Making Friends as an Adult Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

Making Friends as an Adult Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard

A shy mom realizes she should take her own advice about making new friends.

By: Leah Maxwell

My son starts kindergarten next week, and all summer I’ve been giving him pep talks about meeting new people and making new friends. “Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself,” I tell him. “Compliments make good conversation-starters,” I say. “Don’t worry if you’re not holding hands and skipping off with your new best friend by the end of the week; friendship takes time,” I continue, even as he gives me that “Oh, Mom” look.

This is all excellent advice, but what’s ridiculous is that my son is naturally friendly and outgoing, comfortable in unfamiliar situations, and unfailingly confident that everything’s going to work out okay in the end. So … pretty much the opposite of me. All the advice I’m giving him is really advice for myself.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard to make friends as an adult, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. We can blame it on a lot of things -- our busy schedules or the shift of focus from our social lives to our children -- but to be honest, for me, it mostly comes down to being majorly awkward at small talk with strangers. I want so badly to make a good impression that I psych myself out and clam up rather than risk the possibility of saying something stupid. Sometimes I’m amazed when actual words come out of my mouth instead of a string of barnyard sounds.

Thank goodness for mobile technology, eh? The greatest invention for the awkward adult has got to be the smartphone! If you hold it close and tuck your head down, no one at the school bus stop knows if you’re answering a very important work email or just playing Candy Crush to avoid eye contact.


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But of course, this “solution” is also part of the problem. Sure, maybe it is hard to make friends as adults because we’re so busy, or because we’re afraid of rejection, or because we’re shy or insecure or pessimistic. But it’s also because we have our faces buried in our smartphones, rendering ourselves intentionally unavailable. Maybe making friends is hard because we’re not actually trying.

This is where all the advice I give to my son bounces back to me: If I want to make new friends, I should introduce myself. I should say nice things to people. I should stop expecting to end each interaction by skipping off hand in hand with my new best friend. Most of all, I should try.

Over the years, I’ve lamented how I wish it were as easy for grown-ups to make friends as it is for kids. But perhaps it is. Perhaps all we need to do is take all the advice we give to our kids and deliver it to the mirror.

Do you have trouble making friends as adult?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two small boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and Boy since 2003.

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I do have trouble, but I think it is hard for me because I have two girls with almost a generation in between - one is 12 - almost 13 and the other is 6 - two different worlds and lifetimes it seems. I am friends with my daughters friends-parents, but I don't feel like I have true friends...

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