By your mid-twenties you expect to have a few things locked down. Friendships is one of those things.
Following the breakdown of a ten-year friendship that played a huge role in my teenage years and early twenties, I realised that there was a lot about friendships that I didn’t know and hadn’t taken the time to explore.
I’d invested so much time and effort into one friendship that I convinced myself that I didn’t need anybody else because I got everything I needed from that relationship. The foundations were so solid that I didn’t need to look elsewhere. Of course, we now know how that played out.
Although I am comfortable in my own company, I started noticing a lack of something. I missed the conversations. I missed learning new things about people. I missed that buzz of connecting with someone. I realised, to my surprise, that I missed having friends.
It can feel like a vulnerable place to be – admitting you’d like more friends as an adult. There’s something almost adolescent about it – but the reality is that friendships grow, change and can drift apart with time. There’s no age limit on finding and making friends, it just requires a bit more effort as you get older.
So, this was my challenge. Meet new people, make new friends and be myself in the process.
I’m not about to say I have nailed the mysterious art of making friends, that I am perfect within those friendships or that I know the future of these relationships – but I do know that I stepped out of my comfort zone and moved through my anxieties to be rewarded with an amazing new circle of friends, connections with people I may never have met otherwise and the confidence to say ‘hey, let’s be friends’.
Here’s how I did it:
Make space for the vulnerability
You have to go in knowing that you might be rejected – but more often than not, you won’t be. Before anything, I started by accepting that not everyone would like me or get me, and that’s okay. If you can make space for that feeling, you’re less likely to run away from a situation or conversation that could be awkward. Allowing yourself to feel vulnerable – and knowing that’s okay – makes you feel so much stronger and prepared to pick yourself back up if someone isn’t interested.
Push through the anxiety
If you’re anything like me, the thought of starting up an out-of-the-blue conversation with someone can be a bit of a nightmare. I’m never sure what to say, or worried I’ll say something stupid. Just like the feeling of vulnerability, I had to be prepared for feeling anxious. I was prepared, but also willing to push through that feeling to see whether I connected with someone. It helped signal to my brain that, ultimately, feelings of anxiety don’t stop me from doing what I want to do, I just need to navigate them.
Don’t stray from yourself
It’s easy, when you’re trying to build a new friendship, to try and behave a certain way or say particular things to try and portray the best version of yourself, or the version you think that person wants to see. One of the benefits of being an adult making new friends means I don’t have the time or inclination to pretend I am someone else. Make a point to yourself that your friendships will be built around who you really are and they will be so much more fulfilling.
Make the first move
Sitting around and waiting for friends to flock to your door just isn’t going to happen. If you’re invested in building new friendships, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. It’s as simple as saying hi to someone. Press send on that message or walk up to them and start that conversation… once you’re in it, you’ve just gotta roll with it. You could even let them know that you’re looking to make friends and I’ve actually found that most people respond well to that kind of honesty.
If you’re not quite sure where to start with the conversation, get basic. Ask them about their interests and what they do, find out more about who they are. It might feel a bit strange at first, but the conversation will start to naturally flow from that point.
Say yes to more things
I found that saying yes to more things lead to me meeting more people by chance. Whether it’s a night out with friends, trying a new bar or sparking up a conversation with a complete stranger, saying yes gives you so many more opportunities to get to know people. I met one of my best friends because I said yes to going to a gig. I’ve started to chatting to really interesting people because I started a conversation about her dog. I’ve spent time with a stranger who became a friend because we decided to explore a new city together. It’s all about being open to the potential.
Forget your expectations
This was a big, no, huge, one for me. Coming away from a ten-year friendship meant I had (and sometime still have) ideas on how friends should behave and what relationships are meant to be but I’ve had to work hard to leave that behind. The people you meet are coming from their own experiences and ideas of friendships so you’ll have to find a way to meet in the middle. Avoid staying tied to your expectations and you’ll get so much more out of discovering how your new relationships grow and change with time.
Is it easy making new friends? Not always.
Is it worth it? Definitely.