After college, I found myself in a brand new city — Dallas — not knowing anyone other than my parents and the family dog. Most of my friends from college were back in the Midwest, and I was fresh off a breakup and needed a distraction. So in between my Google searches for “how to get over a break up” and “how to land a job after college,” I was looking to discover how to make friends as an adult.
It’s been about ten years since I moved to Dallas, and I’m happy to share that I found lasting friendships in the city. Here are the best ways to find people you connect with and make friends as an adult. (I swear it’s not as complicated — or awkward — as it seems.)
The most crucial step of developing a friendship is determining what the word means to you and how you want to show up as a friend yourself.
When I look back on my twenties, I can admit I hopped around different friend circles; it took me some time to find out what I wanted in a friendship. Today, I know I need a friendship whose foundation is built on respect, positivity, and trust. I want to feel supported and encouraged; I want to feel safe to be vulnerable. When I was younger, I prioritized how ‘fun’ someone was over how loyal they were, and I ultimately learned that’s not the best criteria for a lifelong friend.
Here are a couple of prompts to help you reflect on the type of person you want in your space:
- What are the three adjectives I hope a close friend would describe me as?
- Now, what are the three adjectives I hope to see in a future friend?
- What core values do I want to share with a new friend?
- What types of activities do I want to do with a new friend?
- Why do I want to make new friends in this season of life?
After a couple of years in quarantine, I think we all got pretty rusty with our social skills. Part of what makes adult friendships so intimidating is we don’t know how to get the conversation going in the first place. That’s why, like with most things, practice makes perfect. I’m not saying become a professional small-talker — I said this wouldn’t be awkward — but I do think it’s time to find out what your interpersonal relationship style is.
Consider the everyday crowds we find ourselves in: grocery stores, doctor’s offices, the aisles of Target. How often are you making eye contact or interacting with those around you? For many of us, not at all. For your next errand out of the house, take baby steps toward building a connection with someone.
- Leave your cell phone in your pocket or purse. First, your eyes could use the break from a screen. More importantly, you’re less distracted and able to notice people around you.
- Smile at someone. By now, you’re aware that smiling fights off stress — like the stress you feel in social situations. According to Alex Lickerman for Psychology Today, smiling at strangers encourages us to acknowledge someone’s humanity and build connections.
- Ask the cashier how their day is going. One of the most practical baby steps I took toward overcoming social insecurities was practicing pleasantries with cashiers and sales associates. I have a handful of Trader Joe employees-turned-real friends in my life. While the intention doesn’t need to be a lifelong friendship with the local grocer, making small talk will help build your confidence as someone seeking adult friends.
Find new avenues for meeting friends
Part of successfully making new friends is finding the right opportunity to meet people. Many of us will find our next confidante at work, but what about those who don’t want to mix business with pleasure? Here are five options for meeting someone in your city.
- Meeting Online. You can swipe right on your next great friend with friendship and neighbor apps like BumbleBFF, Hey! VINA, and Nextdoor. While apps can be intimidating in their way, they allow users to filter out the obvious bad matches.
- Local Chapter Organizations. From industry organizations to your college’s alumni chapter, there are options to connect with those who have similar interests to you. To find a chapter organization you can join, consult LinkedIn for college organizations and type in your industry and “ professional organizations near me” (example: “human resources professional organizations in Dallas”), and see what you find.
- Coworking Spaces. I met one of my dearest friends, and many lucrative clients, by working at a coworking space. Popular choices include Common Desk, WeWork, and Knotel.
- Host a Small ‘Plus One’ Dinner. The concept is simple: Invite 2 or 3 friends to an intimate dinner party and ask them to bring a plus-one you haven’t met before. This setup allows for fresh conversation and new connections while fostering established friendships and a feeling of familiarity.
- Join a Social Club or Post-Grad Sorority Chapter. I am currently on the waitlist to join The Black Girl Social Club, but there’s a community for all backgrounds and interests. From interest groups related to sports, political affiliations, or even post-grad sorority chapters, you can your group in a couple of curious clicks. To get started, check out Meetup.com. Nearly every city has a community dedicated to young professionals, BIPOC residents, LGBTQIA+ residents, runners, moms, and more.