Making friends isn’t as easy as it was in grade school. We’ve replaced playgrounds with pubs, and the places that “adults” frequent aren’t always great for meeting people. Half of these venues blast music over conversation, and no one likes asking “What?” twenty times while speaking with someone! Going to college is a great way to meet people, but more often than not, those friends are temporary.
At sixteen, we all had only a few priorities on our minds: getting our driver’s license (for those in the US) and hanging out with our friends every single moment that we can. In our twenty-something years, we all have new priorities: our jobs, families, significant others… getting older, it seems, means having a lot more on your plate. Finding friends who can navigate both your busy schedule and theirs is tough, and takes a lot of trial and error.
What do we do to make friends after we graduate? How do we make friends organically? How do we make those friendships last?
First, Remember: Quality Over Quantity
I can remember having over twenty friends that I kept up with in high school. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it! Knowing what was going on in each individual person’s life was a huge priority for me–so much so that my grades suffered.
Those friends were what I call “surface friends:” I only knew a summary of the things happening in their lives, only once in a while getting something deeper from their personality when they needed advice. This type of friend is fine to have, but do you want to only have a surface-level relationship with your entire network of friends? I was so invested in the simpler details of my many friends, when I should have been invested in the deeper details of a select few. Not to say that I regret those friendships, but I wish I fostered the ones with a few people with whom I had so much in common, and could really bond with.
Now that I’m in my twenties, I have about two friends at the moment with whom I share most of my life goings-on and my feelings, and they do the same with me. We have a great relationship of understanding and support, and I feel a deeper connection with them than I have ever felt with the twenty-or-so I had back in high school. Fostering these friendships has brought me such joy, and I don’t feel the need to “collect” more friends.
Where to Find New Friends (Besides the Bar)
Local Music Shows
The local music scene in my state is extremely welcoming, and these shows have been the perfect place to meet people with common interests. Supporting local bands is something I strongly believe in, and so do the people around me at any given show! I can easily pick up conversations with the people around me in the crowd, gushing about that great riff the guitar player just played in between songs. Not only are local shows a great way to discover new music, they’re a great place to meet people who are open to conversation.
Local art shows are a great place to meet new people! Grab a close friend and check out what your local art gallery has to offer; look for events so you’ll have a better chance of meeting many people. If you’re an art buff, you know how fun and satisfying it is to interpret what exactly is going on in that abstract painting–starting up a conversation with a friend is bound to perk up the ears of those around you.
Look for events that relate to your interests. Book clubs, rallies, and local business events all promote conversation within the community. Not only will you meet someone with whom you can have meaningful conversation, they’ll probably live close by! Perfect for making plans to meet up in-between the events in your busy schedules.
How to Make Friends
Be Open to Conversation, and Mind Your Body Language
Go into any of these places with your arms crossed and a slight frown, and you probably aren’t going to garner much conversation. Think happy thoughts; the energy you give off can either attract people or repel them. Don’t be afraid to join in on conversations (without interrupting of course!).
A good way to approach a group talking about something you’re interested in:
“Excuse me, I just heard you talking about [insert subject here], and I just love that!”
It’s polite, welcoming, and pleasant, without being too pushy. (Obviously change the words around as they suit your personality, but you get the idea).
Pay attention to other people’s body language as well. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to tell if someone is open to conversation or not. Trust your instincts.
Let Go of the Idea that You Aren’t “Cool” Enough
When you ask most people what they think of themselves, you’ll rarely–if ever–get the answer, “Yeah, I’m pretty cool.” The idea of making friends isn’t about coming across as cool. All you need are a few things in common, and conversation can flourish. Talk about your most recent crochet project. Gush over pictures of your cat. Cool is overrated, anyway. 😉 Just talk to people!
How to Keep Friendships
Foster the friendships you have with those people that value your story. At this point in our lives, it is very easy to figure out who is in it for the long haul and who is in your life for their own gain. Friendships are just like romantic relationships. Though you’ll always have those “surface friends,” when you find those who are a genuinely huge part of your life, work at the relationship. The effort is so worth it, and the right relationships will feel effortless, because you’re doing good for yourself and your friend.
Finally, Remember: The Worst That Can Happen…
…is that the conversation goes nowhere. Making friends is all about trial and error; not everyone is going to be your best friend in an instant. I’ve made instantaneous connections with maybe three people in my life, with one of them being my significant other. Building friendships takes time, and though some moments of this relationship-building can be awkward, sharing your stories more and more lays the foundation for something meaningful. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does, it’ll be as natural as talking with your best friend from playground days.
How do you make friends? Do you have any other tips? Comment below!