The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to make friends. Many of us have friends from childhood but barely any that we’ve made as adults. Ever wondered why? We all have different reasons, but one of the main reasons is lack of trust in one another as we grow older, as well as how much more difficult it is being transparent compared to when we were children. This not only makes it difficult to make friends, but also challenging to make good friends who are right for us. Not knowing others’ intentions straight away can make us fall into a lot of toxic friendships. Here are four tips that will help you create healthy friendships with the right people.
Become Acquaintances First
A mistake a lot of us make is rushing into a friendship without knowing enough about the other person. Getting good vibes from someone or enjoying a couple of hangouts isn’t enough to go off of. You can’t tell if that person will be a good friend in a short amount of time especially by letting them in too quickly. You could end up missing a lot of red flags.
First, become acquaintances. It’s so much easier to observe people you aren’t emotionally attached to yet. You don’t want to befriend them yet, but rather become familiar with them. Think of it as dating. You can go out on a date to get to know someone before being in a relationship with them. Treat your new friendships the same. Engage in small talk and avoid revealing any secrets or anything too personal.
Think of it as a trial period. See how that person reacts to you saying “no” and if they respect your boundaries. Pay attention to whether they ghost you, how they treat other people, or if you always feel like you have to reach out first. If there are too many red flags, then maybe befriending them is a bad idea. This doesn’t mean you have to cut them off. You can continue to be acquaintances if you’d like, just don’t hold them to the same standards you would a friend. And if you don’t have much of a personal relationship, then sharing secrets with them can be a bad idea. Don’t settle with people just because you feel lonely. You want to create quality friendships that will last in the long run and taking your time is key.
Just like with any personal relationship, values can make or break a friendship. We don’t normally think about what our friends’ values are as long as they are treating us well. But that can cause issues later on.
This happens often with many people where they realize too late that their friend’s values don’t align with theirs and then aren’t sure what to do about it. To avoid this, ask questions during your “trial period” to get a good idea of what they value. This will not only ensure that you’re surrounding yourself with the right people for you, but also avoid any unnecessary disagreements.
Don’t confuse values with personal beliefs such as spiritual or religious beliefs. Befriending others with different beliefs isn’t something that should be an issue when it comes to friendships. Values are more about principles. Do they value honesty like you? Do they believe in respecting others? Do they believe in compassion rather than judgment? Whatever your values are, having friends that share them really determines how those friendships will play out.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Have you ever felt strangely drained after hanging out with someone? Well, that’s not something you should ignore. Many of us feel drained after social interactions, but if you overall feel bad after talking to someone, that’s a red flag.
A lot of times we doubt our gut instincts too much. For example, someone may clearly give you a backhanded compliment but you still doubt yourself and wonder if you misunderstood. Most often than not, your doubts are correct.
At the beginning of a new friendship, reflect on how you feel after every hangout. If you feel bad, think about why that may be. You may not be able to tell after one or two meet-ups with that person, but if you’re constantly feeling bad or strangely irritated after spending time with them then, proceeding with that friendship may not be the best for you. You want to be around people who make you feel encouraged and positive after spending time with them. That can really determine whether that person will be a good friend to you.
Have Similar Hobbies
A great place to make friends is at activity clubs or classes. Befriending someone with a common interest is a great way to get to slowly know them. Also, meeting up every week, for example, allows you to hang out with them without getting too close. As mentioned in the previous tips, go through that trial period first. If you have a good feeling about where the friendship can go, then you can start hanging out outside of classes or wherever you met.
Having common interests is always a good thing as well. The easiest way to make friends as adults is through finding others with the same interests and hobbies. If you’re not already part of a club, class, or gym, for example, then join one.
Have A Small But Strong Circle
Having one really great friend is better than a bunch of friends who don’t treat you well. It can be appealing to have a large group of friends to travel and celebrate things with, but most of the time, those large groups don’t even get along. Don’t be fooled by online pictures of happy-looking groups and don’t let that rush you into making a bunch of friends.
Create quality friendships that will last. You can have lots of acquaintances, but friendships are completely different. Always keep your standards high and never settle.
1-Observe people during your first meeting. How do they react when you say “no”? Do they respect your boundaries? How do they treat other people?
2-Ask about values: Do you have any in common?
3- Reflect on how you feel after spending time with someone. Do you feel unusually drained?
4- Make friends at your gym, class, etc. Or join a class or club to find others with the same hobby as you.