You move to a new city. You stop having things in common with the people you used to hang out with. Your friends all start having kids and stop being available to hang out. Or you simply feel ready for a new batch of besties.
Making friends as a kid, or even in college or grad school where there’s a set up social structure is one thing. But making friends out in the big bad world on your own is something entirely different.
I’ve moved to new cities three times in my adult life and have created communities I’ve been teary-eyed to leave every time I’ve moved. My community is at the tippy top of the short list of things I hold sacred in this life.
So if you’ve found yourself craving new connections with other humans, this is for you.
Here are my key tips for making friends when you’re a grownup. (And not just any friends. People you absolutely adore and consider your soul tribe kind of friends.)
1. Make it a priority.
Oh so simple and oh so necessary. What we put our attention on grows. You water your plants, they thrive. You pay attention to meeting new people and nurturing those relationships, they bloom. If you’re craving new friendships (or wanting to deepen the ones you already have), make the time for it. Yes, there will always be work projects and other things you “should” be doing other than having tea with a girlfriend. But you know what?
And the only way to create that tribe is to make it a priority. I have been known to meet a friend for lunch during big launches and before looming deadlines. Why? It fills me up. It energizes me. I feel more like myself. And I do better work when I prioritize being with my girls (and a few great men).
2. Show up where you’ll find people you have something in common with.
If you don’t drink, don’t go looking for friends at a bar. If you love yoga, try out all the classes in your city and then keep going back to the ones where everyone is the friendliest. Join a hiking group through meetup.com if you love the mountains. Take a surfing class if you’re into the ocean. Obvious, yet so often overlooked. Make a list of things you love to do, go find groups of other people who love doing them, and then follow step three.
3. Question. Compliment.
I’ll admit that I have a little social anxiety. I’m not the kind of girl you’ll find yukking it up with random people in an elevator, and I try to get my ear buds in and my book out as quickly as possible on airplanes, lest someone try to strike up a conversation. However, it turns out that making new friends requires talking to new people.
A few years back I asked a particularly outgoing friend of mine how he struck up conversation with new people. He said the following, “Start with a question and then give a compliment. Or the other way around. Compliment/question. Or question/compliment.”
For example, if you see a woman at a party who seems really fun and interesting, you could go over to her and say, “I love your dress! Is it vintage?” And there you are, off and running, connecting about your mutual love of fashion from the past.
4. Trust yourself.
Mike and I took a breastfeeding class the summer before P was born, and the minute we sat down I zeroed in on a couple sitting across from us. I had an immediate gut feeling that we needed to be friends with them, so I listened, hoping to hear a common thread I could start a conversation about. They mentioned paddle boarding and that they’d just moved to Maine from Long Island. We paddle boarded, and they clearly needed new friends. Done and done. I invited them on a paddle boarding date after class, and they’ve become two of our absolute best friends. Their friendship has been so meaningful, especially as we navigated the first year of parenthood together, texting 800 million times a day.
When you get a hit that you need to know someone, trust it and make it happen. They could be your soul family, like Steve and Sarah and their baby Sophia have become for us. And conversely, if you get into conversation with someone and you don’t like their vibe after all, trust that. There are 7 billion people on the planet. You don’t have to be friends with everyone.
5. Remain open.
I met two of my very best friends because they reached out to me randomly on Facebook to get together for tea. Two of our other very best friends were introduced to us by a mutual friend. I’m so glad I said yes to all of them because my life would be far less rich without them.
It’s really easy to say, “Oh, I already have all the friends I need” as grownups. We’ve been around a while. We know a lot of people already. I’m not saying say yes to every invitation you get. (In fact, I often batch mine and invite them to our weekly Team Northrup coffee hour in Yarmouth, Maine, since my time as a new mom is more limited than it was pre-baby.) But check in with your gut (per tip #4) and remain open. You never know when you’re going to meet your next soul sister or brother.
How do you make friends as a grownup? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!