How To Expand Your Social Circle For Good

by Kendall Wood

It's human nature to grow, change, and evolve over years of life. Over the years, with change and evolution, friends come and go as people drift apart, develop new interests, move away, and find less in common with one another. People begin to learn that the loss of friendships is not so much a negative happening as it is a necessary one, in order to make room for new relationships and experiences as you move through new chapters of life.

While the loss of certain friendships may be more difficult to cope with than others, new bonds will always blossom in their wake, though they may be unclear to see in the moment. Some of life's biggest challenges are complicated by relationships with other people, as nurturing friendships, remaining loyal, staying in love, and generally keeping up with other people's emotions in addition to your own is a heavy obstacle. Though, it is the very same challenging relationships and bonds with other people that make life so fulfilling, whether that's attributed to support during a hard time, unforgettable memories from a routine night out, or sharing life's milestone moments.

To learn more about how to help new adult friendships grow into lasting bonds, I spoke with experts Tracee Dunblazier, spiritual empath and author of "Master Your Inner World: Embrace Your Power with Joy"; Brandon Slater, co-founder of Life's Secret Sauce; Monte Drenner, licensed counselor, life coach, and consultant; and Shannon McGurk, founder of Authentic Masculinity.

To put this lesson into perspective, "If you've learned anything as an adult, it's that relationships take work. Most adults have hit the trifecta of maturity: We have less time, less tolerance, and higher standards than when we were younger. That means a relationship must prove it's worth to us before we engage fully," Dunblazier tells me via email.

Here are 11 ways to nurture adult friendships to become some of your best.

1. Remain Open To New Bonds; Never Close Yourself Off

"The best method to meeting new people lies in the most basic element: being open to them wherever you go. Having a few key things in common or of interest is all it takes to spark a new friendship," Dunblazier says simply.

Don't shut out the idea of meeting new friends at any time, in any place. You never know when you could happen upon your soulmate. When you're in social situations, be the best version of yourself, eliciting open body language, and welcoming new connections at every turn.

"The best way to approach any conversation is with a beaming smile. A real, genuine smile is universally accepted. When you meet someone new, think about what they see. Do you look friendly, kind approachable, or open to meeting someone new? A smile is contagious and disarming, and paired with a proper greeting is the easiest way to open a conversation. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Your body language says far more than your words during an introduction," according to Slater. Be self-aware, first and foremost.

2. Be Purposeful & Deliberate In Your Intentions

"Be more purposeful with your choices and make an effort to build and sustain those relationships. Attend meet-up groups, join clubs, or purposefully walk the same trail at the same time. Regular repeated events will allow you to interact with people on a similar schedule enjoying the same activity. The more interactions you have with each other, even if they are small, the friendlier you will become," Slater suggests.

If you enjoy hiking, climb the same trail at the same time during the same day of the week. If you find a restaurant with great cocktails, revisit for happy hour a couple times a month. Establish public habits to familiarize yourself with the same crowd.

"Be upfront. Choose friends and let them know you want to be friends. Straightforwardness is very disarming," McGurk says simply. Don't be too shy to let people know you want to hang out.

3. Stay Consistent & Realistic In Your Expectations

"Nurturing a new relationship with realistic consistency is the key. Spending a lot of time at the beginning either together or in communication often leads to hurt feelings when that pattern can't be sustained. Often, friends with a lot of communication at the beginning have some sort of agenda, emotional or otherwise. It's probable when that need is met for one or both parties, they will lose interest in the relationship," Dunblazier states.

It's fair to feel a friend out overtime, easing into a relationship like you would with a romantic partner so you can get a feel for the person's intentions. If you can both stay consistent in your communications, expectations for the friendship, and attempts to spend time together, that's a solid foundation for a lasting friendship.

"Consistency over time [is paramount] – five minutes every day is better than an hour once a week, but be careful not to crowd people because it's easy to freak them out by moving too quickly. Be a good listener – that's huge. Listening is a lost art," McGurk shares. Again, move at a steady pace and spend quality time together from the jump.

4. Identify People You Can Value & Vice Versa

"The qualities that make the best friendships are a mutual appreciation, trust, and respect. If you are in a friendship with someone who does not possess one or more of these characteristics, the friendship will lack depth and longevity. If your friendships have these qualities, they can be a rich source of encouragement and support for years," Drenner tells me via email.

These three qualities are simple, albeit often lost among many people. If you find a friend who values you as much as you value him or her, appreciation, trust, and respect will be the foundation of your friendship.

