Looking to build new friendships? These tips can help you meet people, start a conversation, and cultivate healthy connections that will improve your life and well-being.
Why are friends so important?
Our society tends to place an emphasis on romantic relationships. We think that just finding that right person will make us happy and fulfilled. But research shows that friends are actually even more important to our psychological welfare. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else.
Friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation. Developing close friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. Lack of social connection may pose as much of a risk as smoking, drinking too much, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Friends are even tied to longevity. One Swedish study found that, along with physical activity, maintaining a rich network of friends can add significant years to your life.
But close friendships don’t just happen. Many of us struggle to meet people and develop quality connections. Whatever your age or circumstances, though, it’s never too late to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and greatly improve your social life, emotional health, and overall well-being.
The benefits of friendships
While developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, healthy friendships can:
Improve your mood. Spending time with happy and positive friends can elevate your mood and boost your outlook.
Help you to reach your goals. Whether you're trying to get fit, give up smoking, or otherwise improve your life, encouragement from a friend can really boost your willpower and increase your chances of success.
Reduce your stress and depression. Having an active social life can bolster your immune system and help reduce isolation, a major contributing factor to depression.
Support you through tough times. Even if it's just having someone to share your problems with, friends can help you cope with serious illness, the loss of a job or loved one, the breakup of a relationship, or any other challenges in life.
Support you as you age. As you age, retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can often leave you isolated. Knowing there are people you can turn to for company and support can provide purpose as you age and serve as a buffer against depression, disability, hardship and loss.
Boost your self-worth. Friendship is a two-way street, and the “give” side of the give-and-take contributes to your own sense of self-worth. Being there for your friends makes you feel needed and adds purpose to your life.
Why online friends aren't enough
Technology has shifted the definition of friendship in recent years. With the click of a button, we can add a friend or make a new connection. But having hundreds of online friends is not the same as having a close friend you can spend time with in person. Online friends can't hug you when a crisis hits, visit you when you're sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you. Our most important and powerful connections happen when we're face-to-face. So make it a priority to stay in touch in the real world, not just online.
What to look for in a friend
A friend is someone you trust and with whom you share a deep level of understanding and communication. A good friend will:
- Show a genuine interest in what's going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel.
- Accept you for who you are.
- Listen to you attentively without judging you, telling you how to think or feel, or trying to change the subject.
- Feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you.
As friendship works both ways, a friend is also someone you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty.
Focus on the way a friendship feels, not what it looks like
The most important quality in a friendship is the way the relationship makes you feel—not how it looks on paper, how alike you seem on the surface, or what others think. Ask yourself:
- Do I feel better after spending time with this person?
- Am I myself around this person?
- Do I feel secure, or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?
- Is the person supportive and am I treated with respect?
- Is this a person I can trust?
The bottom line: if the friendship feels good, it is good. But if a person tries to control you, criticizes you, abuses your generosity, or brings unwanted drama or negative influences into your life, it's time to re-evaluate the friendship. A good friend does not require you to compromise your values, always agree with them, or disregard your own needs.
Tips for being more friendly and social (even if you're shy)
If you are introverted or shy, it can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there socially. But you don't have to be naturally outgoing or the life of the party to make new friends.
Focus on others, not yourself. The key to connecting to other people is by showing interest in them. When you're truly interested in someone else's thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions, it shows—and they'll like you for it. You'll make far more friends by showing your interest rather than trying to get people interested in you. If you're not genuinely curious about the other person, then stop trying to connect.
[Read: Dealing with Loneliness and Shyness]
Pay attention. Switch off your smartphone, avoid other distractions, and make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you'll quickly get to know them. Small efforts go a long way, such as remembering someone's preferences, the stories they've told you, and what's going on in their life.
Friendship takes two, so it's important to evaluate whether the other person is looking for new friends.
- Do they ask you questions about you, as if they'd like to get to know you better?
- Do they tell you things about themselves beyond surface small talk?
- Do they give you their full attention when you see them?
- Does the other person seem interested in exchanging contact information or making specific plans to get together?
If you can't answer “yes” to these questions, the person may not be the best candidate for friendship now, even if they genuinely like you. There are many possible reasons why not, so don't take it personally!
How to make new friends: Where to start
We tend to make friends with people we cross paths with regularly: people we go to school with, work with, or live close to. The more we see someone, the more likely a friendship is to develop. So, look at the places you frequent as you start your search for potential friends.
