Coming out of a year of minimal socialising, you might have lost touch with friends or maybe you’re feeling daunted at the prospect of making new ones. Here, two friends who met in their 20s share their advice on how to make friends as an adult.
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Making friends as an adult can seem like a daunting prospect. So many parts of our lives require time and effort – from dating to developing a career to managing finances – and making new friends might seem like just another part of life that you don’t have time for.
But making new friends can enrich your life in ways you may have never considered and doing so as an adult means you actually get to really choose your friends rather than finding them by default like in childhood. It’s a chance to find people with similar interests and build strong, unique relationships.
This was the case for Lizzy Hadfield and Lindsey Holland, who first met eight years ago in their early 20s at a work event. They’ve since become best friends across both their work and personal lives.
“We’ve both made our closest friends as adults,” Lindsey says. “I don’t have any friends from college. I didn’t find my people until I was in my 20s because I didn’t know who I was until then.”
Lizzy and Lindsey firmly believe making friends as an adult is not a last resort, and certainly, nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s something they’ve discussed in their chart-topping podcast, Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum, which they’ve now released as a book with the same title, offering advice about relationships and life as a modern-day young woman.
Here, they share some of the best advice they’ve learnt about making friends in adulthood.
Have confidence and be open
It can be daunting to put yourself out there to make new friends and it can feel like a vulnerable position to be in. But Lizzy and Lindsey agree there is a lot of power in vulnerability. “Lindsey definitely taught me loads about being really open about things, which is something I make sure I always do in any new friendship because I think it encourages other people to do the same,” says Lizzy.
“It honestly comes down to a lot of confidence,” says Lindsey, explaining that opening up to people has allowed her to make lots of new friends throughout her adulthood as people are very receptive to it.
Don’t overthink how you present yourself
There can often be a lot of pressure to make yourself appear likeable when you’re meeting new people and forming new friendships, but this is pointless. Presenting yourself in an inauthentic way won’t lead to a lasting, meaningful friendship. “Put yourself out there and be who you are and then people can take it or leave it, which takes the pressure off,” Lindsey says.
“And trust yourself that you’ll be good fun when you’re there,” Lizzy adds, explaining that people aren’t doing a favour by socialising with you – they’re probably excited about the prospect of making a new friend too.
Find life experiences you can bond over
If you’re open with someone, you might discover you’ve both shared a similar experience, even something your other friends haven’t been through. You have something more light-hearted or unusual in common. Lindsey, for example, says she became close with a new friend, Debs, because they both adopted a dog from the same charity.
Spend time with different friendship groups
“Inviting people out and connecting different friendship groups is a really nice thing to do, especially as you get older,” Lizzy says, recommending not only connecting your own friendship groups but asking your friends whether you can join them when they’re spending time with different friends so you can meet new people.
“Be kind to each other and try to expand your network all the time,” Lindsey says. “People who invite you to come out with new friendship groups are so generous even though it’s such a small gesture,” Lizzy adds.
If your friends don’t invite you out with their other friends, it’s probably nothing personal – they probably just haven’t realised you might like to join, which is why it’s so important for you to put yourself out there.
“If you invite yourself along, no one is going to say you can’t come. We’re not in high school,” Lindsey says, adding you should make an effort to make plans with new friends from social events or work.
Go to events you’re interested in alone
The most common piece of advice you’ve probably heard when it comes to making new friends as an adult is to find people who have similar hobbies and interests to you. But, this can be difficult, especially with so many of our hobbies now requiring us to be at home thanks to lockdown.
“Everybody going to those events has something in common and that’s a love of whatever they’re going to,” Lindsey says. She recommends going to these events on your own if you feel confident enough to do so. “You end up sitting with women who are like-minded and you do strike up a conversation.”
She adds that exercise classes are also a great way to meet people, especially if you arrive a little bit early or stay late and chat with the people around you.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media for making (and maintaining) friends
“We’ve both cultivated relationships online and we both have friends all around the world because of it,” Lindsey says, explaining social media can be a great way to strike up a conversation with someone if you’re feeling nervous about doing so in person.
“There’s no stigma around online dating anymore at all so there shouldn’t be when it comes to making friends online either,” Lizzy adds.
Social media is also a great way to keep up with friends you’ve made in social settings and lets you maintain and develop a relationship where you might not have been able to otherwise. Simply liking someone’s photos and replying to their stories is a great first step to showing someone you’re interested in being their friend.
Try and get dates in the diary if you’re busy
Even if you really enjoy spending time with a new friend, our busy lives can get in the way of meeting up. It can be a good idea to make another plan with them while you’re with each other to avoid the friendship falling through the cracks.
“When you know someone is busy, you could even put a date in for two months time,” Lizzy says, adding that if they aren’t busy and you think it’s going to be possible to maintain the friendship without too much effort, making a plan there and then isn’t always necessary.
Remember a good friendship doesn’t require constant communication
“You have some mates that you speak to every single day, you’ve got some friends that you speak to every single day for maybe a period of three months and then you come apart and rekindle again,” Lizzy says. “I think you need to nurture lots of different groups in that way so through your life you’ve always got people who can offer support depending on what you’re going through at that point.”
Lindsey says she never expects her friends to apologise for sending a late reply or having not stayed in touch recently, because adult friendships aren’t like those from your childhood when you can spend all your time together – they’re usually more complicated but more rewarding too.
Lizzy Hadfield, influencer and author
Lindsey Holland, influencer and author
Lindsey Holland is an influencer behind the blog Ropes of Holland, where she shares her personal style and lifestyle journey. She is also the co-host of the podcast, Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum.