Do you know what happens when you lock a child in a room? They go berserk. This is also the reason prisoners start seeing demons when locked away in solitary confinement. Even the most introverted of us are not immune to the maddening effect of prolonged loneliness.
The worst part is that we now suffer an insidious kind of loneliness. Yes, we’re all connected thanks to social media, and distance is hardly an excuse thanks to cars and planes, yet very few people are truly connected, or present. Almost everyone has thousands of “friends” on social media, but do those really count?
Don’t get me wrong, social media and fast transportation have made establishing and maintaining friendships easier. But, social media has also created the illusion that friendship is all about “accepting a request”, or “viewing each other’s status daily”.
You and I know we yearn for more than likes and shallow commentary on our looks or achievements (be it online, at school, or place of work). We wish to have someone who we can discuss our worries with, trust with our secrets, and go to for help when the days get gloomy.
Many of us fear that the people we have would not come to our rescue when we need them. And we harbor the fear because we know we most likely won’t come to theirs. The question that comes to mind becomes, “are we truly friends with them?”
Who Is a Friend?
A friend is someone who you share a level of trust and affection with, but who is not directly biologically linked to you.
This means some friends can be closer than others depending on the level of trust and affection you perceive to exist between you. And, of course, that is where the issue lies. Trust and affection are not cheap commodities. Plus, the default state of our minds as primates is arguably distrust and fear.
This is why, when a stranger approaches and greets us, we look at their countenance, hands, their clothing, and demeanor before reciprocating. And, when we get a friend request on social media, we first look at the display picture, description, timeline, and sometimes, the mutual connections before accepting. This initial screening builds some trust and affection, as we ascertain that they are not dangerous but are one of us (colleagues, countrymen, fellow humans). Usually, you will address them as friends from work, or social media, but…it hardly satisfies our yearning – because it is too shallow to be relied on – we barely know them.
And, unless we know them deeper, we will never enjoy the depths of friendship. Because, even though you may be able to give a few nairas away for charity, you would not want to donate a kidney to a random stranger. So also, all the amazing people around you are holding on to the best parts of them for similar reasons.
So, the solution becomes to find a way to establish and build trust quickly and deeply with the people you fancy – so all the beautiful things possible in friendship will start happening.
Is It Too Late To Make New Friends?
The good news is, it is never too late to make new friends. Whether you are 23 or 73, you can always find (or create) opportunities to establish and build trust and affection with people you can eventually consider friends.
You most likely know (or have seen) people who make new friends effortlessly. And, maybe you might have thought they had a special ability, or that you lacked something. But, the truth is there is nothing special about them nor is there anything wrong with you. The only catch is that you must put in effort and risk being vulnerable, just like you were as a child.
For the rest of this piece, and for the sake of clarity, we are only going to use the word “friend” to describe someone who you do not just know on the surface level, but have built a reasonable amount of mutual trust and affection with.
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How Do I Make Friends In My 20s?
It can be particularly difficult to make new friends in your 20s because of pressure from school, work, or already-established relationships. But if you feel you need new friends, below is the breakdown of how to go about it.
Highlight Your Core Values
If you were a car, your values is the driver. Without your values you can’t function. This means your values control you. For example, values are the reason some ladies want to look decent while others prefer showing off virtually all their skin and curves. It is also the reason some men can comfortably defraud people while others find it hard to tell even a white lie.
Most of your values are drummed into us by our religions, culture, society, family, and experiences. And, since they control you and everyone else, it is important to be clear on your values, as well as the values of the other person before proceeding to make friends with them. This is because making friends with someone with divergent or conflicting values will most likely lead to resentment or worse.
Thankfully, you can tell a lot about a person’s values from their interests (because it is the values that breed interests).
Identify Mutual Interests
Friendships bloom when the parties involved want them to thrive. And, people often want whatever interests them to flourish. This means, if you love soccer, and make friends with someone who also loves soccer, they will be intrinsically motivated to go to the World Cup with you, unlike someone who prefers cooking. This also applies to academic, religious, as well as financial interests to name a few.
Since the future (depth and utility) of your friendship is intricately woven into the interests you both share, it is important to get clear on that. Make a list of all you are interested in. Those are the things that will guide you to the next step.
Go To Your Places of Interest:
The fastest and easiest way to make friends is to go to your places of interest because that is where people who share similar interests will most likely be.
If you love art, visit an art gallery. If you love reading, visit a library. These places can be physical (like a building or event), or virtual (on a forum or social media group). Whichever the case, your chances of making friends at those spots are exponentially higher than anywhere else.
Be Open and Approachable:
A frown and crossed arms would deter people. But a smile and relaxed stance would invite people to say hi.
When people initiate conversations, respond warmly, and give them your full attention.
Also, keep in mind that everyone is also a little bit anxious about meeting new people so don’t hesitate to show interest in them by complimenting them and asking relevant questions about them too.
