Switch to mobile version
Post image for How to Make Friends as an Adult

I have two aims for this post: to dispel one of our most harmful cultural myths, and to help make you at least one lifelong friend.

It’s worth saying again that good friends are the best thing in the world. They make the good times great and the bad times not so bad. They make you wiser, kinder, smarter, and more interesting. They help you develop your strengths and survive your weaknesses. Nothing else I know of does all of those things.  

Friendship is precious, but it doesn’t have to be rare or elusive. You may have been told, like I was, that it is “very difficult” or even “virtually impossible” to make friends once you’re done school. After a few decades of heeding this warning, I now recognize it as a self-fulfilling nonsense belief we should all ignore. Since abandoning this myth, I’ve had a steady stream of new friends and friend circles, and it is probably the most fulfilled area of my life.

Before we continue, a crucial point: I am not especially talented at friend-making. I have a history of social anxiety and general awkwardness, and I possess correspondingly underdeveloped small-talk skills. I miss obvious cues and say things at the wrong moment. I’m definitely in a lower bracket of the natural friend-making ability scale.

And that’s a very good reason to listen to my advice, rather than that of a networking expert who worked in real estate for thirty years. If I’m able to make friends as an adult, chances are excellent that you can too.  

Why people say it’s hard

So why do people say it’s so hard to make friends as an adult? Aside from “because everyone else says so,” I believe it’s because people have no idea how they made friends as a kid or a teenager either.

My guess is that for most people, childhood friendships just sort of happened, because the school years come with an almost perfectly fertile environment for accidental friend-making. You’re put in a room for ten months with thirty other kids your age, then encouraged (sometimes forced) to work and play with them. This regimen is repeated for twelve to fifteen straight years.

If you made friends this way, and that led to even a few adult friendships, you might never have needed to make friends on purpose. So you don’t know how, and never did.

In adulthood, friend-making needs to become intentional if it’s going to happen, and intentional friend-making looks quite different from the haphazard method that sufficed earlier in life. Once an adult accepts this need for intention, and rejects the Great Friendship Myth, they can make friends on purpose. It comes down to doing one particular thing most people avoid.

How to do it

Basically, you make friends out of acquaintances — people you know but are not friends with — and the crucial friend-making act is this: you have to ask a not-quite-friend if they want to do something. This proposal doesn’t have to be anything date-like, just an invitation to do something that does not involve the buffer of a mutual friend.

I call this act the Small Leap. It’s so simple, but it’s all you need to grow a few friends from a batch of acquaintances. It is a leap, because there’s some uncertainty involved. But it is also small. Leaping over a puddle small. Getting a cookbook down from the top shelf small.

The Small Leap is usually a single question, asked in person or via message, referring to something you have in common. Something like, “I’m going to a flea market Saturday, if you want to come” or “Hey, you were talking about Scrabble the other day, want to have a game?” The smaller and easier it is, the better. Saying yes is a leap for them too.

It is never completely comfortable to do this. But if you don’t do it, all you can do is hope someone else does, and directs their leaps your way. Wherever there is a friendship, someone made a Small Leap.

As I put it in a recent post:

Friendships are born only when one acquaintance takes a certain kind of risk, which is to invite the other person to something. It could be anything – a walk, a poker game, an exchange of soup recipes, whatever. If you both enjoyed it, the precedent for such invitations has been set, and you’ve graduated from acquaintancehood.

Some people do a lot of this, and most people probably never do it. You might have noticed that people with tons of friends don’t necessarily have irresistible personalities. They just make Small Leaps on a regular basis.

Leaping your way to even one new friend kicks off a wonderful compounding effect. Each friend tends to come with more acquaintances, and usually they’re highly qualified friend candidates.* Thus, a few leaps can change your life.

The cost of making the Small Leap is that sometimes people say they’re busy, or they don’t get back to you, and that might feel momentarily bad. (And I mean might – often it feels like nothing.)

