Once the safety blanket of college is over, making new friends as an adult is a weird, uncomfortable thing. It's like everyone has created their cliques and, much to the approval of Regina George, we can't sit with them no matter how much pink we wear on a Wednesday. Where once all you had to do was plop down next to someone during a terribly long biology lecture to make a friend for life, now you have to court pals the same way you would a love interest. And it's hard.
There are so many elements to consider: Where do you even meet these potential buddies? Are work and friends of friends your only options? How do you ask them out without sounding like a total creep? It's enough to make a person throw up their hands and decide to be totally OK with just watching Netflix every weekend. Who has that much room for that kind of stress?
While it's not as easy as when you were in your early twenties, it's still totally doable. You just have to get out of your comfort zone. Here are five weird but totally effective ways to make new friends as an adult. Follow them and start filling up that social calendar.
1. Start Talking At The Bus Stop
I met one of my favorite friends while waiting for the afternoon bus. She was standing a few steps next to me, looking down the street and seemingly content to stand in our semi-awkward silence. And then, she ruined the strained quiet.
"Do you know Anna?" she asked me, forcing me to look up from my phone. I nodded my head yes, instantly suspicious of her and her friendliness. "That's my sister," she said, her face breaking into a warm smile. It was impossible to resist. We began chatting and then five years later, we're still grabbing margaritas on Friday nights.
So speak up at bus stops — or anywhere where you're clumped with a group of people, waiting. It might seem scary at first, but remember the more times you try something the easier it gets. If someone looks like they might be interesting, approach them with an ice breaker. You might not have a super suave line like my friend did, but something will come to mind. Granted sometimes these convos will last only a minute or two (not everyone wants to find their next BFF while shuffling down a line), but sometimes they can develop into something more.
2. Go Solo To A Bar And Crash A Group
Going to a bar solo can be an intimidating thing. Thoughts of nursing a whiskey while slumped in a bar stool come to mind, but if your objective is to make new friends, this is a sure-fire place.
First, make sure you go to a laid back, lively bar — one where people mill around the floor and between tables rather than sitting in their exclusive circles. Next, open with a stereotypical bar question: What are you drinking? Once you get them to answer and have the small talk going, you have to break out the charm so they invite you to join their group. Become an entertainer — the worst that can happen is that they kill the conversation, and then you can just go cringe in the bathroom until the embarrassed feels pass.
According to journalist and Ted Talk speaker Chris Colin, you should ask for stories, not answers. "One way to get beyond small talk is to ask open-ended questions. Aim for questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than give bland, one-word answers." Some suggestions he gives are: “What does your name mean? What would you like it to mean?" “What are you looking forward to this week?” “Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?”
Questions like those will get a dialogue going and you'll find yourself making a pal. Now order a round of appetizers to seal the deal and feel smug that you just stole that person away from their own group.
3. Join An Insanely Specific Meetup
Have you always wanted to play Quidditch? Do you like needle pointing swears? Have you tinkered around with playing the accordion? Well, you're probably not alone. The easiest way to make friends is to share both a contained space and an interest with them (just think of college) and meetups are the adult equivalent of your dorm hallway.
According to travel blogger and permanent nomad Christine Williams, "When I first moved to Australia and didn’t know a soul besides my boyfriend, I started attending Meetups. I was pretty nervous to head out to the first one on my own, until I realized most other attendees were on their own as well! Attending a Meetup based around an activity is perfect because it breaks the ice by automatically giving you something to chat about."
But instead of choosing a general meetup like "Beginners Learning Italian" or "20s Young Professionals," choose something super specific and slightly oddball. The more particular you get, the more enthusiastic and passionate the people will be. And they know they're slightly out there, which means they'll be more open to welcoming another outsider. So get out of your comfort zone — go try that naked yoga meetup for the sake of friendship. Or learn how to play the ukulele. Whatever works for you.
4. Loiter At The Grocery Store Like You're Picking Up Babes
The same goes for coffee shops or your go-to restaurant or bar. Basically, any space where you see the same people over and over again. The objective is you're going to make pals with those people. If there's a friendly barista at your coffee shop that seems to actually be interested when you answer how your weekend went, chances are you two have some friendship potential. The trick to not seem out of the blue or creepy is to establish a rapport first.
Ask them what their name is and then chat with them a little bit each time you come in. Every time, get a little more personal — ask them what exciting thing they have going on this week, share something funny about your day, ask them if they ever tried that bakery down the street. Once you have a friendly foundation set, casually ask if they want to go on a friend date.
When I moved to Seattle a couple of years ago, I worked most days at a coffee shop a block from my apartment. There was a barista I got pretty friendly with after a few weeks and one day she was ending her shift just as I was packing up to go home. We strolled out at the same time and I told her I was going to the bookstore on the corner and asked if she wanted to come with and help me find a Jane Austen book. She did, and at the end of it all we exchanged numbers and became pals. It was painless, and I finally had a friend to convince me to get out of the house!
5. Compliment Without Pause
People love compliments — was there ever a time you felt miffed about getting a genuine compliment about your personality or style? Probs not. It's a great icebreaker and you instantly get a warm place in their heart if you say it with sincerity and kindness. So use that your advantage.
Are you standing next to a girl with an amazing dress? Is the guy next to you on the bus slaying his crossword? Do you like the music the girl in the elevator is listening to? Tell them. At the very least, it'll let you start a conversation. Then if you have some time to chat, you can try and engage them further.
6. Shameless Bribery
I'm not saying lavish people with gifts left and right, I'm saying use a little token here and there to grease the wheels. Grab a coffee or extra donut for that one person you really enjoy at work, or bring an extra bottle of wine when you're going over to someone's dinner party. Small generosities go a long way. For example, I once had a borderline nemesis at work, but every time she offered me a piece of chocolate or shared a box of Munchkins with me, I'd feel ready to maybe sort of become BFFs. People are weak when it comes to kindness like that.
7. Go Play
Remember how easy it was to make friends when you were a kid? You'd just scramble to the top of the play castle, bellow at the nearest kid by you, lock eyes, and become blood sisters for that afternoon as you ran wild over the woodchips. The reason for that? It's easy to connect when you're playing. You don't have to think as much about witty conversation when your body is moving and you both can giggle over the same experiences. So go join an activity and see if you can make any friends in your group — chances are there are a few people going solo there just like you.
For example, I once was persuaded by an email coupon for a free barre workout class, and I timidly walked into the classroom expecting to be intimidated. Instead it was a hodge podge of girls scattered across the floor, and I sat next to one in particular who claimed she loved to run but hated to move. The whole class we laughed over our failed plank attempts, glared at each other as we held squats, and groaned every time our instructor perkily sang that we had this. After class, we both agreed to go eat a donut together because we totes earned it. A few leg cramps is worth the friend, right?
Making friends, like dating, can be awkward territory sometimes, but it just comes down to putting yourself out there and being confident. Maybe it won't work out every time, but every once in awhile it will, and you'll be so happy you made the effort.