Doesn’t matter what age or what stage of life you are in—you will always need to be practicing the art of making new friends. It may seem that once you have achieved some level of comfortability with a group of people, you will never need to put yourself out there to make a new friend again. Unfortunately, that mindset will make it tough when the friend group changes, people move to different neighborhoods, your kids grow up, or you switch jobs.
When you find yourself at 22, 35, or even 50 and needing to make new friends, it can be overwhelming. You may wonder where you went wrong in the friend department. But the reality of making new friends is actually marked by some statistics. A study was done in the Netherlands on people ages 18-65, that showed our social networks stay the same, but our closest friendships are lost or replaced every seven years.
So instead of being surprised by the need to make new friends, let’s be prepared.
What to do when your friend group shifts and changes
In 2020, I had four dear friends move away. It was so hard to hear their news after investing in their lives and enjoying our close-knit friendship. Maybe in the past, this would have sent me on a high alert *I AM LOSING ALL MY FRIENDS* but now I step up and tell myself, “Don’t panic! You are not going to be friendless. It’s time to reevaluate who I am spending my time with!” Who has been reciprocating a friendship with me? Who would be a person I’d like to get to know more? Instead of finding myself without anyone to call or spend time with, I just shift my efforts towards making new friends and trying on different ways to connect with them.
Don’t judge a friend by the cover…stay open-minded!
You have your set friend group, and it hasn’t changed in a decade! Awesome! What a blessing! But don’t write off the opportunity to meet a new friend. Always be practicing your friend making skills because a new friendship could come from an unexpected place. Perhaps, you meet a younger girl seeking a mentor to walk with them. Or a new neighbor who begins to feel like family. If we closed ourselves off to new friendships, we’d be seriously missing out.
I’m an introvert…it’s not easy for me to make new friends
I think it’s important to know that even extroverts can feel anxious in social settings. There have been numerous social things I have attended alone and have dreaded having no one to talk to or connect with. Everyone has their own way of making new friends/meeting new people so don’t be afraid do things your own way. Honor who you are and your process for making new friends.
You need connection. So it’s not “if I need to make friends” but “how you are going to do it?!” -Shasta Nelson
If initiating is hard for you, then piggyback off of what someone else has already planned. Like asking a new friend to join you for a workout class so you don’t have to worry about all the details. Pressure is not on you to make the schedule happen.
Maximize on your Connectors
Starting over? Needing to find new social connections? Turn to your social friends! Let them take you to the next dinner party to meet some of their acquaintances, or ask them to set you up with a friend you think you would have something in common with. I love nothing more than to introduce two people who I think would be great friends (especially, if I know a friend is looking for a tight-knit relationship and I don’t have the current capacity to fill that need myself).
It’s okay to move on
There is a lot of guilt about letting some of those friendships “die-off.” Shared experiences and sharing some life together really leaves an impression. But I often say, “A friendship for a season can still make an impact for a lifetime.” So, not investing in an old friendship or staying in close connection does not mean you value the friendship any less. If it really bothers you, you could always reach out and remind the friend how much they have meant to you and how you will always recognize those good things in your friendship. But, my guess is that they have also moved forward in their new friendships. So let go of the guilt and be grateful for what the friendship offered in that season.
“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you I have been changed for good.” -Wicked the Musical
Needing any additional friend making ideas? I’ve got some resources for you:
The First Steps to Making New Friends
How to Grow Your Capacity to Make New Friends
Breaking Down the Invisible Wall of Your Friend Circle
New Year Friendship Resolutions
I moved to a new state 10 years ago. Despite finding a church and trying to make friends with the moms of my kid’s classmates, I still do not have any close friends. It seems like a focus on “tribes of friends” has been intense lately and frankly, I feel like a failure. I have severe anxiety when driving to new places so when a woman invites me somewhere I almost always say no. Which I’m sure makes them think I’m not interested and I don’t make a friend. I feel lonely but no one is going to make friends with a person who only has a handful of places she feels comfortable going to.
Sarah, there are so many barriers to making friends and anxiety can be the worst. Even the most extroverted of people can have social anxiety and talk themselves down from putting themselves out there to make friends. I think the focus on “tribes of friends” is not realistic for every person. One friend is worth its weight in value. Being more bold and communicative is the best way to tell potential friends you are interested but have some limitations. The right friend will be willing to make it work. I will challenge you though to get some tools in your toolbox to fight anxiety (a counselor helped me do this) so that you can find the freedom to be engaged in the community at your church and kid’s school.
Thank you for that encouragement. It has been interesting this year I have seen some new relationships form and some deepen even in the midst of lockdowns and social distancing.
that’s beautiful and so encouraging to hear