Another big factor in friendship is common interests. We tend to be drawn to people who are similar, with a shared hobby, cultural background, career path, or kids the same age. Think about activities you enjoy or the causes you care about. Where can you meet people who share the same interests?
Meeting new people
When looking to meet new people, try to open yourself up to new experiences. Not everything you try will lead to success but you can always learn from the experience and hopefully have some fun.
Volunteering can be a great way to help others while also meeting new people. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to regularly practice and develop your social skills.
[Read: Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits]
Take a class or join a club to meet people with common interests, such as a book group, dinner club, or sports team. Websites such as Meetup.com can help you find local groups (or start your own) and connect with others who share similar interests.
Connect with your alumni association. Many colleges have alumni associations that meet regularly. You already have the college experience in common; bringing up old times makes for an easy conversation starter. Some associations also sponsor community service events or workshops where you can meet more people.
Walk a dog. Dog owners often stop and chat while their dogs sniff or play with each other. If dog ownership isn't right for you, volunteer to walk dogs from a shelter or a local rescue group.
Attend art gallery openings, book readings, lectures, music recitals, or other community events where you can meet people with similar interests. Check with your library or local paper for events near you.
Behave like someone new to the area. Even if you've lived in the same place all your life, take the time to re-explore your neighborhood attractions. New arrivals to any town or city tend to visit these places first—and they're often keen to meet new people and establish friendships, too.
Cheer on your team. Going to a bar alone can seem intimidating, but if you support a sports team, find out where other fans go to watch the games. You automatically have a shared interest—your team—which makes it natural to start up a conversation.
Take a moment to unplug
It's difficult to meet new people in any social situation if you're more interested in your phone than the people around you. Remove your headphones and put your smartphone away while you're in the checkout line or waiting for a bus, for example. Making eye contact and exchanging small talk with strangers is great practice for making connections—and you never know where it may lead!
Turning acquaintances into friends
We all have acquaintances in our life—people we exchange small talk with as we go about our day or trade jokes or insights with online. While these relationships can fulfill you in their own right, with some effort, you can turn a casual acquaintance into a true friend.
The first step is to open up a little about yourself. Friendships are characterized by intimacy. True friends know about each other’s values, struggles, goals, and interests. So, try sharing something a little bit more personal than you would normally. You don’t have to reveal your most closely-held secret, just something a little more revealing than talking about the weather or something you watched on TV and see how the other person responds. Do they seem interested? Do they reciprocate by disclosing something about themselves?
Other tips for strengthening an acquaintance into a friend:
Invite a casual acquaintance out for a drink or to a movie. Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about reaching out and making new friends as you do. Be the one to break the ice. Take the first step and reach out to a neighbor or work colleague, for example—they will thank you later.
Carpool to work. Many companies offer carpool programs. If your employer doesn’t, simply ask a colleague if they’d like to share rides. Spending regular time together is a great way to get to know others better and offers the opportunity for uninterrupted and deeper conversation.
Track down old friends via social media. It’s easy to lose track of friends when you move or change jobs, for example. Make the effort to reconnect and then turn your “online” friends into “real-world” friends by meeting up for coffee instead of chatting on Facebook or Twitter.
Overcoming obstacles to making friends
Is something stopping you from building the friendships you'd like to have? Here are some common obstacles—and how you can overcome them.
If you're too busy…
Developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, but even with a packed schedule, you can find ways to make the time for friends.
Put it on your calendar. Schedule time for your friends just as you would for errands. Make it automatic with a weekly or monthly standing appointment. Or simply make sure that you never leave a get-together without setting the next date.
Mix business and pleasure. Figure out a way to combine your socializing with activities that you have to do anyway. These could include going to the gym, getting a pedicure, or shopping. Errands create an opportunity to spend time together while still being productive.
Group it. If you truly don't have time for multiple one-on-one sessions with friends, set up a group get-together. It's a good way to introduce your friends to each other. Of course, you'll need to consider if everyone's compatible first.
If you're afraid of rejection…
Making new friends means putting yourself out there, and that can be scary. It's especially intimidating if you're someone who's been betrayed, traumatized, or abused in the past, or someone with an insecure attachment bond. But by working with the right therapist, you can explore ways to build trust in existing and future friendships.
