How to Make New Friends As an Adult, Even If You’re Busy (and Possibly Awkward)
How do you make new friends when the days of classmates are long gone, the only sports team you’re physically fit enough to affiliate with is your local AARP mall-walking consortium (barely), and you’re too shy to set up a “FREE HUGS” kiosk in Union Square?
The future of your social life isn’t as depressing as it seems! While making new friends as an adult certainly does require you to go out of your comfort zone, it can be done.
Bond with people at work over how messed up everything is. Making new friends as a workaholic can be tough for the obvious reason that you barely spend any time outside of the office. My best advice for you is to proactively seek out cool people in your workplace. I’ve slaved away in some of the most toxic environments imaginable, but still keep in close touch with many amazing and inspiring people I met at the office. The good news about working in a dysfunctional environment is that you’re probably not the only one who sees it that way, and you can bond over the injustice of it all. Maybe set up a casual viewing of Office Space? If you haven’t seen it, don’t talk to me until you do. I kid, but only sort of.
Recruit others to collaborate with you on volunteer work or research. My practical experience has been exclusively in the legal environment, so that’s the specific advice I can give, but hopefully this will translate to other fields as well. Some of the best people I met outside my practice group were collaborators on pro bono projects I volunteered for. You’ll often meet like-minded folks who have good hearts and who are team players on projects like these. If you’re a physician or resident, perhaps consider approaching interesting colleagues to collaborate on a research paper. I’ve found that people’s true colors come out on shared projects. And the people I’ve most enjoyed working with have almost always become good friends.
Join affinity groups or sports teams sponsored by your employer. I would also consider joining affinity groups or sports teams hosted by your employer. Yes, even if you’re terrible at sports. And yes, even if you’re super busy. It’s still enough of a work event that you get the benefit of face time, but in a more relaxed environment.
Participate in recruiting. Now, this isn’t my favorite (mostly because I’m a non-drinker), but participating in firm recruiting events can also be a great way to meet new friends. Usually only the most social people volunteer or are asked to join, so you’re likely to meet some of the best people at your firm this way. The events themselves are a good time, particularly if you party, but even if you don’t. Sometimes you get to go on recruiting trips that allow you to get to know each other really well.
This is an interesting category. While it’s true that your kids can provide you an access point to all kinds of classes and activities where you can meet tons of other moms, the only thing you’ll definitely have in common with these people is that they also have children. I’ll discuss this more in depth in a future post, but it’s kind of tricky to navigate this landscape.
The fantastic news is that many of the moms I’ve met in Dallas since having Theo are AMAZING! They are a lifeline. They are a support network, the likes of which I feel extremely lucky to have. These women are inclusive, kind, accomplished, and as real as it gets. They inspire me all the time! These women are my neighbors, friends of friends, and fellow moms I’ve met in Theo’s many classes and activities. Without these women, I’d be a mess.
One of the best human beings on this planet is a fellow mom whose husband I’d known forever. Somehow I didn't actually meet her until I moved to Dallas. She is a unicorn. Raising two beautiful kiddos, generous with her time and her love. Always patient (though she denies it), and is always there to provide support. Can you tell I revere her? Not to mention she’s gorgeous and hilarious and basically the best in every way.
She reached out to me when she heard we were moving to Dallas and has essentially been a one-woman welcome wagon non-stop since we got here! If you can find such a person, you need to invest in the relationship! Better yet, BE THIS PERSON FOR SOMEBODY ELSE!!!
The lesson here is that you need to give these other moms a chance. Even if it seems like you don’t have a ton in common on the surface, many times you’ll peel back layers and discover who these women were before they were part-time or full-time nannies/drivers/chefs/wet nurses. And many times, their core identity will be very similar to yours.
Don't be afraid to ask other moms on coffee dates. The worst that can happen is that you don’t hit it off, and you’ll just stick to seeing each other at your weekly activities. It’s worth it to take a chance here!
Volunteer. Another thing you can try is volunteering with your child’s school or local PTA with all your free time (major eye roll here, but I stand by the suggestion). I serve as a “room parent” for Theo’s classroom and I’m pretty happy about it. It’s a relatively low time commitment, but allows me to plug into a network of parents I would have a harder time getting to know otherwise. And I get to collaborate with a few other room parents on a fairly regular basis. I won’t pretend that this presents the same thrill or challenge as even my most run-of-the-mill work assignments, but it is something, and it helps to feel you’re contributing to your community in some small way.
Join a co-working space. For those of us who are primarily staying at home with our kids but are working on other projects as well, consider joining a co-working space instead of working from home. Being out of the work force while raising a small child can be very isolating. If joining a co-working space is within your budget both time-wise and financially, strongly consider doing it. I was a member of Common Desk in Dallas (highly recommend!) before having Theo, and it allowed me to meet countless creatives, techies, and entrepreneurs and feel like part of a dynamic community.
Work out. I’ve met some of the best people ever at workout classes. At the gym, but especially at boutique fitness studios (if they are available to you), you’ll find many motivated people who tend to come to a regular class time. I can’t even tell you how many friends I’ve made before or after a Flywheel Sports or Orangetheory class! This is refreshing because you get a mix of personalities and professional backgrounds. Some with kids, some without. Different ages and interests. But you know that you have a love of self-improvement and some degree of positivity in common, and that’s a powerful thing.
Get over yourself and just say hello. Hear me out: if you see someone who looks cool, just say hi. I realize that it takes a certain personality to do this, but the times that I’ve done it, it’s worked. I was in a coffee shop in Dallas recently, and in walked this extremely friendly looking and fashion-forward woman who was wearing a lot of black (very much the opposite of Dallas style and very similar to mine). Kind of without thinking I said hi and asked if she was from New York because she definitely didn’t look like a Dallasite. She said she was and was so happy to connect with someone else who had recently moved from NYC! We got to talking and set up a friend date about a week later. Simply talking to people is so simple and effective, but seems to be a lost art these days!
Don't be a lazy hermit. Finally, when friends offer to introduce you to their friends, take them up on it. It’s easy to let the connections fall by the wayside, but you’d be surprised at how many refreshing new friendships you’re missing out on. I’ve definitely been guilty of this because I’ve felt too busy for a coffee date with a stranger, but the times that I’ve made the push to get it scheduled, I haven’t regretted it.
If you think all this sounds like dating advice, you’re right. Meeting a love interest and meeting a friend both happen in the same way. But I’d argue that the stakes are much lower for the latter, and it’s worth doing things that require vulnerability and make you slightly uncomfortable because the payoff can be so amazing.
I have a lot of close friends who don’t live near me, and I could probably have gotten by without making a ton of new friends in Dallas. But even with my limited free time and perpetual exhaustion, I have never regretted making the effort to make a new friend, even if it didn’t result in lifelong bestie status.
Do you have any other suggestions for making new friends as an adult? If so, comment below!
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