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How to Make Friends as an Adult

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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.

Need help getting stuff done?

The big productivity books are written by people who don’t especially struggle with productivity. The rest of us find other ways.

I shared mine in this post.

 

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J January 6, 2021 at 9:44 pm

This is a huge priority for me this year. Thank you so much for breaking it down this way.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:28 am

I can’t think of a better theme for 2021 than making new friends :)

Gunnar Pedersen January 6, 2021 at 11:42 pm

Yes. This is it, David. I will carry this with me into my Depth year of 2021. Deepening already existing acquaintances definitely adds more value and happiness than “spending more time with my old friends”. I will take a small leap today, as I get back to work after the winter holidays. I have a couple of people I would like to leap towards, so it’s just a matter of deciding which precise direction.

Thank you David and I wish you all the best for 2021.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:31 am

That’s great. It can feel a little weird to have a “target” acquaintance to try to be friends with, but it makes complete sense and it works. One friend of mine turned me on to this. She would say, “I met this new person, X. I’m going to try to be her friend.” She usually succeeds, and many of them are now my friends as a result.

Theresa Jessey January 7, 2021 at 2:16 am

Making friends is the easy bit – keeping friends by being a friend requires something else – time, commitment, a giving up of your own needs to tend to someone else’s. This is the challenge for all of us. I think we don’t have more friendships because they are naturally curbed by how much we are able to give to a friendship. If we enjoy our own company and have plenty to do then making and keeping friends may not be important enough for us.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:34 am

Maintenance a task of its own, yes. But that’s more straightforward — invest time in other people and take the initiative in making plans.

I think sometimes we believe that the way we tend to use our time must reflect our true values. I can easily spend infinite time in my own company, and if I leave things to my natural inclinations I would probably do so. But I’m happier when I make the time to see others.

A C Harper January 7, 2021 at 2:37 am

I don’t disagree with anything in the article.

But (you knew I had a minor objection) not everybody needs good friends at all stages of their life. Not necessarily because of their social anxiety but because they are naturally resistant to splitting their attention from other things.

Yet (another minor qualification) my father always said he didn’t need friends… but was fearfully lonely later in life.

I guess we should strike a workable balance, and that might change as you move through the stages of your life.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:40 am

I would contend that virtually all of us need friends, even if we think we don’t. And I say that as somebody who is extremely comfortable being alone and has spend much of his life in my own company.

No matter what habits we fall into, we evolved as social creatures. I believe our mental health depends in many ways on relating to others. It’s certainly possible to isolate oneself and survive physically — which hasn’t always been true for humans — but you can’t know quiet what you’re living without until you’re no longer living without it. There may be exceptions, as in people truly better off with no friends, but I suspect they are very very rare.

Maëlle January 7, 2021 at 3:06 am

Thanks for the reminder David. I did that with a now very good friend (though we met via Bumble friends so maybe it’s a bit different) and never regretted it. I just moved to my home town but all of my “old” friends have moved to other places so it is a big goal of mine for 2021.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:43 am

That’s excellent. Internet connectivity, for all its downsides, does give more options for friend-making and keeping. One of my best friends lives a thousand miles away, and it’s easy to forget I haven’t seen him in person for three years.

Kevin January 7, 2021 at 3:28 am

I’ve spent far too much time hoping someone would direct a small leap my way!

Related: Scrabble is really underrated!

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:45 am

Totally… and that’s one of the great ironies here. We’re so worried our leap will be rejected, yet we already know how great it feels when someone reaches out to you. By leaping, you are providing that for another person.

Scrabble is a great game, but I feel like there is a huge divide between serious players (who know all the obscure words with X’s and Z’s) and casual players. I’m definitely not a serious player, so when I play someone who knows what they’re doing I get stomped.

