Most of us expected friendship struggles in high school – adulthood, not so much. The truth is, finding (and maintaining) solid friendships as an adult is tough, and it’s easy to feel disheartened.
Evidence based life coach and founder of www.upstairs.net.au Alex Kingsmill specialises in life enhancing strategies for women. She says that, while friendship problems are common for adults, there are a number of things we can do to overcome them.
“Friendships are essential for sustained wellbeing but they can tend to fall away as we get older and especially, as we start families,” says Alex. “New friends can be hard to make, but there are a number of ways to get started.”
Find a routine (and stick to it)
Humans are creatures of habit: if they catch the 8.13am train they’ll probably always catch that train; if they buy a coffee at a particular cafe they’ll usually head there at that exact same time; if they go to a gym class, they’ll most likely often attend that session.
“If you’re keen to connect with people around you, find a routine and stick to it,” says Alex. “You’ll start to notice some familiar faces, and when they start noticing you too, you can begin to say hi.”
“One good way to meet and connect to people is to wait for others to invite you places and then commit to saying ‘yes!’ to every invitation you receive,” says Alex. “But while this works, it’s a little disempowering: you’re relying on others to make the first move (and what if they never do?!).
“A far more effective alternative – but one that takes greater courage – is to develop the community yourself.”
Decide what you’d most like to be doing and then make it happen, Alex says. Start a local mothers’ group and post it on local forums, initiate a regular gathering of like-minded creative folk, volunteer to be the first social committee member at work, start a MeetUp group, establish a study club. The possibilities are endless!
Ask for help
This one seems obvious, Alex says, but it’s often overlooked.
“For some reason, it can feel shameful to need help with meeting people – don’t let that get in your way though,” says Alex. “While people tend to not ask for help themselves, they love (and respect) it when others ask and they do everything they can to try and help.”
So ask away! Let people know what you’re trying to do and who you’re trying to meet and see if they know anyone they can put you in touch with.
Hunt Down Connectors
While we’re on the topic of asking for help, the best people to ask are Connectors.
“Everyone knows at least one Connector,” says Alex. “They are those magical people who seem to know heaps of other people and who have a special knack for bringing the right people together.”
Hunt them down and befriend them – buy them a coffee then watch them work miracles.
You know how you arrange meetings at work and make appointments to meet your doctor and set aside time to go to the gym? You need to take the same approach when you’re aiming to build a community.
Weeks go by fast and it’s ridiculously easy to realise that it’s Thursday again (you only know that because of the TV schedule) and you haven’t done anything to boost your social situation.
“Get clear on what action you will take and when and put those dates in your diary,” says Alex. “Then, think about the person in your life who you hold in highest regard. Decide to respect the commitments you’ve made to yourself as strongly as you would any promises you might make to that person.”
Set Limits and Standards
“Meeting people requires you to put yourself out there and for most people that can be really scary,” says Alex. “Not every effort will go perfectly and it is almost certain that at some point (possibly several) you will feel embarrassed or exposed or nervous.
“That said, you need to push yourself. It’s no use staying home and thinking about the drinks event you could have gone to. Or going but then talking to the one person you know all night.”
So push, but set some limits and respect them: you might say you have to go and talk to two new people but after an hour you can make a bee-line for that Uber.
Finally, get clear on what counts as success. Making a whole new community won’t happen immediately – establish your own metrics to assess your efforts as you go.
FINDING FRIENDS? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT.
Have you heard about Peanut? It’s designed specifically for like-minded women to meet, chat and build solid friendships.
“I tell all my mum patients about Peanut,” says nutritionist Jennifer May. “Peanut is great for those who are not new mums, for new mums who want a broader circle and also for mums who have moved to a new area.
“It’s like tinder for mums but with none of the sleaze – all about friendship.”