Women Wearing Surgical Masks, 1919

How Do I Make New Friends?

PUBLISHED October 18, 2020

Dear Nomi,

I was wondering if you had any advice for making friends as 20-something in a pandemic (in the suburbs…)? I know everyone has been feeling the loneliness of isolation, but my feelings of disconnect from my friends, both childhood and college, have been slowly looming over me for months. 

While I still love them all dearly–for all of our similarities and differences–I feel like we are in completely different places in our lives. I don’t want to remove these friends from my life, I just want to find people who are a little more like-minded and who are in a similar place in life as me. But I can’t figure out how to navigate making new friends as an adult while trying to stay safe, particularly living in a high-risk household. 

How can I approach making new friends?


In Search of Friends

Dear In Search of Friends, 

Nearly half of the advice questions I have right now have something to do with friendship. Some folks are falling out of touch with close friends, some are feeling pushed out of their long term friend groups, and many others are feeling disconnected, lonely, and in search of friends. 

Man, but how hard is it to make friends as an adult? 

My besties from back home and I were just discussing this the other day in our group chat. We were saying that the four of us in the chat were each other’s only friends (which I said is perfectly fine…who needs more than three friends, really?) But everyone agreed that it was really difficult to make new friends as an adult. 

I wonder why that is, when so many of us seem to feel the same thing? If there are so many adults out there seeking friendship, then why in the world is it so hard to make a new friend? With all the singles out there you’d imagine it’d be simple enough to pair up. 

Ah…but we’re forgetting something. We’re forgetting that as we get older we get more selective. Where in kindergarten your best friend was whoever you happened to sit next to in the circle, and in middle school your best friend was whoever had the same taste in sneakers or stickers, as we get older we use more stringent factors for determining who we want to enter our lives. 

Partially this is because we become more selective in a good way. We’ve been through enough failed or flawed relationships that we no longer tolerate other people’s B.S. We know that we don’t have to play nice with just anyone and that sometimes the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to be precious with our time and attention. 

But I fear that what has been touted as “not letting people waste our energy” has morphed into a quick and harsh conviction of anyone not like us in all the right ways. 

When we decide we know exactly who we are and exactly what we need, we start to assess people based on surface level qualities. We start looking for people to connect with based on qualities we want to cultivate in ourselves. In essence, we use people. We stop approaching people with curiosity and start assuming we’ve got them figured out. But if we pass judgement on people before we really get to know them, we never give anyone a fair chance. 

In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer explores various ways we can expand and enrich our lives. In the chapter “The Spiritual Path of Nonresistance,” he says:

Imagine if you used relationships to get to know other people, rather than to satisfy what is blocked inside of you. If you’re not trying to make people fit into your preconceived notions of what you like and dislike, you will find that relationships are not really that difficult. If you’re not so busy judging and resisting people based upon what is blocked inside of you, you will find that they are much easier to get along with–and so are you. Letting go of yourself is the simplest way to get closer to others.

Michael A. Singer

Like in romantic relationships, when it comes to friendships we can have an unrealistic set of standards that person is expected to meet. They have to like all the same things we do, have similar fashion sense, be either outgoing or introverted like us, have similar means and education, and be ‘like minded’ 😉 

I think the trouble in making new friends starts when we codify a vision of what friendship looks like; when we have our radar tuned to a very specific type of person and end up overlooking so many other people who are already in our lives. 

There are likely dozens of people already in your life that you could build a beautiful friendship with if only you change your perspective. Consider a relative, maybe a distant cousin, niece or nephew. An aunt or uncle even. We assume we can only be friends with people who are close in age with us, but why? One of my closest friends in New York is a woman much older than me. We have amazing conversations and have been able to learn from each other in really unique ways. She provides such a comfort to me when things get dark. 

Maybe there is someone you’ve fallen out of touch with, a friend from camp or childhood; someone you’ve written off because you fear you have nothing in common. Or someone from work that you really click with. Who are your neighbors? The people you see at the coffee shop everyday? 

According to science, it takes 50 hours of time spent for an acquaintance to become a ‘casual friend,’ 90 hours to go from casual friend to friend, and more than 200 hours for someone to become a close friend. That’s a real investment in time, but that also means that one of the biggest contributing factors to who becomes a friend is simply how much time we spend with someone, not how much we have in common. 

Your next friend may be someone who has been floating in the ‘acquaintance’ category of your life and just needs time, attention, and nurturing to blossom into a friendship. 

And before you go completely writing off these childhood and college friends let me say this. You are feeling stagnant and stuck at home. You are frustrated and looking for something to blame. Your friends have become the target of your own self-consciousness. You feel if only you had different friends, better friends, then things would be different. 

Accept your current group of friends for who they are. Don’t judge them based on where they are and what they’ve decided to do with their lives. A relationship can’t ‘hold you back’ if you don’t let it. Not every friend has to be a best friend. Take these relationships for what they are. You don’t have to have everything in common to still care about and support each other. Is there any latitude to introduce this group of friends to the things that are interesting to you now? Are you still approaching them with a sense of curiosity? 

People change and evolve. We’re never going to be the same person we were yesterday. A friend who has been in your life for years and years but that might ‘be in a different place’ is still worth her weight in gold. 

If my best friends and I were to meet each other today would we even consider each other? Who knows. But it would be a damn tragedy if we gave up on each other when our differences started to peek through the seams. 

We’re so quick to throw things away and go looking for what’s shiny and new. Invest in the relationships you currently have and the people already around you. 

Something tells me you might be sitting on a goldmine. 

P.S. There’s More

  • Support your local bookstore and buy The Untethered Soul from a shop in your community – click the link for a copy sold by New York’s Strand Book Store 
  • More from advice 
  • The advice line is open. Send your questions to advice[at]peek-mag.com 

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