As far as I can tell, that’s it. Our aversion to that little risk costs the world millions of friendships a year. Imagine the great friendships — your great friendships — that never happened just because it seems more important to proof ourselves against small pangs of rejection or awkwardness.

This aversion is so low-key that you barely feel it, and that makes it insidious. It feels natural not to make these leaps, so it’s easy avoid them altogether — even though you’re risking basically nothing, and the eventual reward can be pretty much the best thing in the world.  

***

Photo by Kevin Curtis

*If you’re starting from zero acquaintances, then that is your first step, but the principle is the same. If your workplace, family ties, and day-to-day interactions haven’t yielded any acquaintances, you can make some by doing the things people usually recommend for making friends: clubs, classes, group activities, and events. The Small Leap between stranger and acquaintance is only to talk to a person to the point where you know each other’s names and one mutual interest, and usually those activities provide a context for doing exactly that.

Post image for Own the Tools

When I need to look up a word, most of the time I do it in a paper dictionary. 

I’m pretty quick at flipping to the right place, and I try to get quicker each time. However, it will never be as quick as typing the word into Google.

My switch back to paper wasn’t motivated by cantankerousness. It wasn’t a romantic thing or a hipster thing, or an “I love the smell of books” thing. I just found that after years of relying on online dictionaries, a real one offers a better experience in every way except the speed.

The whole experience is cleaner and more purposeful. A paper dictionary contains complete answers for almost any conceivable “What does this word mean” problem — and nothing else. No matter which word has you puzzled, the real dictionary has inside it a small patch of print that will perfectly solve your issue. It exists only to deliver this solution, and has no ulterior motives.

While using this tool, you will not accidentally start responding to political hot takes, or adjusting your fantasy football lineup. The paper dictionary, like a decent pen or an oven mitt, was designed to deliver only what you need in the moment you access it – knowledge of what “obtuse” or “dysphoria” mean — so that you can carry on with your work.

Read More
Post image for News is the Last Thing We Need Right Now

Forget about 2020 and its particular themes for a moment.

Imagine you lived in a small, relatively peaceful town somewhere, a thousand years ago. For the vast majority of each day, you’re focused on your immediate surroundings: your work and the people around you.

However, you do sometimes hear about events that happened elsewhere. The local butcher was reportedly robbed by thugs last night. A boy in another town fell into a well and drowned. Far to the east, fighting has broken out between two neighboring kingdoms.

You didn’t experience any these events, but you understand that they happened. It is unpleasant to hear such accounts, but you’re glad to know a bit more of what’s happening out there. You now watch for robbers when you visit the market. You tell your kids not to play near open wells. When you go to the tavern, you ask for updates on the foreign conflict, in case it worsens.

Read More
Post image for How to Handle the Beast

The Beast showed up around Christmas last year, and stayed till April.

During those months it was difficult to get anything done, or believe getting things done was a thing I could still do.

You might know the Beast too. It has many forms. The Doom-Anxiety Beast. The Regret Beast. The Despair Beast. The Shame Beast. Psychologists have names for some of them.

Whatever the form, the Beast has certain characteristics. It saps your sense of agency and forward motion. It robs you of what might feel like your birthright: the basic ability to function to society’s standards. You lose the sense that you can steer the boat.

The Beast may stay away for weeks or months or years. Then one Thursday afternoon, when one too many things goes wrong, it darkens your doorway again and you know that life might be different for a while.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing. Many of you do though. For what it’s worth, I’ll share what I’ve learned about tangling with the Beast.  

Read More
Post image for Three Recession-Proof Investments for 2021

Tough economic times are no barrier to getting rich, unless you believe monetary wealth is the only kind.

Monetary wealth is the only kind of wealth that has no intrinsic value. It only gives easier access to some of the stuff that actually provides well-being: shelter, tools, social status, freedom from certain kinds of stress and toil, pleasures and conveniences, and opportunities to do what’s meaningful for you.  

If piles of money are not forthcoming — or even if they are — why not go directly for the intrinsic value?

