In some ways it is harder to make friends as adults. We don’t have the fortune of being forced to interact socially on a daily basis like in school or even in college (or if you were like me and you kept going to college). But, as hard as it may be to make friends as an a adult it is as essential as eating healthy and exercising regularly if you want a long healthy life.
“The results show people with strong social relationships increased their odds of survival over a certain time period by 50 percent, the researchers say. That’s on par with ceasing smoking, and nearly twice as beneficial as physical activity in terms of decreasing your odds of dying early.” – Rachael Rettner (2010)
I understand that balancing a family and work life are daunting tasks and the thought of adding additional social obligations may sound impossible. I am not suggesting that people have to go out and make a lot of friends and have a full social calendar to meet their social needs.
Each of us have varying needs related to healthy social connections. Some people may need one or two close friends and others may need larger social networks.
Only you know what feels right for you. But, starving yourself of social connection is not an option. That’s when you end up lowering your expectations and interacting with people that may be unhealthy for you. Because, being socially connected is a real essential need like eating or drinking. Unless, you are a sociopath? But, you’re probably not.
Also, some people are fortunate enough to have family members that double as friends and their social needs are met through those relationships. However, some people do not have those types of relationships with their families. In these cases, they can create a family through strong sustained social connections with friends and this I’ve learned is a pretty amazing thing.
So now that we have established that having social connections is essential to living a long healthy and happy life, how do we go about making friends as adults?
Today, I am going to focus on the communication component involved in developing a friendship. It does require some time investment but as I’ve mentioned it is worth it.
When is the last time you asked someone: “How are you?”
Or any variation of an open ended question:
What did you think of that?
What brings you here?
What do you like about this?
- Honestly cared about the response
- Really listened (patiently) to the response without interrupting or thinking about something/somewhere else
- Did not offer a solution if they presented you with a problem they were facing but listened with the goal of understanding
- Did not say “I understand because the same thing happened to me when _____” (which is impossible and also invalidating because no matter how similar your situations we are all different people)
- Patiently let them finish what they were sharing before interjecting
- Asked follow up questions related to their response to better understand where they are coming from.
- BONUS: Asked if there was anything you could do for them!
I completely understand that I am asking a lot of you in the above interaction. It takes a lot of time to go through that scenario (not really).
I think a lot of us are aware of how much we want someone to care about us and how WE are doing but for a friendship or intimate relationship to build you also have to be willing to regularly ask open ended questions and be then be prepared to do the work associated with listening.
Asking “How are you?” and then listening, asking follow up questions, being patient, and asking if there is anything they need demonstrates in a significant way that you care about the person and the person will feel valued and magically so will you through this interaction.
I think we are taught that we need to have certain things (cars, homes, kids, jobs) to be worthy of social connection so we put our best face forward in our conversations. I have watched this lead to people feeling immediately disconnected from the person. I believe we feel the most connected around our vulnerabilities and feeling validated in the: life is hard struggle we all face.
So saying you don’t have time for friends might leave you with less time overall.
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