Up until our mid twenties, we make friends in abundance. At school and university, we’re constantly surrounded by people our own age, often with very similar interests. Then after the years of doing virtually everything with a pal by your side (classes, hobbies, even library all-nighters) most of us are thrust into an unfamiliar world of work.
In this world we have to learn to navigate professional relationships with peers that are often very different to what we’re used to, and can often find ourselves feeling lonely, especially if we’re somewhere geographically new. A 2016 study demonstrated this perfectly in its findings that people make more and more friends up until the age of 25 when the numbers start to gradually decrease.
And it’s even worse in the UK: more than nine million adults in the UK are often or always lonely, and Theresa May even appointed a “minister of loneliness” to combat the issue. Making new friends as an adult can be daunting at the best of times, so we’ve compiled some tips to help you get started.
We’ve all been there. You’ve had a crazy long day at work, it’s pouring with rain, and all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with a takeaway and Netflix. However, some people and work are heading to a pop-up restaurant opening and invited you along. Or it’s 7am on a Saturday morning, and nothing seems less appealing to going to that HIIT class you promised your neighbour you’d make it to. “This week I’m there, I promise!”
However “not in the mood” you feel, forcing yourself to take people up on these opportunities when they’re suggested to you, and then not flaking when they come around, is paramount to forging genuine friendships in a new place. Not only does it show your commitment to those inviting you, but you could get introduced to other like-minded future friends too. Try saying “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way for a couple of weeks, even if it doesn’t seem like something you’d usually enjoy. You’ll be surprised at how many people you meet that you have things in common with, and you might even enjoy that early morning HIIT class with your neighbour. Who knows?
It’s all good and well telling someone to “take up a hobby”, but in order to use it as a channel to some great new friends, you’re going to need to attend regularly and make sure it’s the kind of activity where the same people show up each time. You’re much more likely to get close to someone you see at a running club three times a week (with the added bond of suffering through the run together) than someone you met at a book club once. This is usually the case with sports or exercise classes, music-related activities, or even especially dedicated board-gamers.
Seize the moment
For most of us, there are moments throughout our day where the chance arises to take the initiative and strike up a conversation. It might be with someone next to you in the coffee shop queue, a colleague from work in the canteen, or fellow gym-goer in the changing rooms. If you’re in the market for some great new friendships, it’s time to start seizing the moment and taking these opportunities.
While small talk for the sake of small talk can often seem futile and even annoying, starting a conversation by drawing on something you have in common or offering some information about yourself is a great way to break the ice and give them a glimpse into your personality. For example, complement your fellow coffee-shopper on their pastry choice, tell that funny commute story to your coworker, or ask that avid gym-goer about their workout playlist.