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How Can I Make Friendships As An Adult?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC 

Friendships are important. They can help us shape our goals, give us rhythm to our days, and even largely determine happiness. However, true friendships in adulthood can be much harder to make and maintain. Bonior (2016) offers 10 ways to make, and keep, friendships as an adult. 

  1.     Make it a health issue.

Friendships are not only important for your mental health, but they are actually also crucial for your physical health. There have been studies that have shown that poor quality social support has the same mortality risk as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Why is this? Genuine, nourishing friendships help to boost your immune system, improve prognosis of various health conditions, and can even help lower your blood pressure. Emotionally, friendships can help to reduce the risk of depression, PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse, and more. Knowing this, it might be worth shuffling your schedule around a bit so that you can have lunch with that person who makes you laugh!

  1.     Embrace quality and ditch quantity.

Social media can make it seem like we literally have hundreds of friends. However, research suggests that we may actually be lonelier now, despite having more “friends,” than ever before. It’s easy to get caught up in countless superficial friendships, full of generic texts and messages, while doing nothing to make true connections. This makes us feel too “busy” to go out and form friendships that are much more genuine and fulfilling.

  1.     Ride out transitions.

It’s common and natural to have friendships weaken when life transitions shift the relationship, whether that might be from marriage, kids, health issues, or a geographical or job change. This can cause us to feel ashamed that we don’t have as many friends as before these transitions. What did I do wrong? What is it about me? Well, it actually has nothing to do with who you are as a person. Everyone goes through transitions at some point. The difference is when people embrace these transitions as challenges to overcome, rather than something to be embarrassed about.

  1.     Expect—and even embrace—false starts.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are going to be some failed attempts when making friends. Not every friendship you attempt will get off the ground. This isn’t something to take personally, as building friendships is a process that takes time. However, even if the friendship doesn’t work out, you still gain a little more insight into yourself and what you’re looking for to find a good match.

  1.     Commit to community.

Becoming a part of a community can help expose you to like-minded people and give you an important sense of belonging that goes even beyond individual relationships. Examples of this might be volunteering at an animal shelter, going to the same coffee shop every week, joining a pottery class, or cheering on your favorite sports team. We get some of our emotional and social needs met from being part of something bigger than us.

  1.     Focus on follow-up.

Sometimes it’s not the initial meetup and small talk that’s tough, it’s getting to know someone on a deeper level and making it past that superficial level. However, there are ways to combat this. Try bringing up something that was talked about in your first conversation, remember little things and ask about them, give a compliment, or follow up via text with them to ask how something went that was important to them.

  1.     Avoid technology traps.

Technology can be great! Especially because it helps keep us close to people who we might not have been able to before. However, the negatives can trick us unto missing out on true emotional sustenance at times. Relying too much on screens instead of faces can make our interactions dehumanized. With screens we miss out on a level of warmth and engagement that you get from face-to-face interactions. A fun way to combat this with friends can be to put your phones in the center of the table if you are out to together. The first person to reach for their phone has to pay the tab.

  1.     Develop momentum.

It can be hard to schedule a time that works for all parties involved, whether it’s a hangout or even just a phone call. Try picking a standing time, such as the second Sunday of every month for lunch, or every Wednesday night for a casual phone chat.

  1.     End poisonous friendships.

If you constantly feel drained or stressed after interacting with someone, it might be time to clear away toxic relationships and make way for healthier ones. By moving past the potential guilt, fear and familiarity that sometimes makes it difficult to end unhealthy relationships, you can then set your sights on ones that help to nourish you instead of drain you.

  1. Remember the little things.

Not all interactions with your friends need to be grandiose and thought out. For example, if you forgot to plan a big surprise party for your friend, you can still bring them over their favorite candy and flowers. Not everything needs to be perfect! A simple heartfelt note or funny message are the types of things that really add up over time and lead to true friendships. 

If you find yourself struggling with making friendships as an adult, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our Chicago counselors at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors.  


Bonior, A. (2016, May 25). 10 ways to make (and Keep) friendships as an adult.

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