk is involved.
    79. Expect some rejection. Some people will say no, they’ll cancel, or they won’t reciprocate. There are SO many more people out there. Don’t sweat it!
    80. Don’t get down on yourself. The reason they canceled? Yeah, it might not be about you. It might be that they’re really disorganized, they had a problem come up, or they are incredibly shy. Don’t personalize it.
    81. Have realistic expectations. People won’t be available every time and they may not like all the same things you do. Go into social experiences knowing that some days will be a win, and some days won’t.
    82. Push pass mini-failures. Did they commit to going to a movie with you, but later remember they had a dentist appointment then? Are you not sure whether to believe them? Be gracious. Let them off the hook.
    83. Give third chances if needed. You’re not the only one with problems, a full schedule, or a long to-do list.
    84. Don’t give up. Don’t give up on others, but just as importantly, don’t give up on developing a support system for yourself!
    85. Be consistent. Continue to drop invitations for people to join you and continue to share ideas for things groups of friends can do together. You’ll be understood as a person who is open to friendship. Eventually, people will start to seek you out when they want to do something socially!
    86. Move on from negative people. If anyone is purposefully rude or impolite to you, makes fun of you, or uses passive aggressive techniques to make you feel bad, it makes sense to slow down or suspend your pursuit of friendship with them. You can be friendly AND have boundaries.
    87. Avoid burnout. Don’t try to schedule social gatherings every night of the week. Don’t take on a disproportionate amount of the planning. And don’t spend so much time with someone that you smother each other. Start slow and small…and build on that.
    88. You heard it here: A lot of people feel just like you do. They get bored and feel lonely and want to have more friends too. But many are just waiting for someone to lead the way. That someone could be you.
    89. Really. It won’t just happen. It takes intentionality, follow through, and consistency over time.
    90. Be okay with different levels of friendship. You might find someone who DOESN’T make a good “best friend,” but maybe they make a great partner for the bowling league. It’s fine to have different people who you count on for different types of engagement.
    91. Appreciate what you have. Don’t focus so much time on building new friendships that you neglect or forget about friends and family that have been around a while.
    92. Stop comparing. Friendship is not a contest. No one is the “popular kid” anymore. And the truth of it is: one person might have 30 shallow friends while another has 2 really deep ones. One is not necessarily better than the other.
    93. Don’t use a scorecard. Don’t be one of those people who keeps track of whether or not someone called you back within the day or who counts how many times a person declines your invitation. That’s not what this is about. Maintain a generous spirit.
    94. Make it a goal to hang out with a new friend five times, doing something that allows you to talk and get to know each other. By time five, you’ll start to develop a shared history.
    95. Try different approaches. Maybe one friend is NEVER going to join you out on a Friday night because they have kids, but they might love to walk with you on their lunch break. Mix up the invitations until you find the one that fits.
    96. Are you running into problems making friends? Write down your obstacles. Try to figure out where things are breaking off. Look for ways to change up your approach.
    97. Ask for support from someone who knows you well. Maybe they have some ideas on things you could do differently that you are unable to see for yourself.
    98. Check your progress weekly. For example, if you’ve spent the whole week at home without going out, call yourself out, and force yourself to go connect socially–even if it’s only briefly. A lot of times, it’s getting there that is the hard part. Once you’re there, you might find the event is more fun than you expected.
    99. Work at it. Friendship isn’t hard work and it shouldn’t require massive amounts of counseling or confrontation to maintain. However, it does take time, effort, and energy. It doesn’t happen automatically.
    100. Don’t judge. If you have a tendency to criticize the people around you, this can make you appear untrustworthy or unsafe to others. But, on the flip side, when you demonstrate that you can appreciate people’s uniqueness and eccentricities, you welcome all different kinds of people into relationship with you.

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