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For more general insecurities or a fear of rejection, it helps to evaluate your attitude. Do you feel as if any rejection will haunt you forever or prove that you're unlikeable or destined to be friendless? These fears get in the way of making satisfying connections and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody likes to be rejected, but there are healthy ways to handle it:
- Just because someone isn't interested in talking or hanging out doesn't automatically mean they're rejecting you as a person. They may be busy, distracted, or have other things going on.
- If someone does reject you, that doesn't mean that you're worthless or unlovable. Maybe they're having a bad day. Maybe they misread you or misinterpreted what you said. Or maybe they're just not a nice person!
- You're not going to like everyone you meet, and vice versa. Like dating, building a solid network of friends can be a numbers game. If you're in the habit of regularly exchanging a few words with strangers you meet, rejections are less likely to hurt. There's always the next person. Focus on the long-term goal of making quality connections, rather than getting hung up on the ones that didn't pan out.
- Keep rejection in perspective. It never feels good, but it's rarely as bad as you imagine. It's unlikely that others are sitting around talking about it. Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself credit for trying and see what you can learn from the experience.
For better friendships, be a better friend yourself
Making a new friend is just the beginning of the journey. Friendships take time to form and even more time to deepen, so you need to nurture that new connection.
Be the friend that you would like to have. Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time.
Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you.
Give your friend space. Don't be too clingy or needy. Everyone needs space to be alone or spend time with other people as well.
Don't set too many rules and expectations. Instead, allow your friendship to evolve naturally. You're both unique individuals so your friendship probably won't develop exactly as you expect.
Be forgiving. No one is perfect and every friend will make mistakes. No friendship develops smoothly so when there's a bump in the road, try to find a way to overcome the problem and move on. It will often deepen the bond between you.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Anne Artley, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
Copeland, M. E. (n.d.). Making and Keeping Friends—A Self-Help Guide (SMA-3716; p. 11). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Retrieved August 4, 2021, from https://www.vet2vetusa.org/Content/Files/Facilitators/MakingAndKeepingFriends.pdf
Is well-being associated with the quantity and quality of social interactions? – PsycNET. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2021, from https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpspp0000272
Hall, J. A. (2019). How many hours does it take to make a friend? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(4), 1278–1296. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407518761225(Video) A Very Personal and Honest Pregnancy Q&A | Plus a Biscuit Recipe
Chopik, W. J. (2017). Associations among relational values, support, health, and well-being across the adult lifespan. Personal Relationships, 24(2), 408–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12187
Last updated: October 7, 2022
And level-5 intimate friends casual friends may come and go and close friends may drift apart. But aWhat makes someone a good friend? ›
Good friends handle conflict respectfully and respect boundaries. Sometimes you and your friend might disagree on something. Sometimes you might have said or done something that upset your friend. A good friend will tell you if you've done something to hurt them.Why friends are important in our life? ›
Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also: Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.What do you call a person who is more than a friend? ›
Two phrases are used: cater-cousin. and. bosom-friend.How do you know when you're close with someone? ›
- You care about each other's needs and desires. ...
- You share openly. ...
- You don't just hear each other; you really listen. ...
- You know each other deeply. ...
- You're interested in each other's hobbies, even if you don't "get" it. ...
- It's all about the little details. ...
- It's a judgment-free zone.
- They live with integrity. ...
- You can trust them. ...
- “Dependability” is their middle name. ...
- They're loyal. ...
- They have empathy for others. ...
- They're good listeners. ...
- Their confidence is contagious. ...
- Spending time with them makes you feel good.
There are many characteristic of a good friend, but for me the most important is to be honest, responsible, and kind. first A good friend needs to be honest. Always tell me the true and not hide anything from me. For example, if she has a problem to tell me to try resolve it together.What are the 7 qualities of friendship? ›
- They laugh at each others jokes.
- There is no competition.
- They value honesty.
- They stick up for each other.
- They are invested.
- They normalize each other's experiences.
- They accept each other.
True friendships stand by you consistently both when you are present and when you are not. True friendships are full of support, and can offer a good laugh after a long day. They Answer You With Empathy, Perspective, And Honesty. True friends aren't phony with you. They show you who they really are.How can I have a strong friendship? ›
- Value yourself. Be confident and happy being you.
- Spend time with others. Accept them as they are, be open, value their feelings and opinions.
- Care about what others care about. ...
- Be there when your friend needs you. ...
- Be kind.
- Check in on your friends if you haven't heard from them in awhile.