Kenoryn January 7, 2021 at 10:52 am

You just need to know the 2-letter words. Those will make or break you because they let you put a big point letter on a scoring tile in two directions. Qi, Za, Xi, Xu, Ax, Ex, Ox, Jo. Ka and Ki, Qat and Qis are good to know too. Learn those and you’re all set. ;)

Laura January 8, 2021 at 2:26 pm

Thanks Kenoryn. Very helpful to tell us these 2 letter words

Natacha January 7, 2021 at 4:01 am

Sometimes children also need to be taught how to do that. I did it with one of my son after a school change, and it was very interesting for me because it forced me to think about it. And then I wanted to apply that to myself!
Now I have a new lesson I want to learn: how to tell my friends they are my friends and that I love them.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:49 am

I always had trouble with it as a kid, but there were a few times my parents put my up to it, and I still remember how quickly it works. After an awkward introduction, you’re getting to know this new person.

Annette January 7, 2021 at 4:08 am

Thanks David, as someone who moved to a new area 5 years ago I have fairly recent experience of meeting and making new friends. I have found that there is one particular obstacle to making new friends and that is that it’s relatively easy to meet new people and make acquaintances, but to turn them into new friends is a two way process and somewhat dependent on need. I think the reason it is harder to make new, deep friendships as you get older is that many people who have been in an area for a long time have crystallised their social circles and don’t need or want new friends. So the numbers of potential friends is smaller. The result is that its entirely possible to make new friends, but it takes more time to find the right people. Thanks for a lovely article.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 8:52 am

It does take a bit of a “crop” of acquaintances to yield a friend or two, definitely, and there can be a lot of reasons for that. Some people have packed schedules, some people say no to everything out of shyness, and you never really know. So it is a numbers game, which is why the initiative needs to be on your own end to make the friends.

Jim Grey January 7, 2021 at 6:23 am

This is one of those posts where you smack your head and say, “This has been staring me in the face for years, but I didn’t see it!” Thanks for shining a light on it.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 9:06 am

Wishing you some awesome 2021 friends

woollyprimate January 7, 2021 at 6:41 am

Great article.

One thing that makes friendships tougher when we’re adults is the single-married divide. Single people often lose friends as their friends get married. Married people usually have couples as friends. It helps to be flexible about age. I’ve been friends for 15 years and counting to a woman who is now 83 years old. I’m happy to be friends with women younger than me, but that will obviously up the risk of their getting married and drifting away.

Things I learned from a podcast recently: if you have a rarer personality type, you will have a harder time finding people to be friends with, than someone whose personality falls in the middle of the bell curve (talking about the Big 5). In that case, it’s a numbers game. You need to vet more people to find someone compatible. And I also learned that you will be happier the more ruthless you are in curating your friendships. This is similar to romantic relationships. Being with someone just so you aren’t alone is never a good idea. Better than nothing usually isn’t.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 9:11 am

Interesting about the personality types. I suppose friendship is all about finding things to relate over, and if personalities are similar there must be more fodder for that. My best friend is uncannily similar to me personality-wise, according to the Big 5 tests we’ve taken.

The single-married divide is definitely a thing, although it isn’t exactly a wall. I’ve been mostly single over the past 20 years, and many of my friends are couples or half of a couple. Lifestyles have an influence on what activities people want to do, and relationships change lifestyles.

Kenoryn January 7, 2021 at 11:22 am

Yeah, there is a lot of nuance to this piece. Besides the single/married divide, there is (at my age of mid-30s, anyway) the kids/no kids divide. Women with kids tend not to be available to do anything other than kid-friendly activities, so if you don’t have kids, you have to be prepared to do kid-friendly activities too. Hard to propose as the kid-free one. And then there is the men/women problem. I’m a woman, but I find I tend to get along with and share more interests with men than with other women (maybe the personality thing comes in here – not sure about the big 5, but my Meyers-Briggs type is apparently 2-4% of men but only 0.5-1% of women). But you can’t ask a man to do some activity one-on-one together or it’s perceived as romantic interest, whether you’re married or not, and that can lead to either jealousy problems from spouses, or unwanted attention from the would-be friend. (Or both.) So you kind of get forced into making friends as couples, to prevent that problem, but then you’re limited to couples where you actually like both parts of the couple and then you also tend to get relegated to the two women being friends and the two men being friends. Or you can make friends in a group, but then never get too close. My best friend is a straight man, and it’s caused problems over the years with our different partners – in particular his partners are uncomfortable with it and have even asked him to stop being friends with me (fortunately for me, in those instances he has parted ways with them instead of me).

