Making new friends as an adult

I wrote a blog post on friends at work and wanted to write a follow up on new friends. This is something that turns out is very timely and doubles up as a little bit of reflective practice for my own benefit.

Making a new friend as an adult can be difficult.

I am lucky and have no problem with the first step, making those initial connections with a ‘new’ person. This might be spending prolonged periods of time with a person on a work or education course, a new colleague or even a friend of a friend who we connect with.

It is the next part that is more difficult.

It can be hard and time consuming and depending on the circumstances, those initial few weeks can be quite intense. You might spend time wondering if you are being too ‘full on’ or not making ‘enough effort’. You’ll likely question whether it is worth all the emotional energy you are putting into building a new relationship and should you just give up.

Emotional energy is a big investment, especially if we are self-doubting the return.

Relationships are different. Both people are actively seeking something from each other and is typically the same thing: someone to meet an emotional and/or physical need that is not already being met. The rules are far from simple, but there are rules. It’s a minefield but with the right person you can just about see a safe passage across.

There are no rules for making a new friend as an adult.

The majority of people have other friends and often any emotional needs from friendships are already being met. The first problem is you don’t usually know much about a potential new friend and, unless it is spelt out, have no idea whether your wish to form a friendship is mutual.

Then there are the unknowables.

Are they in a relationship? This can be a huge barrier if they are of the opposite sex. How do you communicate with them? Some people find constant WhatsApp messaging exhausting, other people may feel ignored if a message is read and not responded to (the dreaded blue ticks).

Combining these two together can be messy.

Some people would prefer to spend most evenings in their own company, others need an eighth day in the week to fit everything in. The first could feel overwhelmed whereas the latter may see a declined invite as a rejection.

It can nearly feel impossible.

Circumstances do also make a big difference.

A friendship with a friend of a friend can happen naturally with time. We often spend enough time around new colleagues to find out some of the answers to the above, if you are willing to wait it out. Forming a friendship with someone you have spent a limited time with but have no natural reason to socialise or work with can be the hardest.

I think you just need to go for it.

I don’t like to focus on the worst case scenario, but in this case it literally is you don’t make a new friend. Whatever the reason, you may or may not continue to speak with them. It can be a blow to your ego, knock your confidence, but you can’t lose something you never had. You just need to go for it. Send them messages, keep up the invites, put in the effort. Common sense and personal judgement should let you know whether it is something you should pursue or just let go.

It can be hard when you know you need to let go. But in these cases, it is really important to make sure you do actually let go.

One of my favourite quotes sums it up quite nicely.

“How things ultimately turn out isn’t up to us. It never was. But if we do out bit and play our part, it’s remarkable how far we can go” – Michel Neill

Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash

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