If you’ve ever tried to make new friends as an adult, you’ll probably understand why. solitude is at an all time high. Making new friends is just plain hard.
At school, to make friends can be as simple as going on the monkey bars together. But as adults, forming, developing and maintaining friendships can be much more difficult.
It’s important, because we need friends. And while old friends are golden, nothing stays the same forever. Old friends relocate or have their time taken up with child-rearing or careers. Without action, loneliness can quietly grow around you. This is worth taking seriously as evidence now suggests that chronic loneliness can be deadly the equivalent impact of 15 cigarettes per day on mortality rates.
It’s not just you either. In many countries, loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions. And that was before Covid-19 made it much harder for us to see our friends.
The trust challenge
Before covid, about a third of Australians said they had felt at least one episode of loneliness. Since Covid caused widespread disruption to our work and social lives, loneliness has skyrocketed. Surveys now reveal that more than half (54%) of Australians report feeling greater loneliness since the start of the pandemic.
As we reach a new Covid-normal, it’s worth taking stock of your friendships and assess if you think your social life is going well or if you could use a little help.
When researchers asked adults about making friends in a recent study, the most prominent challenge cited was a lack of trust. In other words, people had a harder time trusting someone new and fully investing in them as a friend compared to when they were younger.
Perhaps this is why many people try to keep their circle of old friends as long as possible, given the trust they may have built up over the years.
Who found it harder? Women were more likely than men to say they didn’t make new friends easily because they had trouble trusting others.
So what is it adulthood? Well, as adults, we have more self-awareness than children. Although this is often positive, it also means that we are more aware of the risks of being judged by others, of being unloved, of being rejected and of being hurt. Or maybe it just means we’re done with high school and our 20s.
If we have ever been rejected as friends or experienced a breach of trust, we may have a harder time trusting others in the future. Trusting a new friend means opening up and being vulnerable, just like we do in relationships.
Friendships need time
After the issue of trust comes the time. Lack of time was the second most common reason given after lack of confidence when asked why they found it difficult to make friends as adults.
This will not be new for many of us. When we have requirements Working hours, highly involved family lives, or a combination of the two, our time to invest in friendships is shrinking. Even when we meet a promising new friend, it can be hard to find the time to invest in it. This is a bigger problem for older people, since most people see their obligations increase with age.
How long does it really take to make friends? It shouldn’t surprise us that closer friendships take longer to build than mere acquaintances. American researchers have tried to quantify this, estimating that it takes about 50 hours of shared contact to go from acquaintances to casual friends. To be a close friend? Over 200 hours.
In addition, the hours you spend together must be of quality. While you can spend time with your co-workers, professional interactions don’t count for much. To develop a new friendship, you need a personal connection. It doesn’t have to be an intimate conversation to strengthen a friendship. Casual check-ins and banter can be just as important.
There are many other obstacles that keep us from having the friendships we want. This can include an introverted personality, health barriers, insecuritiesor maintaining a formal facade and not letting potential friends in.
Older people are more likely to cite illness and disability as a barrier to socialization, while young adults are more likely to be stopped by introversion and the fear of rejection.
How can we make friends better as adults?
It is entirely possible to overcome these obstacles as an adult and form meaningful and lasting friendships. We don’t have to accept loneliness as inevitable. And even if you think everyone has a great social life, remember solitude is widespread.
So how do you do it?
Build friendships for ten minutes a day
You don’t have to climb mountains or bond intensely over a common hobby to solidify a new friendship. If you devote ten minutes a day, you can nurture existing friendships and form new ones. Text, forward a meme, add to group chat, or call someone fast. Don’t be fooled by the effort, energy, and time spent building friendships. Ten minutes a day may be enough.
Make the most of any quality time
When you get to spend time with a friend or acquaintance, make the most of it. Avoid distractions if possible, save Instagram for the couch at home, and be present with your new friend.
Look at your vulnerability
We are often frightened by the idea of being vulnerable. I think we should embrace it. Remember that you control your level of trust and your level of openness. If you have trouble trusting, consider sharing personal information slowly, rather than all at once.
Yes, there is a risk in being vulnerable, but there is also the potential to connect on a meaningful level with another person who could very well become a good friend. And it’s a great reward.