How To Make Friends And Have Meaningful Relationships [2020]

Humans are naturally social creatures — scientists and psychologists have proven this to be true. In fact, psychologists have conducted studies and proved that how social a person is, without others, can directly correlate to how good (or bad) their health is. Or, to put it bluntly: if humans don’t connect with others, we could literally die from loneliness. 

As we get older, making and keeping friends can be hard. Life tends to get in the way — a job, a move, a new relationship — and people tend to push their friendships to the side. Don’t let that happen! Later in life, when you don’t have that job anymore or you got out of that one relationship, you’re going to need friends and social interaction in order to survive.

Julianne Holt-Lundstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Utah, did a study on social interactions and health and how death rates vary depending on how sociable a person is.

There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely and the deciding factor is whether or not you have a good social life. We don’t like being lonely and we prefer spending time with people and when we aren’t fulfilling that aspect of our lives, it negatively affects our health. 

According to The Guardian, Julianne Holt-Lunstad said friends and family can improve health in numerous ways, from help in tough times to finding meaning in life. “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility to other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”

If you’re wondering how to make friends, you probably have a lot more questions that come with it. First and foremost, it’s important to understand who you are and know what you have to offer people.

I mean, really, who are you? Are you kindhearted and a good listener? Would you consider yourself to be trustworthy and reliable? What are your hobbies and passions and interests, and can you meet people doing these things? Then, ask yourself if you’re looking for acquaintances at work or if you’re hoping to secure life-long friendships. Would you consider yourself to be a social person? Do you enjoy making conversation or would you prefer small talk?

Before you start going down a rabbit hole of fear, know that it IS possible to meet new friends and have a social circle or social life when you’re out of school and in the workplace. It is possible to be social and engaging with people that can be in your life for years to come, but it just requires a lot more effort.

Before we get into it, know that there are 3 main types of friendships you can have in your life:

  1. Acquaintances. These people are the ones you get along with at work but don’t necessarily spend time with them or talk to them outside of work. And that’s ok! What matters is that you are getting along.
  2. Regular Friends. These are the people you spend time with from time to time. You consider them a friend because you’re social with them, but your conversation is typically about generic topics.
  3. Soulmates. These close friends are people you can talk about anything and everything with. Time can pass when you don’t talk a lot or spend time with them and that’s okay because you both understand each other enough to know that the strength of your relationship isn’t determined by that.

Making new friends as kids was a lot easier. I mean, kids don’t really care about much because they haven’t been hardened to the world and the judgment that comes with certain people. For kids, all they have to do is go up to someone in their class and ask “do you like the swings?” or “I like ballet. Do you like ballet?” Kids don’t care about much except whether if you have the same interests as them and if you’re nice. It’s as simple as that!

As an adult, things are becoming harder, including how to make friends. Meeting new people can be hard. Whether if you struggle with social skills or just never really understood the meaning of friendship and how to maintain close-knit relationships with people, it’s really, really hard.

So, okay, How To Make Friends 101: let’s get into it. 

How To Make Friends

Be Yourself

In order to develop and maintain a friendship, you have to have a personality that people will appreciate. You want to be the person that someone wants to be around! With that being said, you have to be yourself.

Don’t change who you are just to impress someone. (Unless you’re rude, judgmental, a bad listener, dishonest, and not trustworthy, then maybe you should make some changes.) Be authentic with who you are, as well as your hobbies and passions.

Don’t be fake. Don’t pretend to like a certain hobby just because a friend does and you want to bond over something. It’s okay if you don’t have the same interests! Individuality is a good thing to own in friendships and relationships.

Remember: friends and influence go hand-in-hand. You become the people you surround yourself with. If someone rubs you the wrong way, that’s okay, you shouldn’t force yourself to be friends with someone just because you want friends. How they act will always rub off on you and how you act will rub off on them.

Open up your heart.

It’s okay to be emotional and personal with friends–that’s what friends are for. If opening up your heart isn’t really your thing, that’s okay! But still –  face your fears and step outside of your comfort zone. It’ll be worth it.

Maintain a good character.

Be kind, supportive, understanding, loyal, accepting, open-minded, a good listener. Be understanding of the person’s point of view on things and hopefully they’ll do the same for you.

Get to know the person better.

What are their hobbies? What do they do for a living, or what is their dream career? What are they passionate about? What are their favorite movies, foods, books? Do you have any of these things in common? 

Go out and be social.

If you’re in high school or college, get to know the people in your classes. Maybe there are some sports or clubs you can join that allow you to meet people. Accept invitations to parties or gatherings so you can meet people! Or, if you’re out of school, take up a yoga class or a cooking class and make friends with the people there.

