For most of us, making pals gets more difficult as we get older. Luckily, putting yourself in the right mindset can help remedy that.
It starts off so simple: When you’re little, the spark of a friendship—one that transforms you into us-against-the-world BFFs—can literally stem from a mutual hatred of orange Otter Pops. Even through college, a shared love of hangover-curing breakfast burritos can be enough forge a bond.
But studies have shown that a few years after that, our ability to make and keep friends declines sharply. Call it the reality of adulthood—bills, jobs, having to put on pants most days—but for many of us, there comes a time when you realize your ability to spontaneously round up your favorite people to drink wine out of coffee mugs while discussing your bowel movements with, has passed.
Which really sucks. Because here’s the other thing science has discovered: Loneliness effects our health in a serious way. Compound that with the negative mental-health effects of social media, and the need for quality, face-to-face interactions with other humans is more important than ever.
It’s hard. I get it. The effort required to put yourself out there can be difficult. The prospect of small talk is daunting, and bailing on plans is weirdly seductive.
But here’s the good news: A good many of us are in the same boat. Thus, if everyonewants to make new friends, it simply can’t be as difficult as we’ve convinced ourselves it is, right? Right.
Check out the below to put yourself in the mindset of finding the next person who just gets you.
Small talk is the pits. Chatting about the eclipse might seem like a natural point of entry, but it can be a super tough slog to break through superficial pleasantries. Numerous studies have shown that expressing genuine curiosity in someone by asking more meaningful questions fosters a greater connection between individuals. As George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan puts it thusly:
“Being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting; that’s what gets the dialogue going. It’s the secret juice of relationships.”
Small-talk is the orange Otter Pop of conversations. You don’t need to put it all out there right away, but the deepest human bonds are built through individuals supporting one and other in their most vulnerable moments.
Ori and Rom Brafman, brothers and co-authors of the book Click: The Magic of Instant Connections, put it this way:
“Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection.”
First of all: Pretty much everyone does it, so don’t beat yourself up about it too much. That being said, making an effort to more carefully curate the plans you domake is a good thing all around. Because making plans for a coffee date you have no intention of keeping just makes everyone involved feel shitty.
And keep in mind the role your smartphone has in this phenomenon. Back in the day, if you had to cancel plans with a friend, you had to call their landline and possibly speak with your friend’s mother (oof).
Now, it’s all too easy to shoot off a text with a hastily cobbled-together excuse. Assess where your impulse to cancel plans is coming from, and decide whether it’s legit or just coming from a place of laziness or fear of the uncertain.
Because to circle back to #2 here: Friendships can’t happen without putting yourself out there in a real, earnest way. Now go forth and be vulnerable, social butterflies.