Why is it so hard to make friends as adults? Recently, I was at a restaurant and while wrangling my two year old, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone around us was on phones. No one is talking to each other, and all I can see is heads down laser focused on the phone or laptop. Maybe some of them were working or making plans to meet up with people in person, but mostly I think that they were avoiding connection with the person across the table from them, it’s just easier to look down and scroll.
When did it get to be so hard? I mean when we were kids, I don’t know about you but my criteria for finding a friend was seeing someone on the playground and we started playing tether ball or rode the merry go round. It was that simple.
Once you hit about that thirty year mark, it gets a lot tougher. With kids and jobs and different interests and so many demands on our time, we seem to relegate most of our friendships to text messages and social media. Though social media has its place. For instance, most of you reading this, found me on social media, so there is that happy thing that happens on social media. Also, I know many people who start out on social media and decide to bridge that technological gap and meet in real life.
I definitely think that it’s also a lot easier to look at your feed and just scroll and scroll rather than actually go out into the world, reach out your hand and say hi, (insert your name here) and connect with another human being. Yes, it’s scary, and yes, it’s also worth it. For example, I will often tag some friends on social media and say, hey let’s do a happy hour, some respond and say yeah that works or no that doesn’t and no guilt or hard feelings, if they can make it great, if not, we will do another one in a month or so.
It’s a good leveraging of social media as we wait to have real face to face connection.
While we are on the subject of making friends, what’s your track record for keeping friends?
Do you work at it? Do you actively set aside time for existing friends? Do you make plans and break them?
Maybe your kid was sick and you don’t want the other kid to get sick. Valid
Maybe you are on deadline and need to get stuff done and can’t afford the time away from work? Also valid.
Maybe you can’t afford that happy hour cocktail but don’t want to tell them that’s the reason? Definitely Valid. May I suggest you meet at your respective homes or take a walk in the park (weather permitting)
Maybe you didn’t really WANT to go out, you love the person, you really do, but yoga pants and wine were WAY more appealing than the idea of the bar and some face-time. (also valid)
Here’s an idea, tell them that, and then make a plan to do something more chill- like say a “crappy dinner party” -next time.
But back to you and making NEW friends.
If you work with someone, you have a head start since you both have a built in common interest, and some commonalities, but how to transcend the “work talk” to “friend talk” and how do you approach that situation without overstepping or making things awkward where you spend most of your waking hours? Now, suppose you hit it off and have lots of things in common, great! But maybe, they are busy and you invite them and they can’t make it, but really like you, the timing is just off.
Then if you add a spouse or kid to the mix, now that’s a new thing that needs to be tested and tried, it’s not a lock that just because you both like each other, your kids and partners will respond the same way.
If you add a person of the opposite sex to the mix, it becomes even more difficult because what if they think you are flirting, but all you want is a friend? Even if you are married, this is still a consideration because you have to be conscious of any signals you send that might be misconstrued. I have had it happen on both sides and it’s just plain awkward.
So if it’s that hard, why do it?
Well, first there is science *YAY SCIENCE* that tells us how important it is to have friends and how it greatly impacts our ability to live longer, happier lives. Here is a quote
“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”
Here’s the full article-
Simply put, because there is no feeling like the feeling that another person “gets” you or you find a moment to say, “you too?” or having a beautiful shared moment where the other person says “Exactly!” when you tell a story about a hard time you are having at work or at home. There is so much we have in common, it far outweighs our differences.
So you might be thinking, Well, that sounds great, Jennifer, but how do I start?
I am glad you asked- I have a formula for you- Depending on where you are, you can use this formula to broach a topic. Get creative, these are just a jumping off point!
F O I L- in no particular order- you will know what is right when you start talking, trust me!
F– Friend like questions- So do you like horror movies or comedy? Do you like Star Trek or Star Wars? Do you prefer the Muppets or Fraggles? (sometimes these will knock someone out right away – just kidding, I have friends that don’t agree with me on this!)
O– Occupation questions- How did you get into what you do? Do you love it or are you searching for something new?
I– Interest questions- I like skydiving, how about you? What is your favourite book? What was the best part of your day today?
L– Location questions – likely the easiest because it’s driven by what’s happening RIGHT NOW… Are you in a meeting room? Is it cold? Is it hot? Is the decor funky or contemporary? You can comment on their shoes, funny hat, or great necklace (just make sure it’s sincere – nothing can stop a connection from being made the way a fake compliment can.
Also important? LISTEN to what they say if they answer you.
Listen, there are no guarantees, you could ask a question, and it could fall flat or get a monotone response which is a clear signal that the person you are trying to talk to doesn’t want to talk. Maybe it’s just today is a bad day to try this, but say on Thursday, it would be a completely different story.
Maybe you don’t have trouble making friends, if that’s you, GREAT!
But if it isn’t and you are like so many who struggle with this, think about your existing friendships and look around for new opportunities to connect….
I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Think About It.