5. Surround Yourself With People Willing To Invest In Your Bond

"Lifelong bonds are built through investing time, effort, and energy into the relationship. These bonds are built through making sacrifices to be there in the difficult times friends go through or to celebrate special events. These sacrifices need to be deemed as beneficial because they are an investment into something that can last a lifetime," Drenner says.

If someone isn't interested in spending time together, often cancels on plans, or is generally flakey, this person likely isn't worth your time or investment. Be aware of these qualities from the start, as they are a true reflection of a person's overall character.

6. Seek Out A Best Friend

"Connecting with other adults who already have friends can be difficult. The best way to connect to a group is to have a strong connection with one of the members of the group. That one strong connection will help you be accepted by others in the group. ... The best way to continue to expand a social circle is to decide not to get comfortable in the relationships you have, and then make the time to get to know the friends of your friends. In this way, you will constantly expand your social circle and build new relationships that can be surprisingly very rewarding," according to Drenner.

It might give some people a bit of social anxiety or nervousness to insert themselves into an established group of friends, so moving in slowly is often the best approach. If you meet a friend with whom you quickly connect and build a quality bond, and that friend wants to introduce you to his or her friends, take advantage! It's likely the social circle is full of like-minded, genuine individuals.

7. Be The Kind Of Person You'd Want To Be Friends With

"Commit to never criticizing, condemning, or complaining, then do a small act of kindness every day. Help others in small ways; be confident and cheerful. Be courteous. All the things our mothers taught us, they are timeless. The best way to make a friend is to be a friend. It's an art, but worth learning and very rare, so valuable," McGurk says.

When you envision some of your best friends, what qualities do they all possess? When you consider all the ways in which your friends have been there for you, how can you be more like them? If there are any ways in which you could be a better friend, be sure to make a concerted effort to be that person in new relationships.

8. Have Confidence In What You Have To Offer In A Friendship

"We are afraid to be vulnerable and we constantly seek value rather than bring value. We want to take before we give and giving takes confidence, which many of us lack," McGurk states.

Know what makes you a good friend, fun person to be around, and generally beneficial addition to anyone's life. Have confidence in who you are and what you bring to the table; other people will notice and want more of you in their lives.

"Seek to bring value and become an attractive person who is cheerful and giving with out expecting anything in return. Giving starts the receiving process. Essentially, love them which means always do what is best for them, not yourself," McGurk continues.

9. Be Honest With Yourself & Others

"As we get older, the challenging experiences of our life begin to pile up in our spirit. Finding a way to forgive, process, and understand old betrayals is paramount to finding trust in new relationships. If you find yourself having a hard time creating new connections, try this ritual: Sit, light a candle, and take four deep breaths. Now, with pen and paper, write down your top ten values in a friendship. Then re-read them, asking yourself who you may need to forgive to achieve them," Dunblazier tells me via email.

Let go of negative past experiences in relationships, and remind yourself no one person is exactly like another. Do not carry baggage with you from one friendship to the next; it will only weigh you down and hinder the quality of your connections with new people.

10. Be The Most Authentic Version Of Yourself

"I personally start with honesty. If I can be completely myself and another finds that interesting, that's a strong beginning. Look for people who have accepted themselves; they're more likely to accept you," Dunblazier says.

Authentic people who are unapologetically themselves are the kind of individuals you want to surround yourself with. People who don't take themselves too seriously and know their quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, will accept you for all of yours.

"Be what you seek and always look for the best in people. We always find what we look for. If we look for the good we will find. Look for hidden value; it's always there, and people are so grateful when you find their better qualities, which they may have hidden from being hurt, which happens a lot," McGurk adds.

11. Know What You're Looking For

Like romance, know what you want and send out the proper vibes to attract people of your kind.

"Starting a new phase in life is an amazing opportunity to be clear about how you want to invest your time and energy. Taking the time to sit and consider what makes you happy and then putting focus there is sure to attract the people who are the best for you and to whom you are the most receptive," Dunblazier suggests.

New relationships with people of varying personalities, interests, and backgrounds are the spice of life. It's so important to constantly seek out genuine people who share your passion for life and exude positivity, off of which you, too, will thrive. As the years pass, forgo the comfort of the old for the excitement of zest of the new. Seek out new friendships without hesistance, add value to your interactions, and experience your quality of life increase tenfold.

Images: Brooke Cagle, Serge Vorobets, Phil Coffman, Marina Garci, Aranxa Esteve, Katie Treadway/Unsplash