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How to Make Friends as an Adult: 16 Steps to Follow

It may be challenging, but it's not impossible to find your new best friend well into adulthood.

It's no secret that making friends and maintaining these relationships gets tough as we get older. After all, how many times have you texted friends to hang out only to get a slew of slow replies about responsibilities like work, kids, or date night? So, if you're wondering how to make friends as an adult, you're not alone. Many adults are lonelier than they'd like—but it's not impossible to turn things around. Keep reading to learn therapists' best tips for forging new friendships into adulthood and the qualities needed to nurture meaningful connections.

RELATED: 6 Signs You're Losing a Friend, Therapists Say.

Why Is it So Hard to Make New Friends as an Adult?

Two Guy Friends Having Coffee
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There are a few reasons why finding a good friend gets tougher with age. Tami Zak, a licensed therapist at Grow Therapy, says many of us assume friendships will fall into place like they did in grade school and college.

"We want friendships to be easy and carefree like they were back then, but life can bring changes, and people change too," she says. "That's where effort and intentionality make the difference, especially when the busyness of life kicks in—partners, family, children, work, chores, and errands."

In many cases, we're also increasingly guarded at this age. "Protector parts may become more vigilant in adulthood, having accumulated experiences of rejection or betrayal," explains Becca Reed, LCSW, PMH-C, perinatal, mental health, and trauma therapist. "These parts work to avoid potential hurt, leading to withdrawal or reluctance to engage in new social situations."

When you're on both the giving and receiving end of this stick, the odds of starting something new decrease.

Of course, personality traits like introversion and anxiety can also impact our ability to meet potential friends—after all, it's tough to build a social life when you prefer hanging out at home. However, Vikas Keshri, clinical director and founder at Bloom Clinical Care, says one of the biggest hindrances to adult friendships is big life changes like moving, leaving or entering a long-term relationship, starting a family, or coping with workplace stress and burnout.

"When adults, or anyone for that matter, go through significant lifestyle changes, it may lead to fears of rejection, lower self-esteem, and lack of trust in the so-called 'new lifestyle,'" says Keshri. "When we look for friendships, we often look for people who will accept us for who we are and those we can trust—but this is very difficult to gauge when you have gone through a significant change in your life."

Instead, you may end up isolating yourself, which is the opposite of what you really need.

RELATED: 200+ Get to Know You Questions That Actually Work.

Why Are Adult Friendships Important?

Simply put, having good friends makes your whole life more enjoyable. "People are social by nature, and we are at our best when we're connected with friends and community," says Zak. "Forming deep friendships is absolutely vital to feeling a greater sense of purpose, life satisfaction, and well-being."

Friendships are also necessary for good health. "A 2018 AARP study found that one in three American adults are lonely, and studies confirm that loneliness can be hazardous to your health—the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day," adds Zak.

Tools You Need to Make Friends in Adulthood

group of people sitting around a table playing cards
Ground Picture / Shutterstock

1. Build Your Self-Confidence

This is a key foundational trait for all meaningful friendships.

"Confidence in yourself and positive self-talk will help an adult feel less scared about rejection and allow them to build their in-person social network," says Christine M. Valentín, LCSW, LLC. "Without it, adults will tend to shy away from going out of their comfort zone and will stay with what they know."

If you feel deficient in this department, a therapist can help.

2. Don't Be Afraid of Rejection

Remember, it's not personal! "We won't be everyone's new bestie, and we won't like everyone we meet, and that needs to be OK," says Audrey Schoen, LMFT, a therapist in Roseville, California. "When we accept the reality that not all potential friendships will work out, it's easier when they don't."

As you open yourself up to rejection, you also allow space for authenticity, which Schoen says is equally important: "It is possible to be really honest about who you are and the kind of relationships you want to have—the right people will be all about that."

3. Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

Many of the pros we spoke to said vulnerability is the number one trait needed to build adult friendships.

"Being vulnerable means sharing your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences openly," says Reed. "It's key to building intimate and authentic friendships because it invites trust and deepens connections, allowing friends to truly know and understand each other."

Additionally, when people are vulnerable with you, you'll want to validate them without judgment. That way, they feel equally comfortable with you as you learn to be the same with them.

4. Be Inquisitive

For this, you'll want to practice active listening.

"Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively hearing the message of the speaker," says Reed. "It's important because it shows that you value your friends' thoughts and feelings, which can strengthen the bond between you, and it also aids in resolving conflicts more effectively."

