Think back to times in your life where making friends was a piece of cake. For many of us that’s elementary school and college (which some call university).
But if you’re in your 20s and 30s you might realize that making friends is quite hard.
Today we’re exploring what is it about making friends that becomes more challenging as we get older and what action we take to remedy this.
Let’s get into it.
First of all, post college/university, the challenge becomes “where can I make friends?” As in, what is the physical location that I’ll meet people who will later become your friends?
When external factors change, it can be challenging to meet people who become our friends. According to Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, there are three conditions that must be met in order to make close friends: “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
For many of us, in the US at least, that’s college. So in our adulthood, when these conditions seem lacking, we might need to get a bit creative.
Let’s take a look at a few possibilities:
You might say work, but for some that can be a bit iffy. The reason being is that friendships with colleagues might take on a transactional effect. Meaning, it might be unclear where networking and business interactions stop and real friendships start. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it just depends on the nature of the people you’re interacting with and the work environment. Test the theory yourself. Can work friendships transcend the transactional feel and what catapults it into the friendship zone? In many ways, if you can take the transactional element and competitive nature out of the work friendship then you’re probably better positioned to make friends with this person. It could be as simple as connecting with people from the same company, but in different departments. Or you can suss out personalities and find friends compatible with yours.
The Anti-Best Friend
I think a lot of us have this image of the perfect best friend that’s the jack or jill of all trades. Meaning, this best friend is a reflection of our actual or ought self: so they might be the friend we go to the gym with, have heart to hearts with, grab brunch with, discuss life goals with, go through tough and fun times with, and is there for us no matter what transition we’re in. As we get older, we might find two things: (1) that this person does not exist and (2) that our expectations have evolved and our standards have increased. So in this case, maybe you don’t need one best friend. Maybe you need an anti-best friend and instead, have a friend you do different things with. Maybe you have a gym friend, maybe you have a brunch friend, maybe you have a hiking buddy friend, maybe you have your coffee friend, and maybe you have your neighbor friend. So in this way you’re essentially compartmentalizing and have specific friends for specific needs.
Ultimately, if you’re lucky enough to come across this type of friend, they just might be the answer to your prayers. I have two different names for this type of friend: a connector and a professional friend. A connector is someone who takes friendship and expanding their social circles very very seriously. It’s essentially part of their job in life. And if you can be genuine friends with someone like them, then you are in their hands. Your social life will go from static to dynamic. Connectors are on the lookout for making friends and connecting people with each other. They bring people together, they are on the lookout for friends to add to their social circles, and they tend to be extroverted people who are good at seeking events to go to, activities to do and experiences to enjoy. They essentially do all the heavy lifting for you. So if you can find yourself a connector, not only will you experience a richer social life but they might just be the person to help get you off the couch and into a café or onto a mountain one lazy Sunday. Of course, the real magic of a connector comes from developing a true friendship with them. They will be the first to detect any inauthenticity or insincerity so show up as a true self. You’ll notice that their professional friendship skills will start rubbing off on you too. And suddenly you become the type of friend who sends birthday cards, hosts little soirees, and shares books with your friends too.
So there you have it. A few reasons why it’s difficult to make friends in adulthood. There is good news though, if we can meet the three conditions crucial to making good friends then we’re on our way to expanding our social circles. And I’ve also shared ways of making work friendships work, having specific friends to fulfill specific social needs, and if you’re lucky enough to be friends with a connector, you’re golden.
Alright Explearners, that’s it from me today. Thank you so much for joining me for this lesson. I hope that you enjoyed it.
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