How to make friends as an adult without the awkwardness

Feel like your friendship circle is dwindling, or new mates are harder to come by? Making friends as adults can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sharing the same favourite colour can earn you instant BFF status when you’re a kid.

As adults, it’s a little harder.

One study found a “lack of trust” impacted the ability to invest in a new friend, compared to when they were younger.

The study found other factors impacting adults forming new connections included time constraints, introversion, and age.

It’s no wonder our social networks have been steadily shrinking over the past 35 years, with recent reports revealing as many as one in two Australians now feel lonely.

However, research consistently emphasises the benefits of friendship for everything from wellbeing to overall health and life expectancy.

If your social circle needs expanding, here are some expert-backed tips to start some new connections.

Allow time to make new friends

Studies show it takes about 50 hours to turn an acquaintance into a casual mate, and more than 200 hours to form a close friendship.

But it’s an investment well worth making, says psychologist Rachel Voysey from The Relationship Room.

“Maintaining or making new friends in adulthood takes effort, time and energy to initiate, grow and preserve,” Rachel says.

“However, quality friendships can improve your sense of self-worth and confidence, reduce feelings of isolation and promote a greater sense of belonging, connection and purpose in life.”

Open yourself up

“Friendships are reciprocal, so they require us to be willing to hear the other person but also share parts of ourselves and our life,” Australian Institute of Human Wellness founder and clinical psychologist, Dr Anastasia Hronis says.

“Doing so always involves some level of risk – of hurt, rejection, being ghosted – but it comes with the reward of a great friendship.”

Make the first move

Clinical psychologist Elisabeth Shaw from Relationships Australia says if you want to get to know someone better, take the initiative by suggesting low-key drinks after work or a mid-morning coffee.

“Others will welcome you taking the lead and reaching out,” Elisabeth says.

Take affirmative action

Rachel recommends saying yes more often.

“The more you accept invitations you might otherwise have turned down, the more likely you are to expand your circle with new people,” she says.

Tap into technology

Apps are for more than just dating, Rachel says.

“Meeting new friends through neighbourhood and Facebook groups or apps allows us to connect with people through common activities and interests,” she says.

Take up a hobby

Elisabeth says a new hobby can be a great way to meet new people.

“Even if you don’t become besties with the others in the group, they do become people you might call on to share that common interest,” she says.

Cultivate current connections

Rachel suggests nurturing friendships with people you already know in your social circle.

“The extra effort to go a bit further with people you already know can help build a deeper friendship,” she says.

Reconnect with old mates

Reach out to friends you’ve lost touch with.

“It may feel awkward if you’ve drifted away from each other, but giving time and energy to that connection again can help accelerate a deeper, newfound friendship,” Rachel says.

More on healthy friendships:

Written by Dimity Barber.