Making (and maintaining) Friendships

Both maintaining old and forming new friendships as an adult can be difficult. As we grow older, move away, get new jobs, maybe get married and create families, we may find it more and more difficult to maintain friendships we made when we were in middle school, high school, college, first jobs, etc. Below I will share with you some ways to maintain relationships with our oldest loved ones, as well as some tips on how to form new friendships as we manuever adulthood.

Sustaining old friendships:

First, establish if you still want this person to be a part of your life and that it is a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship to maintain. Next, answer the question of if this person lives close by or far away. If your friend lives close by, schedule consistent plans. Texting or talking about making plans isn't actually making plans. Have a time, date and activity in mind and reach out to your frend to see if they are available to attend. Continue contact in between each meet-up, asking how he/she is doing and checking in on his/her well-being. If you both have hectic schedules, try to make a point to have biweekly or monthly dates. Set calendar reminders in your phone. Or schedule dates out in advance so they are already on your calendar.

Alter your expectations! If you live far away from one another, schedule regular phone or video chats (ideally at least once a month) to keep up with one another in between (hopefully future) visits. Sending each other funny photos, cards or even little care packages are also nice surprises to send to let your friend know that you are thinking of him/her.

Although your friend may not put in the same type of effort, if the relationship is of importance to you, then continue reaching out and trying. Only if the relationship is toxic or draining is it time to walk away. Do the things that your friend would perceive as caring. Consider his/her interests and passions when planning a way to show your appreciation and love for them.

However, if you do feel saddened or bothered by a change in your friendship, be honest with your friend about how you are feeling. Open up a conversation about the changes in the relationship and discuss how you could both maintain the strength of it.

TIP: Although social media can be a wonderful way to keep up with friends and family, it should NOT be the only way you rely on communicating with friends. Commenting on a friend's Facebook post is not the same as making a phone call to them. The best way to maintain contact with friends is by phone or ideally, face-to-face.

Forming new friendships:

It can be difficult to make new friends as an adult. A couple of tips I have that do not involve phone apps, hanging around in bars or finding friends on Craigslist are:

Research and attend networking events in your area. Go to these events to not only network professionally, but also keep in mind the goal to meet like-minded people who can potentially become friends. Ask people out on "friend dates!"

Join clubs or hobby groups. Volunteer somewhere local. Attend new openings of local restaurants, business, etc. Research on Facebook or Google hobby groups in your area - such as a walking or running club, a book or movie club. See if there are any Facebook groups that are for people in your area or neighborhood. Announce that you are new and/or looking to meet people.

Ask co-workers or friends you already have to introduce you to new people. And say YES to more invitations. Get phone numbers of people you meet at parties, dinners, or gatherings and initiate your own connections.

How to make these new friends you meet: Focus on them, not yourself. Ask them questions and pay attention to what they are saying. Show you listen and have an interest in what they are telling you. Then disclose about yourself. No need to share your deepest, darkest secrets. But, give them something to work with and help build a level of trust and understanding between the two of you. Then (you guessed it), make PLANS!

TIP: If you are finding that you have difficulty balancing old and new friendships, bring your friends together! Be inclusive, rather than believing that you only have to spend time with one group of friends over another. If that isn't possible, then just make sure you schedule out time for each, without spreading yourself too thin. I have found that when you schedule ahead, you have less of a chance of forgetting about someone or having time get away from you.

Overall, be honest. Be compassionate. Be authentic. Show your friends that you appreciate them and your time together. People need people.

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