Making friends as an adult may seem harder than it used to be, but why? The honest answer: we can be set in our ways. We have our established friends and routines, so it can be hard to deviate from what we already know to meet new people. We may also start to find ourselves in different phases of life from those around us.
Regardless of where we are in life, it can feel intimidating to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there. If you’re struggling to cultivate new adult friendships here on campus, you’re not alone. Here are some tips for making (and keeping) friends as an adult.
Allow yourself time to be social
Grad school often comes with an unspoken pressure to be “on” all the time. It may feel like if you’re not studying or working, you’re doing something wrong. However, it’s important to keep in mind that grad school is a multi-year process. Setting personal boundaries around work can help you have a more vibrant and meaningful life outside of school. Remind yourself and your colleagues that you shouldn’t feel guilty spending time with friends and taking breaks to enjoy activities outside of grad school. In fact, it can be great for your mental and emotional health.
Sometimes when we are in search of new friends, we tend to expect one person to have it all. However, it’s important to keep in mind that people aren’t all inclusive. You may meet someone who is great to watch sports with, while another may be better as a confidant. Managing expectations around what people are able to bring to a friendship can help us create a more robust social network that we can rely on for different things.
Work with anxiety
When we meet new people, it’s normal to experience anxiety. Learning to work with and overcome anxiety is key to allowing ourselves to meet new people and develop relationships. If you experience physical anxiety or discomfort, practice grounding techniques such as reporting factual news about the present moment. In your head, state your name, age, today’s date, location and other details to bring you back to the moment.
If you struggle with anxious or worried thoughts, consider ways that you can acknowledge and recognize these thoughts without acting on them. One way to do this is to separate yourself from your thoughts through labeling. For instance, if you are feeling concerned that the other person does not like you, try labeling it as, “I am having the thought that the other person may not like me.” Separating ourselves from your thoughts can be a good reminder that just because we’re having the thought doesn’t make it true. Just be yourself and let yourself be seen.
Become a regular
Get involved and be present. Whether you’re interested in joining a martial arts studio, book club or the student union, getting involved is a great way to meet new people and form friendships. In fact, the more you show up, the easier it may be to connect with people who are also regulars.
If you’re not sure where to start, take some time to look at the posters in your building. Chances are there are a number of clubs or groups that will speak to you like Women in Science and Engineering or the Graduate Cycling Club. You can also browse the “Graduate and Professional Studies” category on BuffConnect or visit the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) for more student organizations on campus. Connecting with people in your cohort is another great place to start if you’re struggling to find a social network.
Focus on the positive
When we first meet people, we tend to look for the things that are different between us. This can make it difficult to relate to people or find common points of interest. Instead, try to actively search for how you are alike with other people. Look for things that you may have in common, like personality, humor or shared experiences.
Adapt your approach
Meeting people used to only happen in person, but as times have changed, so have our approaches to making friends. Apps can be great for talking with people before meeting in person. This option can also be helpful if you’re anxious about making friends or are on the shyer side. Here are a few apps to check out:
- Bumble BFF. Bumble BFF is an app that can help you find platonic connections in your area, whether you’re looking for a workout buddy, roommate or a new best friend.
- Patook. Patook is an app and website that allows you to make platonic friends with people nearby who share your interests (no flirting allowed).
- Meetup. Meetup is a free service that organizes online group that host in-person events for people with similar interests. You can explore groups based on your location, hobbies, interests and more. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Meetup also allows you to start groups of your own.
If you’re struggling to meet people or maintain relationships, there are resources on campus that can help.
Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a free Fostering Social Relationships therapy group that is geared toward students whose primary concerns are related to difficulties in relationships, understanding social rules and expectations, as well as verbal and non-verbal communication.