How To Make Friends…And Maintain That Friendship:

Spend time together.

Once you’ve established your mutual hobbies and interests, think of ways you can spend time together. Whether if it’s cooking, watching movies, reading books, doing yoga, scrapbooking – there’s always a way you can meet up do things with friends.

For example, I’m a bookworm. Some of my best friends are also bookworms. We’re all 23/24 years old and we’ve managed to stay good friends with each There’s about 7 of us in our group of friends and we’re all bookworms…so we decided to start a book club. We decide on a book, we read it, and then we schedule time in the future to meet for the book club where we drink wine, eat snacks, and talk about the book briefly before catching up on each others’ lives. It’s a great way to meet up, make conversation about something we all have an interest in, and also put in an effort to check up on each other.

Keep in touch.

Make an effort to stay in touch with the people you consider your friends. If you don’t talk that often, reach out to them from time to time and ask, “Hey, how are you doing?” or “Just checking in, hope you’re doing well!” Try and schedule some time to meet up for coffee or drinks or just to catch up. By putting in the effort, it shows you care about this person enough that you want to know what’s going on in their lives. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with people you’re friends with, no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing. 

Does social media influence friendships and relationships?

In a word, yes.

Social media can help us meet new people online and stay strictly online because of distance, but social media can also help us meet people online and then meet them face to face later on. Online friendships are becoming more and more popular, thanks to platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

When I was in high school, besides the regular friends I had at school (who I spent time with on weekends and talked with every day), I had a lot of online friendships. I had friends living in London, Florida, upstate New York. We met through Twitter and bonded over a love for a boyband (yes, them). Then, in college, I developed more friendships and relationships through social media. I dated a guy in a band and got to befriend their friends. The guy I dated was always a conversation starter and I developed a circle of friends within the music scene all because of one person–who I met online. 

A big thing on social media is your connections with others and how well you influence people. Great examples are David Dobrik and his “Vlog Squad” — if you know of him, you probably know of his friends too, and how they all work together as friends and influence people who follow them.

Or, another example, the Tik Tok “stars” in the Hype House. These young kids have managed to win friends and influence; along with building their social media following and getting “clout”, they also built friendships with the people they live with…or, so it seems. Can you really win friends? Are those real friendships? Only they can say… 

How To Make Friends Online

Technology tends to make it harder for people to go out and meet people. Yet, at the same time, technology also makes it kinda easy to make friends online and to keep in touch with people even if you aren’t able to see them in person. Thanks to social media, friendships can be made without even leaving your house.

Connect mutually.

In other words, follow each other on social media. Sometimes friendships and relationships just happen naturally when you’re “mutuals” on social media, like Twitter or Instagram. 

An example: this one girl and I follow each other on Instagram. I live in New York City and she lives in Los Angeles. We became friends just by commenting on each others’ photos with uplifting messages and reactions. One day, she reached out to me and said she was visiting NYC for a week and wanted to see if I would be free for coffee, and so we met up when she was in town! We were already friends, but having a face to face conversation and spending a few hours together actually showed us that we have a lot more interests and even friends in common, too.

Join a Facebook group.

Friending people online is so much easier because all it requires is a click of a button or a simple message to start a conversation.

Try Facebook group for a mutual interest or hobby, and if that’s the case, reach out to people who you find interesting and try and be their friend! Say something kind or engaging enough, to start the conversation and go from there. There are Facebook groups for everything, so join one!

We meet people and maintain our social relationships, because doing so is a fundamental part of our lives and who we are as social creatures, but I think there’s something to be said about “connecting to a group.” Yes, having friends is truly vital for a good life, but it’s important to know the people you surround yourself with. It’s a good feeling to know you have a circle of friends, but when it comes to the serious stuff in life–death, breakups, job loss, etc.–, you might not necessarily be able to rely on them as a support system. The key is to have a couple of amazing friends and if possible, a bunch of good friends. You know how that saying goes: “I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.”

Making new friends isn’t necessarily something that comes easy. Making friends, building relationships with people, and establishing connections requires work and effort. It will take time. Not every person you meet is going to click with you and that’s okay! Put in the effort and be a good person and the people you’re meant to have as friends will be more and more obvious as time goes on. Maintaining the friendships you’ve made requires effort too. If you don’t talk every day, that’s okay – just check in on them every once in a while. Take the time to meet up with them, when you can. Do something that you have mutual interests in.

Good friends are hard to find but even harder to keep, so make sure you’re putting in love and energy into those relationships. At the end of your lives, you’ll be glad you did.

About the author
January Nelson is a writer, editor, dreamer, and occasional exotic dancer and a collective pen name. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related