Making friends as an adult is hard, so we've broken it down.
It’s a well acknowledged truth that meeting friends in adulthood is hard, and harder again is turning those acquaintances into actual, bona fide, call-you-in-a-crisis pals, but every now and again you meet someone you just click with. The conversation flows, it’s easy, unrestrained, affirming, and in that moment, you have a sneaking suspicion that this could be one of your new best pals.
And then, the fear kicks in. In a world where we so rarely meet people we truly vibe with, you don’t want to relegate this person to the pile of ‘friendships that never were.’ Sometimes these relationships find their own way, and other times they need a little shove, so how can you prevent this tiny glimmer of potential friendship from slipping through your fingers and turn this friendly acquaintance into a ride-or-die mate instead? We asked friendship expert and author of Frientimacy and the Business of Friendship, Shasta Nelson, how to seal an adult friendship in six easy steps.
Some of the best adult bonding happens during a good old rant (consider how complaining at work forges many an office kinship and you’re on the right track), but “the most important thing you can do with new friendships is be intentional about leaving the other person feeling better about themselves and their lives every time you see them,” says Shasta.
“This is called positivity. People like people who like them, and we subconsciously want to repeat interactions that felt good. So whether that’s through laughter, affirmations, empathy, or kindness— make sure their brains register you as someone they enjoy being around.” Basically? Leave your moaning at the door, at least for your first few encounters.
Unleash the Instagram follow and initiate the follow up text. As new friendship forming goes, this is probably the most sticky step. That moment when you let your feelings be known and hope they enjoyed your company as much as you did theirs. It’s here that the probability of rejection skyrockets, but, if your new friendship has any chance of getting off the ground you’re going to need to hit that send button.
“The easiest way to follow up is to text them afterwards and tell them how much you enjoyed your time together— maybe even name one specific thing that you appreciated about them or refer back to a joke or share with them a photo you took,” advises Shasta. Breathe a sigh of relief when you see those blue ticks and keep the conversation going if you can.
Once that scary bit is over then you need to add momentum, Shasta advises. “More time together, more interactions. It’s this consistency that made friendship when we were kids feel so automatic because we had regular time together. In a busy world, this can be the hardest requirement of friendship but the truth is that we’ll never feel close to someone until we start building a history together, making memories, and spending the time together that leaves us feeling closer.”
Have tickets to a gig you think they’d like or got a deadly idea for a regular hangout you can both enjoy? Make that suggestion – a study from the University of Kansas found that two people need to spend 90 hours together to become friends, or 200 hours to qualify as close friends, and now is as good as time as any to get started. Strike while the iron’s hot.
‘We must do lunch some time’. No doubt you’ve had this said to you at one point or another, by someone who had absolutely no intention of ‘doing lunch’ and inevitably that disingenuous plan never came to fruition. If you want to see more of your new pal, you can’t just make a suggestion, but make a date.
“One thing we can do is simply be the initiator of getting your next time scheduled on the calendar. The easiest thing to do is never say goodbye without having the next date on the calendar. But if that doesn’t work, then be sure to reach out pretty soon and suggest a few dates and times. This is such a gift to the friendship because you two will never bond if someone doesn’t help schedule the time!”
Out of your mind busy right now? Busy schedules are where friendships go to die, so no matter how chocker your planner is right now, you’ve got to make time for this budding friendship if you want it to progress. Simple as that.
Now for the especially tricky part: letting your guard down. “The third requirement for bonding— in addition to positive feelings and consistent interactions — is vulnerability,” Shasta explains. “If we just have a good time on a regular basis then that’s called a social group, but once we start to feel like we are getting to know each other is when we will feel closer. So we have to both share our own stories and listen to theirs. Each time we’re together we’re learning new things about each other!”
We all want to look like we have it together, but real friendships are formed outside of small talk and nothing forms a bond quicker than being able to help a friend in need, so if you’ve got a problem you could use their help with, share it. Chances are they’ll feel empowered to share their struggles too, and there you have it: your burgeoning friendship is well on its way to being cemented.
A good friendship isn’t just based on sharing cocktails, but sharing your feelings, and that’s going to be crucial in sealing the deal with your new friend. “One of my favourite things to do is to suggest, ‘Hey while we’re together, let’s each share one highlight (Something we’re proud of or something that feels good!) and one lowlight (a stressor or disappointment) since we’ve last seen each other,’” says Shasta. “That way we’re both sharing, we’re inviting more honesty, and we’re each getting to pick what we want to share.”
The important bit to remember? “The best thing is that the more we practice these things the more we are guaranteed to bond. We will always feel the closest to those with whom we feel seen by in a safe and satisfying way,” says Shasta. Bravo, you have now entered the secret sharing, crisis-calling, laughed-so-hard-I-pee’d- my-pants-a-little stage.