Reach Out and Connect:
Regrets are the worst. Don’t let the “what if” torment you for months.
I know you are afraid of rejection or embarrassment, but think of it this way: taking a shot is a 50/50 bet that you’ll either have an awesome lifelong friendship or 10 secs of awkward silence.
And, you will find that most times, people are nice (even when they don’t want to be friends).
Furthermore, don’t hesitate to get their contact details. I have been in situations where I met someone who made my soul light up only to say goodbye with no way of getting back in touch. And, I can tell you from experience it sucks.
If it feels too direct to ask for their contact, ask for their social media handles and connect with them there.
Be Committed and Patient:
I do not know what direction your friendship will head, I do not know your values, or what might be right for you. But, I do know that when two people are involved, there needs to be a lot of honest communication. There also needs to be mutual understanding, compassion, sacrifice, support, and forgiveness.
“A friend is someone you go through life with”
How Many Friends Should I Have?
There is no limit to the number of friends you can have, but keep in mind that meaningful friendship takes a lot of time, effort, and sacrifice to sustain. That said, it is usually wise to keep the circle small – within 5. But, this does not mean you should limit your network.
It is okay to have a lot of people with who you share mutual respect, but you don’t have to deeply trust or rely on them all. You don’t have to be committed to them all. You are not obligated to call, support, or pardon them all.
Besides, as their numbers increase, your ability to tell which is good, passive, or downright bad for you decreases. Yes, there are such things as bad friends.
What Makes a Friend Good or Bad?
A good friend will insist on you doing what is best for you even when you foolishly want to do otherwise. They will support you and avoid doing anything that might harm you. They will protect your secrets, hide your vulnerabilities, cover your fears, and make your weirdness seem normal.
On the contrary, a bad friend will oftentimes dissuade you from doing something that might benefit you or encourage you to do something that will harm you. They will not show support, and might even try to sabotage you. They would often divulge your darkest secrets, poke your deepest vulnerabilities, expose your greatest fears, and make you feel horrible for not being perfect.
The difference between a good and bad friend is that a good friend wants what is best for you even when you do not see, understand, or want it. While a bad friend does not have your best interest at heart and may try to make your life worse.
So, when you start noticing red flags, it is often best to address them immediately (perhaps it is a misunderstanding or a character flaw of theirs that you ought to be conscious of), or perhaps you need to end the friendship before it is too late.
And, as for the passive friends, the antidote is usually matching their energy. If you do all the calling, visiting, and paying, perhaps you should stop and see if the relationship will wither away. If it does, great. Now you can focus on those that matter, or look for someone who deserves your effort.
Making friends can be demanding, but good friends are priceless. They watch your back and motivate you to keep going when you feel like giving up.
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”– Walter Winchell
You might have other questions about making friends that weren’t covered in this post. Below we have answered a few of them, but you can drop more questions in the comments section below.
Is It Normal To Not Have A Lot of Friends In Your 20s?
It is normal and advisable to have a lot of good friends in your 20s. Of course, a lot can be 3 or 5. And, it is also okay to be in touch with a lot more people from school, work, or other places of interest.
At What Age Do You Get Real Friends?
There is no specific age when you will get real friends. You will most likely begin and end a lot of friendships during your life, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t real when they lasted.
Based on several reports (such as The Friendship Report) the average friendship lasts between 7 to 17 years, and people usually meet their best friends between the ages of 15 to 21. However, many friendships suffer (and sometimes break) as responsibilities multiply and values change. And, people are usually less inclined to make new friends once they get past age 25.
Nevertheless, new friendships can still blossom once the opportunity is created. And as long as you remain real and open to friendships, real friends will always be around you.
How Do Young Adults Make Friends In a New Area?
If you moved to a new place and want to make new friends, you can start by
- visiting or introducing yourself to your neighbors.
- Locating and visiting your places of interest within the city.
- Asking for and finding friends of your family or friends within the new area.
- Taking part in a community event.
- Honoring invitations to parties and other invents. Or
- Organizing your own events.
Why Do I Struggle To Make Friends?
You might be struggling to make friends due to your environment, values, personality, fear of rejection, trust issues, or social anxiety to name a few. Sometimes it could be a combination of two or more or something else entirely.
Whatever the case, you have to carry out introspection and be honest with yourself. Then do something.
You can inform people you know that you’ll love to make new friends. Who knows, they may know someone else also looking for a new friend.
You can also let people online know you’re open to making new friends. A simple description like, “Hello ????, looking to make a new friend ????” is enough. That way when someone looking to make friends come across your profile, they can easily reach out.
How Do Introverts Make New Friends?
Introverts can make friends by reaching out to people who share similar interests as them. Of course, this will feel uncomfortable but that’s the price they have to pay.
Recommended Content: Dear Introvert Friend: (Why And) How To Connect With People You Don’t Know, Easily
I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.