Making new friends is freakin’ difficult at any age. Though, arguably, the older we get, the harder it becomes. No longer can we rely on a lucky class schedule, or a gaggle of neighborhood kids when it comes to making connections. At a certain age, we actually kind of have to, you know, work for it (ugh).
And if you’re like us (sometimes pretty shy and kinda introverted) finding non-awkward ways to make friends in your 30s is pretty valuable. By the time we’ve graduated from our 20s we’re usually settled into our routines, and we’re not necessarily putting ourselves in a ton of situations where we might meet new buds.
So we went on a quest to find ways to make friends that don’t seem a.) awkward, and b.) desperate. Because, quite honestly, it’s hard not having someone to text when something exiting happens (or, let’s be real, when we just want to share a funny cat video).
via giphyIrene Levine, PhD, posts and Tweets about this very thing on her blog, The Friendship Blog, as well as in a variety of other places. Levine suggests a number of achievable things that could help break barriers between yourself and others, like joining support and meet-up groups in your area and/or asking your partner to watch your kids (if you have them) so you can venture out for “me time.”
But there are definitely other things we can do at this super weird (sometimes lonely) stage in life. Here are our top nine:
1Give someone a compliment
Have you ever been in close quarters with a complete stranger with nothing to say? It doesn’t matter if you’re in an elevator for only a few floors, standing in line while you wait for your coffee, or sitting at a table in a restaurant. These are the perfect times to push out of your comfort zone without coming off as too awkward. A simple “I love that purse — where did you get it?” Could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just imagine if you didn’t even try and missed out on finding your person.
Effectiveness level: 6.5, depending on how willing the recipient is to join the conversation.
2Reconnect with old friends
We all know there are friends and there are acquaintances. If you’ve never reached out to the latter, now’s your chance. Likewise, if it’s been a long time since you’ve spoken to that one friend and there’s no real reason as to why you don’t hang like you used to, send an email or text to test the waters. This could be your chance to rekindle whatever was lost without having to start all over again with someone new.
Effectiveness level: 9 if you were friends previously but lost touch
3Always be up for the group hang
A lot of times, finding new friends can be as simple as having existing friends reach out to their other friends for an event or get-together. We’ve made a great deal of besties over the years by going to parties with friends-of-friends. And while you might not find your BFF soul mate, you and this other friend at least have something in common just by knowing the one who connected you.
4Find a local coffee spot you love
And then…get to know the baristas. This one might sound a little weird, but creating a go-to place or space can be the perfect way to practice your social skills and even make an unexpected connection.
Effectiveness: 10 as long as your coffee house isn’t full of snobs!
5Use an App
Apps like Tinder Social (which allows you to form groups of friends as opposed to finding dates) and the Bumble BFF app (where women make the first move) offer online friend-finding without the small-talk hassle. Of course this is just the first step in making an actual real-life friend, but getting past the first few conversations from behind a computer screen may take the edge off.
Effectiveness: 8 as long as everyone’s on the same page (i.e. this is not for a romantic date)
6Try something new
Just as The Friendship Doctor recommends, doing something out of your comfort zone might entice new people into your circle. If you think about it, doing what you’ve always done will only get you the same results. But if you do something different, like going to a different coffee shop for your latte, getting a part-time job, or taking a class, you’ll likely meet new people you otherwise wouldn’t have.
Effectiveness: 9 as long as you actually commit to this method!
7Find a hobby
Everybody has that one thing in life that they always wish they tried. Maybe it’s tap dancing, or knitting, or maybe local theater. If so, find a group in your area that teaches it and go for it! You’ll be doing something you always wanted to do and finding an entire group with similar interests. BAM!
Effectiveness: 10 if you don’t mind putting yourself out there a little bit
8Join a club
This is basically like the previous point, minus the learn a whole new skill thing (which isn’t necessarily on everyone’s agenda). Basically, the next time you get one of those flyers to join the “whatever” organization, instead of rolling your eyes and tossing it in the trash, try it!
Effectiveness: 7 if you give it a real try
There’s no better way to meet a new friend than when you’re giving back to the community. Find an animal shelter, homeless shelter, or worship center event and ask to help however you can. Not only will you feel good about doing something for others, you’ll more than likely meet people who are looking to do the same. You’ll maybe make friends, and definitely brighten someone’s day.
Effectiveness: 10 if your heart is in it
Making friends in your 30s doesn’t have to be the worst thing ever, even if it feels intimidating. Get out of your comfort zone and try some of the above tips. At this point, what do you have to lose except loneliness? Besides, we’re right here with ya, going through it too (and those younger readers out there will get there eventually). Solidarity for the win!