5. Be Reliable

This one becomes increasingly important as other commitments pile up in our lives. Trust lays the foundation for the friendship.

"Being reliable means being dependable and consistent in your actions and behaviors," says Reed. "Reliability builds trust in relationships, as friends know they can count on you."

6. Identify Your Passions

When you know what you like, you'll be able to find people with whom you can share those things. Finding new hobbies and interests can also help you identify places to go and clubs to join to meet like-minded people.

7. Temper Your Expectations

Remember that making a new friend may be uncomfortable at times, and you might not find someone who wants to or can spend every weekend together.

"Making new friends means taking risks, striking up conversations, and sometimes things can feel awkward," says Schoen. "But if you don't take the chance, you'll miss out on potential connections."

8. Stay Positive

Finally, stay positive—even if it feels like you're going on endless friend dates.

"A positive attitude can be infectious and makes spending time together more enjoyable," says Reed. "Positivity helps foster a supportive and uplifting environment—and who wouldn't want to have more of that in their lives?!"

RELATED: 7 Warnings Signs That You Have a Toxic Friendship.

Where to Meet Friends as an Adult

Group of Friends Hiking
View Apart / Shutterstock

9. Reconnect With Old Friends

Finding friends as an adult doesn't always mean starting fresh—one of the first places you can look is former friends.

"Deep friendships do not require day-to-day contact—in fact, years can pass," says Zak. "You can change and grow in different directions, but when you speak again, the connection has endured."

See if there are people you can loop back into the fold or even acquaintances you can invite to hang out in hopes of having these friendships evolve.

10. Spend Time With Co-workers

If you work at the same place, you likely have at least a few things in common, so use that as a starting point.

"I recommend adults I work with step out of their comfort zone and invite a coworker they think they have at least one similarity with to hang out," says Valentín. "Some of my favorite places to go… have games or hobbies involved in them, like bowling, pool halls, or axe-throwing."

11. Get Friendly With Your Neighbors

Similar to inviting a coworker to hang out, Valentín also recommends chatting with a neighbor you might have things in common with. At the very least, your proximity to one another will make a friendship or acquaintanceship convenient.

12. Join a Sports League

There are probably many sports leagues and teams already established in your city or town. Research the one that speaks to you the most and give it a try. These organizations are especially helpful because you'll see the same people week after week.

13. Join a Club

Making friends via local groups and communities will at least ensure you have something in common with the people you meet.

"Engaging in activities or groups aligned with personal interests or values can be a great place to foster friendships," says Reed. "These settings naturally bring together [people who] are enthusiastic and curious, facilitating connections based on shared interests."

She suggests joining MeetUp or Facebook groups that are specific to your age, gender expression, or shared interests.

14. Take a Class

You'll learn something new and meet new people!

"Learning environments foster a sense of camaraderie and provide common ground for initiating conversations," says Reed. "They engage the curious and growth-oriented parts, creating opportunities for connections that have depth."

What better conversation starter is there than bonding over your misshapen vases in a pottery class?

15. Volunteer

"Volunteering connects individuals with similar values and compassion," says Reed. "These activities bring forward caring and empathetic parts, which lays a strong foundation for friendships."

Schoen adds that you can also volunteer at your kid's school, which can help foster relationships with other parents—something you both have in common.

16. Connect With Friends of Friends

This can be a powerful jumping-off point. Whenever you plan an activity, "invite a friend you have and encourage them to invite others," says Valentín.

RELATED: 6 Friendship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore, Therapists Say.

How to Maintain Adult Friendships

Three mature happy women with face masks at home.
Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

Forming new relationships as an adult is only helpful if you can maintain them—and that takes hard work.

"You need to be intentional and make time for friends, and, just like a marriage, you have to be committed to working through challenging periods," says Zak. "If you are willing to invest time and energy in friendships, the results will be positively life-changing."

To do that, check in with your friends regularly, even if it's only through text, and schedule gatherings. Maybe, if your schedules allow, pitch a group trip.

Putting in the effort and staying present can go a long way in showing your close friends you care. Of course, when they reach out themselves, you'll want to reciprocate when possible.


Making great friends as an adult can be challenging, but it's not impossible. To give yourself the best chances, you'll want to improve a few traits—things like positivity, vulnerability, and active listening. You'll also want to put yourself in environments that promote deep relationships. For more life advice, visit Best Life again soon.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more