Given the hobbled state of the economy, here are three lucrative areas to invest in, requiring no monetary capital. Unlike stocks or mutual funds, they tend to perform better during times of hardship and recession, providing direct gains to well-being in both the short- and long-term.

Read More
Post image for How to Gradually Become a More Relaxed Person

I’ve tried many getting-to-sleep tips over the years, and one of the best involves vigorous stretching in bed.

Lying on your back, you extend your arms and legs out, squeezing your butt and pointing your toes, stretching in both directions like you’re a giant banana. This is to create muscle tension throughout the whole body.

You hold the stretch for a few seconds. When you release it, a certain feeling that is almost the opposite of tension — a feeling of relief and relaxation — floods into the body. It feels great, and seems to prime the body for rest.

Read More
Post image for How Are You?

In March, just after things got serious, I asked in a post how you were doing, and what life looked like from where you are.

There were over 600 comments from all over the world, each person reporting on their inner and outer environment, as it appeared then.

Time felt so slow that month. But then summer happened, and we each tumbled onward into our weird new normals, learning what we actually need to stay sane and what we don’t. Tears were shed. Souls were searched. Pizzas were ordered. Zooms were Zoomed.

Then I blinked, looked up from my desk, and discovered that seven months had passed, Flight-of-the-Navigator style. The tree outside is now caked in snow, I have a beard, and according to the math I am in my forties.

Read More
Post image for The Healthy Emotion We Don’t Get Enough Of

With winter approaching, I’m brainstorming ways to help myself, my friends and family, and my readers to stay sane.

Darker, shorter, colder days are already harder on our mental health, but this time they’ll be combined with the isolating effect of pandemic lockdown. So we’re looking at a new challenge level.

I’m not yet sure what my full Winter Sanity Program will entail, but it definitely involves lots of walks.

Going for a walk is an age-old salve for many ills: isolation, disappointment, drowsiness, worry, heartbreak, writer’s block, general stagnation, and boredom. The activity of walking benefits the mind and body in ways we’re still discovering, due to its all-star ingredient list of fresh air, exercise, change of scenery, contact with nature, and contemplation time.

A recent study has identified another beneficial ingredient of walking: the emotion of awe.

Read More
Post image for Make the Power Move

In serious chess games, every move is written down. That way, every choice made by either player can be analyzed, by anyone, even centuries later.

The notation itself is very concise. Bh4. Nxd5. The Bishop moves here. The Knight captures the pawn there. A whole game can be reduced to a paragraph the size of a newspaper classified ad.

In chess books, analysts will sometimes annotate certain moves with praise or criticism. To indicate an exceptionally good move, they add an exclamation mark. Nxg6!

To a chess nerd, the “!” is very exciting. It means the move wasn’t just good, but that it gained more for its player than seemed available at that moment.

The exclamation mark signals a hint of genius — a moment in which a player sees through the position’s usual pitfalls and predictable struggles, and puts them behind him with the single push of a pawn. Boom! With a sudden punch out of nowhere, the game has changed.

On many occasions, I’ve witnessed people do things in real life that seemed clever and unexpected enough to deserve a “!” -– simple, right-to-the-bone power moves that cut through the struggles and stalemates one might have expected.

Read More
Post image for The Inner Superpower That Makes Us Human

Our family had a cat named Princess, who at some point developed a fear of the front lawn. She would never quite walk across it. Instead she would creep up to its edge, wide-eyed and serious, then dart across.

My dad guessed she had once been in the wrong place when the sprinkler came on. Like most cats, Princess found it excruciating to be touched by any amount of water, unless it was her idea. A single raindrop would send her fleeing for cover, yet she would also wait at the bathroom door for you to emerge from your shower, then push past you to investigate the leftover puddles.

A cat’s non-negotiable stance towards involuntarily touching water illuminates what might be the most important difference between humans and other animals: we can overcome our own reactivity. We can learn what our impulses are, reflect on whether they’re helpful, and practice not always acting on them.

Read More
Desktop version

Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.