Can you really make new friends as an adult? I mean, there’s plenty advice out there on how to help kids make friends. But if you don’t have friends by the time you’re an adult, it seems the world hands you a dunce cap and shows you to the corner.
After all, many adults have all the friends they need or want, right? People get married, have kids and have little time for others outside their family. Doesn’t that make it harder to meet new people after a certain age?
Well, yes and no. Depending on your geographic location, yes, many people “settle down” after a certain age. But not everyone. And while it may take a little more time to “warm up” a new friend as an adult, it can certainly be done.
In fact, many of the techniques kids instinctively use to make friends on the playground work for ages 4 thru 104. So here are 5 habits of highly social children that can help you make friends even if you’re way past your school days.
1. Leverage Current Social Assets
I remember back in Kindergarten (before I got awkward), I would make friends through other friends. One buddy might have a birthday party where I’d meet other kids. Some would become new friends. It’s not quite as easy as an adult, but the same principle applies. First ask yourself, who are you already around on a normal basis? This might include:
- Current friends
- Family members
Then, be aware of invites from these “social assets” and say yes to birthday parties, reunions, holiday events, after work drinks, company picnics, etc. At these events, you’ll likely meet new people who are friends of friends or family.
2. Go to Interest Groups, Not Bars
Some kids are really active going to gymnastics, band, theater and more. Ideally, these are activities the kids enjoy. And there lies the magic. You have a group of kids, all doing something they love, together. That’s where the bonding comes. There’s seldom any shared activity or interest in a bar. The common thread in bars, if there is any, is people go there to socialize. So, the greatest “socializers” win. If you aren’t that comfortable socializing, you strike out. Instead, why not go somewhere you know the people will share your interests? For example, if you’re interested in writing, it’s a good bet members in a writer’s group will be too. So you have an instant connection with them and a built in topic to start conversations.
3. Figure Out Your Most Important Values
Another reason kids make friends easily is they have a lot in common. Kids believe:
- Playing is important
- Slides are cool
- Candy is good
It’s not so clear cut with adults is it? We’ve developed our likes and dislikes over time. But the playground rules still apply: You connect deeply with others by having similar values to them. Now, of course you shouldn’t go adopting values and beliefs just to fit in. No, you figure out the things most important to you then express them in your words and actions. Yes, this means you might turn off some people who don’t share your values. But you’re more likely to connect with those who do.
4. Go to the Same Place at the Same Time
Kids in school see each other every day in the classroom, on the playground, on the bus… It becomes easier to notice, get to know, and eventually like Mary or Jake when you see them so often. For adults, repeat exposure and time spent together still work wonders. Try going to the following on the same days of the week at the same time of day:
- A local coffee shop
- The gym
- A low-key local pub (not a club or “hoppin’” bar)
There may be others who visit at those same times also. Plus, the staff will start to recognize you. Over time, you can get to know them and they’ll become comfortable with you from the mere-exposure effect.
Kids, at least the very social ones, will often say, “hey look what I can do.” Even if all they’re doing is sticking out their tongue. And hey, people look. The point is, these kids get noticed. They don’t fade into the background. This can be a problem for adults, especially us introverts. We enjoy our privacy more than most. The thing is, just like those outgoing kids, you’ll get noticed and often liked more when you speak up and let others get to know you. The good news is, you don’t have to have verbal diarrhea to do this. Just reveal little tidbits about yourself throughout a conversation.
- When talking about your job, mention how your brother inspired your career moves
- Ask what they like to do for fun, then reveal your favorite free-time activities
- Show vulnerability once you get to know each other, like how you try to eat better but keep hitting Dunkin’ Donuts
All these examples show you’re a real human being to the other person. This will do more to create a bond than most gimmicky friendship building tricks. What do you say? What’s one of your GO TO moves for meeting a new friend?
|Written on 6/18/2013 by Dean J. Dean J is a former shy-guy now teaching people to be more outgoing and charming thru better conversation skills and confidence. Check out his blog or click here if you’d like to watch his free video series on building confidence and having more to say. You can also find Dean on Google+ and Twitter.|
Photo Credit: Dan O’Brien