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 11:44 am

There are a lot of factors to be managed in friendship for sure, and we aren’t able to be friends with everybody. Many of my friends are women, and when either of us dates someone else we all have to be aware of how everyone feels about the various relationships going on. Humans are complex and managing relationships is its own skillset.

Larry January 7, 2021 at 7:29 am

Very good advice David, as usual. In a year my wife and I are moving halfway across the US to assist with her parents. She has expressed concerns about making friends. I didn’t say “new friends” because she will tell you she doesn’t have any friends now. However, I know this not to be true. She could definitely increase the number of her invitations to her acquaintances. As a couple we have a few couple friends and as individuals we have individual friends. Reading your post I thought of a comedic invitation for these times: “Hey David, I am washing my mask this afternoon. Want to bring yours over and we can wash them together?” Or “going shopping for a new mask”
thanks again David
stay healthy and safe

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 9:13 am

Heh… your comedic invitation is actually not too far off the mark. The invitation can be for something very small and insignificant, and it’s helpful if the result is that both people get some small thing done they need to get done.

Linda January 7, 2021 at 8:13 am

Thank-you an excellent post. At 56 I moved from urban SK where I had lived all my life to rural SK. Seven years later I have made friends but it has taken effort and risk, of course all worth it. It is a matter of taking that small first step.

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 9:14 am

Well done. The compounding effect accomplishes most of it, so the initial first steps are important, and take some psyching-up.

Debi Marrs January 7, 2021 at 8:56 am

My issue is you have to want friends first??? What kind of person am I that doesn’t want them??? I feel satisfied with a thousand acquaintances, but I wish I wanted to go that next step and take the small leap. When I think logically, I know it comes from being burned a couple of harsh times in the past, but I am also an introvert that has to step out of a comfort zone to even make acquaintances? So once I accomplish that, I guess I am tired. Hahaha, I loved having this bug put in my ear though as something to think harder about!!

David Cain January 7, 2021 at 9:19 am

Everyone’s different and I don’t know you personally, but I will say I spent many years with a similar-sounding philosophy. I didn’t feel lonely, I didn’t crave friendships, and I wasn’t close with anybody. I said no to most invitations that came my way, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. In hindsight, there was a lot of aversion going on that was driving these habits, and breaking out of that pattern was the best things I ever did. So all I will say is don’t dismiss the possibility that there is something really great on the other side, and that a little curiosity might go a long way.

Erin January 7, 2021 at 9:50 am

Thank you, David, for the sage advice. Since leaving social media six years ago, it’s been challenging to maintain old friends and develop new friendships. It now seems so obvious to deepen existing acquaintances–the kind produce vendor at the farmer’s market, the elderly Italian man who asks permission to pick bitter oranges from out tree, or the coworker I know also enjoys board games. It’s been a goal over the last few years to make some new friends, so I appreciate the actionable suggestion. Wishing you all the best in 2021!

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 10:49 am

Great. Board games are a particularly good way to turn acquaintances into friends, if you enjoy them and have the opportunity. Everybody gets to speak, there’s always something to do, everybody is engaged in the same topic. It’s so much easier and more effective than the “small talk from nothing” approach.

Dax Nair January 7, 2021 at 10:06 am

Makes sense David.

I find that once you identify some common interests such as a Netflix show or a podcast, it is easier to take it to the next level. Since most of my acquaintances/friends are into sports, “Care for a beer?” after a game of tennis or squash has always worked.

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 10:51 am

I think the common interest is essential for friendship to happen, but it can be anything, even if it’s not something either of your lives revolve around. Beer is a fairly common interest!

