Making new friends, especially as an adult, can be really hard. Keeping those friends, and nurturing those friendships, can be even more difficult. Here’s my guide to the best ways to make and keep new friends.
I’ve had lots of opportunities over the last few years to make new friends. We’ve moved to a completely new area, I’ve changed jobs, we’ve moved churches and my life has gone from being a non-parent to a mum of two. All of those situations gave me opportunities to make new friends.
But here’s the thing. I don’t think I’m naturally ‘good’ at making friends. I’m not the life and soul of the party, and I find small talk really tricky. Despite appearing confident, it takes a lot of courage for me to text a new friend and suggest meeting up.
I’ve had to force myself to step out of my comfort zone over the last few years, and I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned.
7 ways to make and keep new friends
1. Understand that parenthood can be incredibly lonely
There’s a reason NCT classes are so popular in the UK, and it’s not for the advice about the birth (although that’s really useful). No, the reason they’re popular is because they provide you with a group of ready-made friends, all at the same stage of parenthood as you. The first time you all meet up with your babies is a weird mixture of curiosity and relief – that you can all face it together.
But lots of people don’t go to birth classes. By the time you have your second baby, perhaps your mum friends are all back at work, or you’ve drifted apart. For many, the ready-made group of friends isn’t there at all.
So in many ways, most people in playgroup or baby group or standing at the school gate are hoping to connect with someone. It’s so difficult to be the first one to start up the conversation, but it’s definitely worth it.
2. It takes courage to move beyond small talk
You can meet people every single week at playgroup, and have the same disjointed conversations while you’re interrupted by your toddlers. But you won’t actually get to know those people until you make the effort to meet up.
One of the easiest – but also the scariest – ways to do this is to suggest a mum’s night out. Perhaps it’s just a few drinks in a bar, or perhaps dinner at a local restaurant, but that’s where you’ll really start to get to know people.
Alternatively, suggest a play date at your house with one other mum. Yes, it might be slightly awkward at first, but it’s much, much easier to have a conversation and it’s another way of getting to know someone.
3. Return the invitation
If someone has opened up their home to you, please invite them to your home. If someone else always organises the night out, then perhaps you could suggest a venue for the next one. Very few people like to be the official ‘organiser’ for a group of friends, so help each other out.
4. Keep in touch between meet-ups
It doesn’t take much to send a quick text or a quick WhatsApp. Honestly, I could suggest going running together or attending a class together, but I know that those ideas are probably pie-in-the-sky. But it’s definitely worth a quick text to ask how things are.
5. Take it online
I really love Facebook for keeping in touch with friends, and when you connect with someone on Facebook, and you can see all their photos and updates – well, that does deepen a friendship. No matter what others’ say. So try to find your new friends on Facebook too.
If you’re new to an area, it’s also definitely worth joining any Parents groups local to your area. I did this when we first moved and I had one slightly nerve-wracking meet-up with a local mum and a few of her friends at a children’s football class. I know it’s not for everyone, and it can feel really cringey when (if) you do so, but I can definitely count that mum amongst my friends now – and she’s not the only one.
6. Know when to move on
Some friends are only there for a season. Your children go to different schools, you change jobs, or something shifts. Some of those friendships will absolutely stand those tests, and some won’t. It’s tricky, but try to see these shifts as opportunities to meet new friends rather than barriers to keeping old friends. If you want to, you’ll make the effort to meet up with your old friends.
7. Try not to take it to heart if it doesn’t work out
I’ll hold my hands up here: I find some of the school mums very tricky. You see, I only pick up twice a week. I’m usually wrestling a toddler and trying to catch up with the mums I do know. So the mums that are there every day? I haven’t really go to know them at all.
But occasionally, I’ve ended up sitting with some of these parents at a party. It’s clear that there’s a well-defined group of parents who are at the school gates every single day, and they know each other well. It’s tricky, when you’re in that situation – I feel every ounce of guilt, resentment and jealousy that I’ve ever felt. But there are lots of other parents that I do know, so I’ve chosen to try to build on those friendships rather than try to ingratiate myself into an existing group.
I know I am happiest in a group of 3 or 4 – small enough to be intimate, not so big that you get lost. So I’m going to nurture these friendships, valuing them highly. For me, they are the best ways to make and keep new friends.