One of the accomplishments I am most proud of in my life as an adult woman is cultivating new friendships that are fruitful and that elevate me. I pride myself on trying to be a good friend at all times. My mother could never understand why I was always so dedicated to my friendships, of course, she had six other brothers and sisters with built-in friendships. I, on the other hand, was raised as an only child for most of my life and had to build my own tribe. Friendships have always been important to me, they have shaped me at many different stages in my life and I don't know where I would be without those relationships.
It has been my firm belief that "to have a friend, you have to be a friend," and that has been my North star in how I operate and how I make decisions. Friendships can teach you a lot in the way of navigating relationships with others but I think the best part about friendships is that you get to practice grace. Too often, we forget to add grace in our lives and hold people to impossible standards which ends up leading to unnecessary disappointment. However, friendship gives you the opportunity to exercise having grace as well as extending it. It is in this space that we truly get to love someone, flaws, and all, without the pressure of expectations, and anxiety.
Every friendship has its place in your life and has a lesson to teach you.
Some friendships are temporary, some are seasonal, and some are evergreen. Over time, you get to see who falls into what category and who just simply falls away. At some point in every woman's life, I feel it is necessary to take inventory of who is around you. We tend to hold on to relationships from childhood thinking they will last forever, only to find out people grow and change and so should that friendship. The things we need as a child in a friend may not serve us in our adult lives with the trajectory we are on. Hence the need to make new friends in different stages of our lives.
Making New Friends In Your 30s
When I turned 30, there were a lot of major transitions in my life that were beginning to happen, I was coming out of a long-term relationship, turning 30, and trying to rediscover who I was post-relationship. I was faced with the very difficult task of re-evaluating every relationship around me which resulted in me ending several 15-year friendships. Including my best friend of over 20+ years. To be clear, we are still friends but I had to set some boundaries around how that relationship was to be reimagined and how I was going to conduct myself inside of it, as well as redefine what "best friend" means to me now.
Taking the time to do this gave me the courage to understand what I needed in a friend which was counterintuitive to how I was engaging in friendships. I thought that as long as I was the very best I could be as a friend, that would be reciprocated back to me.
But that was not always the case.
I have often heard that the older we get, the harder it is to make friends. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I can see why some would feel this way. The reality is the older we get, the more the landscape of forming bonds changes, and that is simply because we mature. We may have new careers, marriages, kids, etc. that are now providing context to the lives we live and this informs us how we choose people to be our friends. In order to do succeed in doing that, really hone down on the things you need in a friend and that will help guide you in finding the tribe that is right for you.
Here are a few tips on making friendships as an adult:
1. Lead with authenticity when making new friends.
OK, so the category here is VULNERABILITY. This works two-fold, you need to be vulnerable with yourself to admit what you truly need in a friendship. In addition to that, you also need to be open with your potential new friend. The first part of this is understanding what type of friend you are, meaning answering questions like this: are you someone that needs to talk to your friend every day? Do you like to spend quality time together or are you OK just catching up every few weeks? Get to know yourself first so that you can align with other like-minded people.
Next, when you first meet someone, be yourself. Don't try to fit into a mold of what you think that person may like in a friend. You will spend most of your time being someone you are not instead of being the amazing person you are. You have a lot to offer and that should shine front and center. I think a great way to understand how you and a potential friend function in any kind of relationship are to take the 5 Love Languages Quiz. Friendships are built on communicating on a deeper, more intimate level even though they are not always romantic. However, how we give and receive love for ourselves is the same when engaging others.
2. Create boundaries as you build trust in budding friendships.
I often hear people express fear around making new friends because of a plethora of reasons. But mostly it has a lot to do with whether or not you will be accepted fully after showing someone your authentic self. To this I say, be authentic and open but remember everyone has to earn the right to your story. Lead with your most authentic self, but you don't have to share everything upfront in the first five minutes.
I am not suggesting to hide things and be dishonest but I am saying reveal things over time. As you build trust, you should be able to let people in closer to you. Be clear on what information you don't mind sharing without fear of judgment. But there is a thin line to walk while you are building trust with a person. This is where boundaries come into play, you need to know how much you are comfortable sharing at different milestones of building a friendship.
Boundaries make it clear for you to regulate the direction in how your friendship is growing as well as how it will develop in the future.
3. Keep an open mind about the kind of friends you meet.
As we get older, we have the luxury of gaining knowledge from past learned lessons. This can only serve to be to our advantage in that it helps us step out of old patterns and discover something new. We have the ability to learn about new people with an open mind and really create friend circles with people who are different than us. I highly recommend creating friendships with people who seem different than you and challenge yourself to find things in common.
You will learn so much about yourself and things you never knew you could have access to, just by opening your mind. That is the beauty in all of this. Meeting someone new and finding your common interests amongst what seems to be different is an understated suggestion when it comes to tips on making new friends.
4. Learn to actively listen and communicate in your friendships.
Communication is a big theme in why so many relationships struggle. Commit yourself to relearning the art of conversation as well as the art of active listening. Quite often we misunderstand, misinterpret, or even miscommunicate because we forget the basic fundamentals of communication. Going into a situation where you are looking to meet new people, you need to have your communication skills on point.
It serves me greatly to listen and speak with engaged interest in the person I want to be friends with in the future. I am asking questions about the person, relating similar stories to what they said, and keeping the conversation going. I am showing interest and that I am open to being friends in my conversation. All of this can be accomplished simply by having great communication.
Truly, adult friendships are one of the things I enjoy the most in my life. The friendships that have been created were the ones that should have been in my life at this time. They align perfectly in this next stage in my life and I am truly grateful. Adult friendships between women and even men are totally possible and can be incredibly impactful. Going into this next year, challenge yourself to not only make new friends but become a great friend to the people in your life as well.
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