Cheryl D Garcia January 7, 2021 at 2:32 pm

I’m so glad I made the Small Leap to find your blog and subscribe….your insight is always delightful and I’m very glad to have you in my life as a new friend. Thanks for the Raptitude, David.

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 10:51 am

Me too! Thank you for reading.

Quez January 7, 2021 at 3:42 pm

Loved it! Thanks for this wonderful blog I’m following for years now.

Andrew January 7, 2021 at 3:42 pm

Hi David,

Want to be friends?

Well, that was awkward, but in all seriousness thanks for the encouragement and advice :)

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 10:57 am

Heh.. I know this is tongue in cheek but this is a good opportunity to point out that the acquaintanceship step can’t really be skipped. It is its own kind of growth from strangerhood.

Denise Quarles January 7, 2021 at 5:26 pm

Hi David,

Thank you for this. I’m well beyond the ‘school years’ but willingly left a great company of friends when I moved to my new home last year. By the time I had cultivated some acquaintances, COVID hit. Fortunately, I am surrounded by wonderful neighbors who (at least to me) have become friends. I am looking forward to growing my social circle once COVID retreats and will keep in mind the importance of taking a ‘small leap.’ I think I have passively waited for others to do this all my life and it’s time I take the initiative.

Tom January 7, 2021 at 8:29 pm

Nice. I am a retired electronics hardware engineer and among many things, a car guy. For a year I would occasionally run into Ricardo at the Nissan charging station for our Leaf evs. Over time I met his wife, knew that he runs a lab for making dental appliances, that they are immigrants from Colombia- and that we share a wicked, subtle sense of humor.
Our old Leafs have weak batteries. One day Ricardo said he had, through research found a way to rejuvenate our batteries to regain electric car range! He needed my car for a week. I was skeptical, plus living on our ranch 30 miles out of town, it was near impossible for me to allow him a week with my car, to “rejuvenate” my Leaf battery. My wife would have to meet us, take me home, yadda yadda…

Ricardo says in a thick Colombian accent, “Tom, why don’t we trade cars?” I looked at him hard, in silence, for maybe 5 seconds, an eternity it seemed… Something very human, very ancient and very good feeling welled up from somewhere deep. A leap of trust, and I cracked a smile and said: “Okay.”

Did Ricardo fix my ev battery? Nope.
The Leaf is long sold. My ev is a Chevy Bolt now. But most of all we have become deeply endeared with Ricardo and his warm, expressive family. They camp on our ranch, share fire pit and so much openness and laughter. Sometimes just Ricardo comes out here. We take a 6 mile walk through the adjacent forest and share conversation and a hip flask.
Friendship, with our spouse, our children and if we’re lucky, a few close friends is a big reason we’re here. Think, have a care, but trust when you can. Listen to your heart.
I’m a lucky man.

David Cain January 8, 2021 at 11:08 am

Hah, that is fantastic. What a leap!

Wobbly January 8, 2021 at 1:26 pm

The article was good, but it seemed like you think the ONLY way to make new friends as an adult is by befriending the friends of your existing friends, which is necessarily limiting your potential social circle. Instead I think this is only part of it. One way of augmenting this is through outside activities. Pretty much every conceivable activity has both intentional and organic groups, which are good resources to improve, learn more, and make friends. In cases like these, the common interest is built in, so making that leap is much easier because you may already be hanging out with a person/people. Once the friendship is established, then new friends can be made from this person you previously had no connection to. In this way, you can greatly diversify your circle of friends (not meant here in an identity sense [though that’s never a bad thing] but rather in the sense of meeting people you previously had no common friends with and thus no way of meeting)

Brigitte Hasley January 8, 2021 at 1:52 pm

Many people want friends (or just social acquaintances) but don’t know where to start – my recommendation is: Meetup – there are many different groups in most cities. It’s a little difficult to socialize right now, but the pandemic will be over (soon – I hope) give it a try, most groups are super friendly and very safe

Elizabeth Simmerman January 8, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Maybe they are waiting for you to make a small leap in their direction. If we all keep waiting for someone else to make the first move we’re not going to make any new friends. I love to play Scrabble, do crossword puzzles and read a wide variety of books. Make that small leap of faith!

