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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

How to Make (Human) Adult Friends; Facts and Helpful Advice

(reluctant animal friend)

Let's make some human friends. I've gone on record as preferring animals to people. But I do need human friends know, in case I need an alibi at some point.

 I also realize that the more that I say "human friends," the more I sound like a shapeshifting alien.

(Get in loser, we're making friends)

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Making friends as an adult tends to be harder than we think. One Google search containing the keywords "making friends" brought up a ton of articles on the subject; and not just from random sites. Institutions like The Guardian, Business Insider, and Oprah (ever heard of her?) have written articles on the very subject of making adult friends.

That is to say, making friends as an adult. "Making adult friends" sounds much sexier than this blog post intends to be.

Anyway, what I'm getting to is that the issue with making friends as an adult seems to plague a LOT of people. In fact, when I asked for blog topics, this was one of the suggestions and I was surprised. I thought that I was alone in not having a plethora of adult friends.

Turns out, I'm not alone in my loneliness. And neither are you. In 1985, most adults reported to have around 3 close friends; in 2004 the average number of adults reported having 0 close friends. Let that sink in: the majority of adults after 2004 have no one they consider to be a close friend.

In fact, a recent study in the UK found that over 9 million people feel alone most or all of the time. This number seemed dire enough that Teresa May appointed a "Minister of Loneliness" to help combat the problem in the UK. Learn more about the UK study here. Also, I call dibs on Minister of Loneliness as my goth rapper name.

OK, so what do we do? It's not like there's a formula for making friends, right? Turns out, there is. Well, sorta. According to a study at the University of Kansas, you need to spend 50 hours with someone to become "casual friends," 90 hours to become good friends, and 200 hours to become close friends.

Cool. But, how do you convince someone to spend 50, 90, 200 hours with you? You can't just go up to a stranger and say, "hey will you spend 50 to 200 hours with me so that we can become casual to close friends?" I mean, you can...but you should prepare for a visit from local authorities if you do so.

Which brings me to this: How to Make Friends. When we were little, it seemed much easier; our parents would pretty much arrange friendships for us. Later, we went to school and managed to make a few friends there. If you were one of those precocious, effervescent children, you probably had tons of friends. But even us quiet weirdos had a few friends as children.

Most people continue to have a relatively easy time making friends up until their late 20's; but life changes- such as careers, marriage, and children result in a loss of friendships. In fact, a Dutch study found that we lose half of our friends every seven years.

Fuck. I have, like, 2 friends now. And one of them is my husband, so he's legally obligated to be my friend.

OK, so seriously; how do we make friends again?

One step is to reconnect with old friends; the good ones. Not the toxic ones. I can say for sure that some of the friendships that I've lost are because I didn't do the work to reach out and check in with them.
For me, it's a self-confidence issue; I assume that my old friends are too busy or not interested in reconnecting with me. I admitted this an old friend and she looked at me like I had two heads. Which means my reasons for feeling awkward were all in my head...or my two heads.

So, get over yourself. And get over your preconceived notions of who should be your friend. We often look for friends whom we consider peers. This usually means someone in our age group; but studies show that we should be striving for intergenerational friendships, like this story about an intergeneration friendship that is nearly 4 decades apart.
Look outside your age group and you'll expand your opportunities for friendship. My husband is 300 years old and I'm practically a fetus and yet, we are good friends. Also, as I mentioned before, he is legally bound to be my friend.

Look, I know that we live in the era of social media, Netflix, Postmates, etc; so we have fewer and fewer reasons to leave the house. And as someone with a devastating list of insecurities and social anxieties, the thought of leaving the house can send me into a panic attack K-hole. But, to make friends you got to do the work. And as I also mentioned before, you can't just go up to a stranger and demand friendship.

The highest recommended method of finding new friends is to join a club, group, volunteer organization or take a class; put yourself in a situation that will force you to interact with others. The benefit of a club or group is that you will meet people with similar interests, which is a much better start than "the recruiting a rando on the street" method.

I actually tried this by joining a meetup of fellow Murderinos in my area (shoutout to the 719 Murderinos!) If you don't know what a "Murderino" is then do yourself a favor and start listening to the My Favorite Murder Podcast, or buy the book. If you do know what a Murderino is, SSDGM.

Anyway, I joined the facebook group and worked up the nerve to meet several other true crime aficionados IRL for brunch at a local brewpub. I was full of anxiety, but I met some delightful people and I now try to make most of the monthly meetups. I haven't put in the 50-200 hours yet, but I did expand my social circle and that is a solid start.
(join a club to meet people with common interests)

Instead of just clicking "maybe" to your second cousin's baby shower or your coworker's art installation; just go to the damn thing. It's not guaranteed that you will make a new friend, but the chances are greater than if you stayed at home. And having a mutual friend or acquaintance at a function is a great way to meet more people.

Unless, of course, your second cousin or coworker is a racist or homophobe or Nazi. In that case, skip the shower and don't get them a gift.

Be like Lizzo. Have her confidence. If you don't know Lizzo, go listen to her music and thank me later.

Think about what you like about yourself and lead with that. I know it sounds hokey, but people respond to confidence- not conceit, but confidence.

Basically, this friendship stuff is a lot like dating. Ask a potential new friend some questions; find out who they are. This does two things- it ingratiates you to them and allows you to really find out what you might have in common.

I suggest starting out with "What do you think about Nazis?" If they respond with "Nazis suck," then you can start a great conversation about why Nazis suck. If the person says "There are very fine people on both sides," then you know you are talking to a Nazi or Nazi supporter. And that is bad.

I can't believe that I have to say this in 2019, but NAZIS ARE BAD. They make terrible friends.

And by this, I mean answer questions with more than just a "yes" or "no." Let them know who you are and be a bit vulnerable. You have to take the risk of opening up once in a while to gain a good friendship. Unless you are a Nazi. Nazis are bad.
(say "Nazis are bad" on the count of 3)

I know this sounds counter to what I've just said, but don't put all your friend eggs in one friend basket. Not everyone is going to be your super close new best friend, but some will be great casual friends. You have room for a variety of different friendships, don't be disappointed if you don't find The One right away.

From what I found online, most of us are terrible at making friends. This means we all probably need to work a bit harder at making connections, but this also means that you are not alone...even when you feel alone.

We are facing a loneliness epidemic and by first acknowledging that we can then take steps to counter it. And even though I've joked around in this article; loneliness can be very dangerous. If you or someone you know is struggling or just needs to talk, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

(reach out and check in. ask for help)

Please add some friendship tips in the comments. The more info on this, the better!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This makes me want to spend 50 to 200 hours with you. This was so well written and broached a topic that I always felt was a personal issue with myself. It's nice to know that other humans have a hard time making human friends.

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