A 2019 study conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Evite surveyed 2,000 Americans and their social relationship dynamics over a five-year period and revealed that the average American struggled to make new friends. Notably, this was pre-pandemic times when we generally had much more regular social contact. Despite the challenges, most people know that social connection and supportive relationships are a key component of well-being and resilience.
What makes it so challenges to make new friends?
One answer might relate to our beliefs about forming relationships. Research suggests that the belief that friendship happens based on luck was related to more loneliness five years later, whereas the belief that making friends depends on effort related to greater social participation and less loneliness (Newall et al., 2009). Such research illustrates how our beliefs play an important role in making new friends. What beliefs do you have about forming new relationships?
Expectations are also an important factor. Many people have the expectation that we should know how to make friends by the time we finish high school or graduate from college. However, this expectation is both untrue and unrealistic. Although we can certainly learn and grow in our confidence with successful early relationship experiences, forming new relationships and overcoming the obstacles that present themselves in different ways throughout the lifespan requires effort, risk taking, and openness; none of which are usually easy. What expectations do you have about making new friends?
Helpful Ideas for Making Friends
Assume that other people already like you.
Be intentional about making new friends by setting up planned interactions and putting yourself out there by attending social events.
Remember that other people often feel relieved when someone else takes the initiative in a social interaction.
Becomes aware of your self-imposed rules or beliefs about making friends. Challenge these ideas with more realistic, helpful thoughts.
Recall and practice a few basic small talk skills such asking follow-up questions. Ask specific details when someone is telling a story and use open ended questions such as “What did you think about that movie” versus “Did you like that movie?”
Keep your focus on making a short-term connection and follow-up later to build on these efforts.
Notice what thoughts you have about yourself when it comes to friendships. How do you view yourself as a friend? How do you think others view you? Are these thoughts and beliefs realistic?
Make a list of 3-5 ice breakers to use in social interactions.
Recognize that you are not the only one who struggles to make new friends. Many people find this challenging.
After you have established a few social connections, take small actions to stay in touch. Reach out with a phone call or text message to say hello.
Be aware of social pressures to make new friends. Even this blog is biased towards the idea that we need to make new friends. Perhaps you are content with your current relationships?
No matter what you believe or feel about making new friends. We all need each other and maintaining social connections is important to our health and well-being.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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Newall, N., Chipperfield, J., Clifton, R., Perry, R., Swift, A., & Ruthig, J. (2009). Causal beliefs, social participation, and loneliness among older adults: A longitudinal study. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26(2-3), 273-290. Doi:10.1177/0265407509106718