Peter Varley January 9, 2021 at 5:15 am

Thank you. You started the topic by naming the benefits. I think that being ready for the give-and-take nature that comes by hanging out with people is something for everybody. I think the obstacles are seeing ourselves unrealistically interesting or busy or as a winner or as a producer. But adults need time for friends. I will endeavor to take your recommendations. I like the Scrabble idea.

Harry Che January 11, 2021 at 2:40 pm

Great advice! But what those “small leaps” might look like in a pandemic like now?

N January 11, 2021 at 4:11 pm

I was just going to ask this. With covid restrictions only increasing where I live, and likely to get worse with a curfew at 8pm, the thought of making new friends right now seems unlikely.

David January 11, 2021 at 4:29 pm

Yeah. How you’re able to interact with others at the moment definitely depends on particular restrictions in your area. However, I’ve made a few friends this year out of acquaintances, through the zoom-based activities that we’ve made a staple of. People have held Zoom events, like games, talent shows, story-time readings, and even in those contexts there has been enough opportunities to invite people I’ve become closer with to events and game nights that I hold myself, and some of them have become friends. Ironically, the pandemic is what has made it easier to host events, because they’re online, so no travel is necessary, and there are few other events happening competing for attention. During the summer, when our restrictions were more lax, we met outside sometimes. Now that they’re more severe, we’re back online.

Anyway, the point being that there are social activities that can be enjoyed through videoconferencing. They are easy to host and invite people to. Low investment and often high return. Takes a bit of experimentation, of course.

For example, we’ve got an online game of Codenames (through horsepaste.com) that meets regularly. I sent the email out to about twenty people I know — some are friends, some acquaintances, and anyone who likes can drop in. We usually get 6-8 attendees, and whoever shows up gets to know each other a bit better. Each time, someone invites another friend or sibling, and the list grows.

Damaris January 12, 2021 at 3:20 am

Hi David! I just went on a “Googling spiral” and stayed up until after 5am reading about WWII, the war in Yemen, the Argentinian dictatorship and genocide in the 80’s, etc, etc.

So while feeling defeated & hopeless about humanity, I looked up “will world peace ever be possible?” on Google and came across your article: “Forget About World Peace”. You just gained a new reader. I loved it. Your approach was so realistic and down-to-earth. I have been doing the inner-work for many years now, and fuck it’s hard being a good human. It’s a daily, conscious effort.

How can we expect billions of people to just magically gain the self-awareness needed to see their shortcomings / flaws / wounds, put their egos aside and start working on their inner peace? It’s the stuff of science fiction. Haha

Sorry for commenting about an old blog post, I just had to.

It was nice reading you :)

David January 12, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Oh wow, that is such an oldie! I wrote that post over ten years ago, when I was backpacking in New Zealand.

Anyway, glad you found me and I hope you continue to enjoy Raptitude. There are piles and piles of posts in the archives for you to enjoy.

Rob January 14, 2021 at 6:18 am

“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.”

Neurobiology absolutely disagrees with this sentence. The current science argues the reason adult friends are so hard to make is that we never allow for spontaneous play. We make canned arrangements to get a bite to eat on some distant Friday. Thus many peoples closest friends in adulthood are born out of our work environment where there is spontaneity, to some degree, in interactions.

As someone who has always found it easy to make friends and who just moved 2k miles across the US to a city where I knew nobody and have found it fairly easy to again make friends as a 40 year old in a pandemic I’ll give my tip-

