Home Topics Lifestyle How to make (and keep) new friends as an adult, according to...

How to make (and keep) new friends as an adult, according to a friendship expert

Wellness is much more than just clean food. We take a holistic approach to restore our spaces, thoughts, bodies and hearts in a small but powerful way. Introduction to the RE: SET Challenge – A 21 Day Plan for a Healthier, Happier Person. Click here for the full list. Next, how to connect with Dr. Melanie Ross Mills befriends.

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“Friendship comes from the moment one person says to another, ‘What! Likewise? I thought I was the only one. ‘”
– CS Lewis

Isn’t it strange to think that every new friend we’ve ever made has been a stranger? We can know practically nothing about a person to fully trust and understand them, sometimes better than family. These friends shape and ground us and quickly become mirrors through which we can also see our true selves.

Experiencing the vibrancy and energy of friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts, but as we get older, our relationships can become more complicated. Friendships can tend to drift or fall apart, and new connections can be difficult to make when life and circumstances get in the way. Why is it so difficult to make new friends as an adult?

I miss the days when “let’s be friends” was all it took. In my adult life, it has not been so easy to make friendships as deep and loyal as those from my childhood and college days. Whether it’s age, beliefs, background, or any other obstacle, we all have limiting beliefs when it comes to putting ourselves there and really connecting with others. As an introverted and naturally private person, I worry about making new friendships uncomfortable. I fear potential close friends are too busy with their jobs, families, children, and hobbies, and don’t have the time or energy for me. Plus, it takes time to get to know someone thoroughly, and it’s difficult to feel a real human connection when your only option is sometimes a screen.

“We are made to connect, and once we have authentic exchanges, lives can literally be changed.” – Dr. Melanie Ross Mills

Our original need for connection is stronger now than ever, but we live in a time when it feels virtually impossible to forge new relationships. Dr. Melanie Ross Mills is an expert on friendship and relationships and the author of The friendship bond. She has a Masters and a PhD in temperament therapy, which basically means she is an expert in understanding how people in the world behave and interact with each other. “I love helping people learn how to connect with one another and encouraging them to have healthy relationships,” says Dr. Mills. “My wish is that all of us (including myself) discover healthy ways to relate to one another as we learn more about ourselves, our friendships, and the relationships in our lives.”

Plus, not only do friendships lead to fuller and richer lives, studies also show a link between relationships and longevity. Strong personal relationships actually make you live longer, and without them the risk to your life span is similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Dr. Mills changes lives by equipping people with the tools to be seen and experience real relationships. We used what they knew to share some tips on how to make new friends and keep existing ones forever.

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What role do friendships play in our general happiness? How much closeness do we need?

Friendships play a very big role in our lives. While they cannot make us happy, they can bring us happiness and contribute to our general wellbeing. Healthy friendships can literally change our lives when they offer security, we feel seen and heard, and experience authentic love. In terms of closeness, I feel this is relative to each individual. Some need more close friends than others, but we all need close friendships in order to experience the fullness of life.

What are your biggest tips for making new friends?

Know what you have to offer.

Identify and own what you bring to the table in friendship. You can’t offer what you don’t own first. Once you know what you have to offer, you can offer your strengths (i.e., playfulness, joy, wisdom, help, good listener, caring, fun-loving, etc.) with greater awareness and confidence. In addition, you can more clearly identify what the new friends are bringing to the table. For example; Knowing that you have an open ear will help you identify new friends who are listening well (or talking too much).

Grow & heal.

The key to healthier friendship foundations is making sure you are not carrying any unhealthy habits or old injuries from previous friendships (to the best of your ability) so that you can offer healthy avenues of connection and attachment. For example, if you have walls up because of past injuries, you may no longer receive the love and connection from the new friends that come your way. The healthier you are, the healthier you will dress.

Take it.

