It always amazes me how easy it is for little kids to make friends. They lack the inhibitions and insecurities that plague us as adults—scars from our high-school years when we were judged and we judged—that make us a little wary when we meet new people.
When I moved into my neighborhood years ago, I remember getting nervous asking our neighbors if they wanted to get together—would they criticize our ratty furniture, old cars, style of parenting? Did they even want to socialize with us or were they busy with old friends? The reality is you just have to put yourself out and see if the friendship takes.
School makes it easier for kids to meet new friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build new relationships when you’re older. In fact, if we put on our kid goggles, we’ll see that the same situations that allowed us to make friends easily in school still exist in the grown-up world:
- Work: Look at the office as a grown-up version of the classroom. You have a common connection with your coworkers and can easily bond over the crappy aspects of your work experience. And in many cases, you’re forced to work on group projects. To get to know them on a deeper level, ask a co-worker you like to grab a bite to eat or a drink after hours. And if you’re new to the office, bring in food—nothing warms co-workers’ hearts like fresh-baked cookies. (If you’re self-employed, consider renting co-op office space where you can find camaraderie from other self-employed folks.)
- Kids: I’m in no way shape or form suggesting you have kids to make friends, but if you have them, use them. Kids are an instant bonding experience for parents. Some of my adult friends are people I have nothing in common with except for the fact that we’ve both suffered through sleepless nights with multiple kids vomiting. Also consider involving yourself in your kid’s school—you can meet other parents through the PTA, class trips, or as a lunchroom volunteer.
- Activities: Another way to meet new people is through “extracurricular” activities—say a yoga class, a marathon-training group, or a beginner pottery class. There’s nothing like laughing over a failed attempt at the crane pose to bring people together. If you want to take on more of a leadership role, look for opportunities in your neighborhood, hospital, or community to join or lead committees.
- Neighborhood network: Drama gets people talking—remember in high school spending hours on the phone dissecting salacious rumors or ruminating over friend fights? Same thing applies as an adult, although it’s generally not as gossipy. Big snow or rainstorm? Share stories with neighbors about how you thought the tree was going to come through your roof. Fire trucks on your block? Compare notes with the folks next door about what’s going on. For some strange reason, nothing brings a neighborhood together like sirens.