Be spontaneous and invite others to be the same. One of the guys that lives down the street from me seemed cool so when he was outside fixing his boat engine I went down to help. Just straight up said “hey dude, my names Rob. Moved in a few doors down. Can I help you get this rig running again?”. We replaced the lower unit on his 1980s Outboard motor over the course of a few hours…. We now hang out routinely. Another neighbor was always in his garage wood working so one day I stopped in and said hey. Three hours later and a few drinks in my belly we had covered topics ranging from what Romans 2: 13-16 means to me (imo it’s a nod to atheists that you don’t need to be a believer to gain the benefits of living a life like Jesus) to which NFC team had the best chance to play in the super bowl this year. I walked home with a new friend. Another guy I am friends with was a friend of a friend of a friend….. we have similar interests so his number was passed to me. Instead of hammering down plans I just gave him days I am generally free and said shoot me a text some time. He did and we went on a trail run. Talked about all sorts of topics from the cognitive dissonance that permeates our current culture on every topic to our favorite climbing routes in the Teton.

So be out there. But in the meant time continue to live your life so when the moment presents itself you can add to the party. I also think 99% of the people in the world are good, cool people. Truly think that…. so going in without some jaded view that most people suck probably helps.

Chris January 16, 2021 at 9:05 am

I love the simplicity of this “Small Leap” idea. Makes logical sense.

Why do you say it doesn’t have to be date-like? Why’s it any different from dating (minus the romance/sex)?

David January 17, 2021 at 10:10 am

By that I mean it doesn’t have to be a high-pressure situation, where you feel like you have to impress the other person. It can be a group activity, or a really mundane activity like asking about a recipe they made.

Justin January 17, 2021 at 8:00 am

David, I appreciated this comment. “I believe it’s because people have no idea how they made friends as a kid or a teenager either.”

It gave me the opportunity to reflect on how I made friends as a kid. Playing sports, the school classroom, activities I didn’t want to do that my Mom put me in. Simply putting myself in more of these situations is an easy solution.

The biggest challenge for me is overcoming the fear of rejection. As a child, it felt like I was immune to that. As I’ve become older (40), it’s at the forefront of my mind. Am I interesting enough, fun enough, etc…

Great read. Thank you.

David Cain January 17, 2021 at 10:22 am

That is interesting… I’ve kind of gone the other way. I had a strong fear of rejection as a kid but it’s mostly gone now. I was able to make friends though, just by being around other kids. In hindsight many of those friendships depended on the other person approaching me. So glad they did!

Katherine January 17, 2021 at 10:59 am

I find that friendships change in our lives. Close friends I had when my children were small have become distant and we don’t share the same interests anymore. But that’s okay and I don’t grieve that. I’m always open to meeting new people and as an introvert, I’ve had to learn how to develop these skills. I’ve also learned over the years to protect myself from hurt so that if I get to know a person who only talk about themselves and never asks me anything, I realize we won’t become friends because they aren’t interested in getting to know me. This is a sign there won’t be mutuality in a friendship so it’s not worth investing my time if I’m the one always doing the inviting and asking the questions and being ignored if I talk about myself. It’s worth moving on and not giving it more energy so I’m not hurt.
Some friendships have sprung from a shared trauma in our lives and these can be meaningful at the time until one person seems stagnant at a stage of healing or can’t move on the way another can. For instance, when two women experience losing a baby at the same time. They may become very close to support each other through the grief and then move on and have no contact with one another as time goes on.

Ben January 23, 2021 at 6:58 am

The right post, framed the right way, at the right time. I could see myself in the opening and it only got better from there. I absolutely have unhelpful stories in my head and absurd armoring tendencies to avoid putting myself out there.

I got a lot out of Shawn Achor’s book “big potential,” but this post represents the missing piece for me. Man, this is going to be fun to experiment with!

Accidentally Retired February 24, 2021 at 11:28 am

Yeah I think this is 100% the way to build friendships. You also have to say “yes” when invites come your way. There were a few instances 10 or so years ago when I was getting more casual invites, but I never made them happen. I sort of kick myself for not going to a friends’ low key Engagement party, even though we had a conflict at the time, it was a minor conflict, and might have helped our acquaintanceship to move from that to full fledged friendship.

David Cain February 25, 2021 at 11:00 am

Agreed. I have turned down so many invitations over the years, and who knows how much it would have meant to the other person if I’d gone. No question I’d have many more friends.

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