Is it becoming more challenging for you to make friends as you get older? Making friends in your 20s is so different.
During college, it can take forever to find your community. There is so much to get involved in and it can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
And once you graduate, you start to realize how much harder it is to make friends when you’re no longer living in close proximity to each other.
Everyone moves on with their lives and suddenly you have to start all over again with making friends.
I can understand. After I graduated college, all my friends went back home far away and now all my close friends are long-distance. I didn’t have anyone to hang out with anymore.
I spent those years building my friendships in college, just for things to change overnight.
Add to that the challenge of starting your first 9 to 5 job and struggling to adjust to having less free time.
My first thought was: “Ugh, I don’t want to do this for 40+ years of my life.”
So how do you maintain strong friendships or make new ones while juggling a 9 to 5, taking care of yourself, running errands, and having hobbies?
Adulting is tough!
I want you to know that you can become great at making friends in your 20s. But it will require a different kind of effort.
First, define the type of friend you want to have
I never thought of this before in my teenage years, but you have to consider what kind of people you want to hang out with. You should look for people that share your core values.
I used to hang out with people just based on shared interests, but core values are even more important.
What are your core values? They are your beliefs that guide your behavior and the decisions that you make. It’s what you will stand up for.
For example, I value authenticity and being empathetic to people going through difficult times.
If I tried to be friends with someone who completely ignored me and started talking about themselves if I was crying about something or if they gossiped about someone, our core values would be misaligned.
List 3 to 5 values that you have that would be a deal breaker if your friend did not have those.
This will help you avoid toxic friendships and pursue more healthy ones.
Be a Good Friend
All the expectations that you have for your friends, make sure you are following through on the same commitments.
What does being a good friend look like? Being trustworthy, reliable, honest, supportive, and open with your communication.
Every so often, it’s important to take a step back and take note of how you’re showing up in your relationships.
Even when I’m trying to be a good friend, sometimes I forget to check in on people because my life is so busy and then I realize wait it’s been a long time.
Realize that you will have friends for different situations
As much as you’d like to have a best friend to go everywhere with you, it’s unlikely to happen because people usually don’t have all the same interests.
Your friend might enjoy traveling with you but hate talking about gaming. So then you look for a friend that loves gaming.
One thing I really love is Kpop, but I have many friends who have no interest in Kpop and I have friends who do have that interest.
Whatever you’re super passionate about, you should look for at least one friend who you can talk about it with.
Build Your Self-Confidence and Stop People Pleasing
If you lack confidence, you could attract narcissists and draining relationships.
During my teenage years, I struggled to make healthy friendships due to the constant pressure of wanting to find a community. I wanted to hang out with others in groups, but I was always rejected.
I received negative reactions for just being myself. It continued into college and one day I decided to just stop trying to hang out with people who only took, but never gave.
Not once did those people reach out. If you are a people pleaser, you’ll likely have some of the worst friendships.
This is why being confident is the foundation of having high-quality friendships. Because if you ever run into these types of people, you can end the connection fast. You don’t need them.
Seek out new opportunities to make friends
You can’t expect to make friends in your 20s if all you’re doing is going to work or school and going home. You have to get out there and meet new people, much like dating.
Places you can make friends while in college:
- Ask your friends if you can hang out with their friends as a group
- Go to school events where you can socialize with like-minded individuals
- Join student clubs or sports
- Study Abroad (I made soooo many friends all over the world)
Places you can make friends after college:
- Alumni or professional associations
- Social Media Platforms (Like Facebook groups)
- Meetup.com or Eventbrite
- Volunteer in a group setting at a local nonprofit
- Enroll in a class based on interests or hobbies (book clubs, art classes, cooking, etc.)
Improve your social skills
One of the top things that 20-something-year-olds today struggle with is socializing, just simply carrying a conversation.
Would you rather do anything else but call your doctor just to make an appointment?
You’ve grown up on social media and didn’t play outside with other kids as much as previous generations.
So this likely added to your lack of social skills. You start to feel the pressure of what others think of you in the first meeting.
How do you go up to that girl across the room and start talking about the book she is reading? It’s your favorite book!
So you decide to just go up and talk to her without any plans.
You ask her questions about the book and her eyes light up and she smiles because no one else has been interested in it.
For 5 mins you’re talking about the book and then awkward silence…
You look to the side nervously and think, “Ah it’s awkward. What else do I talk about?!”
But your mind goes blank. You don’t know how to carry the conversation further.
So you tell them you’ll catch them later and your chance to make a friend goes downhill.
When you go to make new friends, you want to be able to know how to carry a conversation further.
Instead of letting the conversation drop, you could have ended the conversation like:
“By the way, are you part of any book clubs in the area?”
And if the girl was not then you could have said, “I’m part of a local book club that meets once per month. If you’re interested, I can share the details with you.”
And if she was interested, then you can ask for her social media or phone number.
The follow-up after the meeting is the most crucial stage to building a friendship.
If you never reach out to them, it’s like networking and collecting business cards, but never calling to connect for a job opportunity.
Be willing to let friendships go
People will come and go in your life more likely in your 20s than at any other stage because this is the time when people are trying to figure out what they want out of life. That may or may not include you.
Some friends get into a relationship for the first time and they’ll stop hanging out with you. You may even go your separate ways after college or after leaving a job.
Others might move, get married, or have kids and you’ll start to see the shift in communication.
It’s the first time in life that you’ll be at different life stages. If you’re trying to keep the relationship alive, but the other person is not putting in the effort, it might be time to let that friendship go.
How to Make the Friendships Work When at Different Life Stages
Your friends will get into relationships, get married, buy a house, and/or have kids. If you aren’t at that stage, it could possibly feel like a weird dynamic to you.
How do you maintain your friendship when you now have somewhat different lives?
Understand that your friends now have new priorities and responsibilities. If they are married or have kids, they will be their first priority and you will come second.
That doesn’t mean that they should completely ignore you. They should make time to connect with you when they can.
They just won’t be able to hang out at the level they were before. This is what makes me feel sad a bit about growing up.
You can’t impulsively go hang out with your friends anymore as they get more and more responsibilities.
Now, you must find alternative ways to hang out.
Not everyone is going to want to be your friend. The vast majority won’t and that’s okay. At the end of the day, you should only want quality relationships.
Making friends in your 20s will take a lot of time and effort. There may even be periods where you don’t really have many friends or probably any friends.
It’s completely normal as most of your peers are feeling lonely even when they have friends. Just because you see someone has a lot of friends, doesn’t mean they have good friends.
When you become a good friend, know what you want out of a friend, and be your confident self, then you’ll start attracting the right people.
What are some ways you are going to start making friends in your 20s?