(BPT) - Making new friends as an adult can be challenging. Unlike when you were younger and had a built-in community or network through school or social clubs, adulthood seems to offer fewer opportunities to meet others organically.
The increasing number of people working remotely has also impacted many people's ability to socialize, which may explain why many adults report feeling lonelier than ever before.
It can be intimidating to put yourself out there and connect with others. That's why Bumble BFF's Friendship Expert Danielle Bayard Jackson is here to share her top five tips for finding friends as an adult.
1. Have the courage to initiate
Understandably, you may be passive about friend-making, especially if you're scared of rejection. However, those who are intentional about connection tend to have more meaningful relationships.
'Research shows that we like people who like us; it's called the 'Reciprocity of Liking,'' says Jackson. 'So, for example, try offering a compliment on someone's laptop stickers, especially if it represents a TV show, music genre or other interest you may have,' says Jackson. 'That warmth and friendliness appeals to others and can be the catalyst you need to explore more.'
If you'd rather not approach someone in public, group activities are also a great option, as they can unite people over a common interest and organically lead to friendships. Whether you join an intramural sports team, take a ceramics class or attend a group workout, you have the opportunity to connect with people over a common interest or activity.
You can also use an app like Bumble BFF, the friendship-finding mode on the Bumble app, to potentially meet others!
2. Enter into meaningful conversations gradually yet intentionally
Deep friendships don't happen by accident. 'Trust is foundational to any type of relationship, including friendships, and to build that, there needs to be a reciprocal vulnerability,' says Jackson.
Try starting with small talk because 'small talk leads to big talk,' says Jackson. Then share something about yourself.
'There's something called the 'Beautiful Mess' effect which suggests that we like people more after they've been vulnerable with us,' says Jackson.
Be sure to engage someone with safe 'small talk' and then gradually reveal more about who you are and what you value. This creates the trust necessary to cultivate something deeper. That trust can become the basis for a friendship where you both feel comfortable sharing and asking each other questions that deepen the relationship.
3. Reciprocity is key
No one wants to be the person who feels like they're always reaching out to make plans or connect. If a friend asks you to hang out, try to make an effort to initiate something the next time around.
'It's important to pay attention to how often a friend tries to initiate time to connect,' says Jackson. 'This doesn't necessarily need to be quid-pro-quo, but when you take an aerial view of the friendship, ensure that the dynamic generally feels balanced.'
And if you can't hang out or talk when your friend suggests, offer an alternative so they know you're still interested in connecting.
4. Be consistent about staying in touch
After meeting up with a new friend for the first time, it's important to be consistent about staying in touch, especially if there isn't a scheduled time when you both see one another, such as through a class or planned group activity.
If your schedules can get busy, don't be afraid to plan ahead, either. 'I love having a regularly scheduled time to meet up with my friends,' says Jackson. 'It shows them that I prioritize our friendship and have a genuine interest in keeping them in my life. Once we become adults, those serendipitous hangouts happen less, so we have to take control of when we'll see each other.'
Additionally, check in with your friend regularly, even if it's a quick conversation via text message. This can be a great option to stay connected, especially as people are headed home and traveling for the holiday season. Ask them about their trip or weekend plans, or send them a photo of something that may remind you of them. These short interactions can go a long way in building and maintaining a new friendship.
5. Give it time
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are relationships. According to studies, it can take 40-60 hours of talking and hanging out for an acquaintance to become a casual friend, and to become best friends, it can reportedly take an average of 200 hours.
'This might look different from friendship to friendship, but the general takeaway from that study is that it takes time to build trust, vulnerability, and platonic intimacy,' says Jackson. 'Friendships are relationships, and relationships take time and effort.'
By putting yourself out there, following up, and having a little patience, you'll be on the right track to meeting new people and creating a stronger social circle around you. 'Friendship begins with rapport, and rapport begins with 'hello,'' says Jackson.