Put yourself out there, sister! Put yourself in situations that encourage connection and highlight connection points (e.g., volunteering, personal growth groups, Starbuck coffee addiction support groups (lol), mom blogs, etc.). Participate in conversations in an organic way. When time and nature permit, watch out for those who attract you and reach for coffee or lunch. If the other person is receptive, yay! It’s a date! If not, that’s fine, keep moving.

You have the power to choose.

You have the option of whether or not you want to continue “friend dating”. I think sometimes we feel like we need to settle into friendship because there is nothing “better” out there (just like with dating). Then we find that we have settled into a friendship with someone who is toxic, makes us fall, uses us, untrustworthy, hurtful, etc. You don’t have to settle down or compromise. Once you meet some new people, learn how chemistry and character mixThen you can continue to pursue that new friendship or move on and open space in your life for more new friends. If so, repeat # 3.

Let go of boundaries.

Let go of any preconceived judgments or restrictions you may have made while meeting new friends. Friends will come in every shape, size, origin, population group, age group and in all walks of life. You will limit your options if you limit your “friendship pool”. Make an effort, be available, be wise, be vigilant and get excited! Getting to know new friends is a nice thing.

Be vulnerable.

Be open, be open, be open, be open. You may think you are open and vulnerable, but you may be more closed than you might think. Having walls up is different from protecting your heart. It’s healthy to protect your heart so that trust can develop, but walls keep friends from getting to know the real you.

Make memories.

Once you’ve started the process of countermovement with your new friend, make an effort to create memories. Share experiences that bind and connect your hearts. Exchange thoughts and ideas with each other. Push yourself together as people to become more and to learn more about life together. Respect boundaries. Get to know each other’s family and friends. Experience the countermovement. Creating memories, exchanging thoughts, feelings, exchanging hope and dreams and bringing us closer.

Friendship bond.

As time goes on and your new friend becomes a gift for your life and vice versa, keep investing in friendship. Let them know that you care, value, and appreciate them. Work on not taking them for granted. Learn their love language. Honor their place. Respect their time. Expand grace for imperfections. Protect your secrets and private affairs. Think about their interests. Make this new friendship simple, life-giving, fun, and real.

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What does it take to keep friendships alive over time?

Friendships are a choice. You invest in the things that are important to you to the extent that they are important. Some are satisfied with the surface-level exchanges that don’t require a lot of time, emotional, or physical investment. while others long to be known and want to get to know others on a much deeper level. You will have superficial friendships in your life because you cannot and should not go deep with everyone. But there will be a few friends who you really appreciate and want in your life in the long run. These are the friendships that you would like to keep “especially alive” in your life.

I urge you to examine for yourself what types of friendships you need and want in your life and what kind of friend you would like to be to others.

If you want lifelong friendships that will stay alive, you’ll respond accordingly by making the effort to connect and grow. Granted, there will be seasons in your life when you don’t have the time or energy to flow into these friendships as you would in other seasons (i.e. new job, moving to a new city, baby, loss of a loved one People, divorce, etc.). Then understanding friends in your life is a gift.

The friends you cherish are the friends you want to keep alive, be it through a phone call, a girls weekend, a coffee a month, or a greeting card in the mail. However, you want to bond in order to keep them alive (it’s always a good idea to love them through their love language, too).

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How can we build closeness and intimacy in our friendships?

When you get back to a new friend’s question, you will see some of those steps in this answer. Here are some other steps you can take to build depth in friendships.

  • Allow individuality instead of being possessive, territorial, and controlling.
  • Try to experience unity after division.
  • Encourage each other to bring out your best qualities.
  • Accept each other for who you are, not who you want them to be.
  • Invite growth into your friendship by encouraging one another.
  • Be vulnerable and open with your mind, will, and emotions.
  • Speak the truth in love.
  • Take a real interest in each other’s life.
  • Giving and receiving, giving and receiving, giving and receiving.
  • Promote interdependence of co-dependency or control.
  • Do not play mind games, be passive-aggressive, malicious, or harmful.

You can find more tips from Melanie in her book The friendship bond.

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