- Let them know you're grateful for their lasting friendship.
- Be a good listener when they speak.
- Celebrate their achievements and be supportive during their failures.
- Be present when your friends need you the most.
No matter how long your friendships last, the most important thing is your friends' acceptance of you for who you are. A good friend walks the talk and shows that they care by their actions – big and small.Why are best friends so special 5 lines? ›
2) A best friend is always on your side, whether in happiness or sorrow. 3) You can always trust your best friend in any situation. 4) A best friend knows all your secrets but never reveals it to anyone. 5) A best friend is someone who always cares for you and never lets you down.Why are friends so special? ›
Friendships can enrich your life in many ways. Good friends teach you about yourself and challenge you to be better. They encourage you to keep going when times get tough and celebrate your successes with you.How do you know if he likes you more than a friend? ›
If he is showing that he is curious to get to know you and learn more about you, this might mean that he is interested in you more than just a friend. This isn't just about him asking questions, but more so about whether or not he is listening to the things you share with him and showing that he cares about your needs.How do you tell if a friend likes you more than a friend? ›
- 1) Read her body language. ...
- 2) She responds to your body language. ...
- 3) She's nervous around you for no reason. ...
- 4) She butters you up. ...
- 5) She showers you with flirtatious attention, then withdraws. ...
- 6) She's focused on you and touches you a lot.
This limited focus might be justified if friends first initiation was rare or undesirable, but our research reveals the opposite. To be exact, the researchers estimated that 68 percent of romantic relationships start from friendship.How do you tell if you are being used? ›
- The person asks you for money, favors, or other items. ...
- The person imposes on you without consideration for your availability or preferences. ...
- The person expects you to take care of their needs. ...
- The person appears disinterested in you after their needs have been met.
- He's no longer affectionate with you.
- He spends a lot of time alone or out of the house.
- He doesn't really engage in conversation with you anymore.
- He's become closed off.
- He no longer goes out of his way to care for your relationship.
- Identify what's changed.
- Feeling good. Good friends say nice things to each other. ...
- Supporting each other. ...
- Love the differences. ...
- Be a good listener. ...
- Be a trustworthy friend. ...
- Maintain respect and respectful boundaries. ...
- Give them your time. ...
- Reciprocal connection.
friendship, a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people. In all cultures, friendships are important relationships throughout a person's life span.How many close friends should you have? ›
While she and other friendship researchers admit there aren't many studies that have specifically tackled the question of how many friends people should aim for, those that have been done offer a range — and somewhere between three and six close friends may be the sweet spot.What do you need in a friendship? ›
Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time. Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you. Give your friend space.What do healthy friendships look like? ›
Healthy friendships and relationships also mean learning to respect and trust each other. People respect each other for who they are. People may disagree with each other. But with respect and trust, they can talk about how they feel and work things out.What is the core of friendship? ›
True friends always have caring and affection about one another. We share almost everything with our true friends, even those things too that we don't share with our father and mother. Having a true friendship not only makes one feel better, but also helps to keep proper happiness in one's life.What psychology says about true friendship? ›
Psychological facts about Friendship study says that the company of good friends reduces stress in life. 8. Friendship is good for your health. Believe it or not, people with larger networks of friends actually live longer!What are the 5 types of friendships? ›
- Close friends. Close friends are people you've known for many years who have been with you through ups and downs. ...
- Friends of convenience. ...
- Same-chapter-of-life friends.
To change that, she's since turned to psychological research to develop a process for sorting and actively engaging with friends, called the four levels of friendship: essential friends, collaborators, associates, and mentors and mentees.What are the 4 types of friendships? ›
What are the four types of friendships? Friendship is categorized into four types: acquaintance, friend, close friend and best friend. Over time, an increase in mutual respect and the degree of reciprocity builds up and strengthens friendship.What are the golden rules of friendship? ›
- Friends should be loyal both in good times and in bad.
- Friends respect the person and not the position or the title.
- Friends keep their words – do what you said you will do.
- Friends do not talk bad about friends – defend your friends in their absence.
People need at least a little human contact in order to thrive, and true isolation can take a toll on your overall well-being. If you're not totally isolated, though, and your lack of friends doesn't trouble you, it can be perfectly fine to be satisfied with your own company.How long does it take to develop a close friendship? ›
Combining the two studies, Hall found it took between 40 and 60 hours to move from an acquaintance to a casual friendship, from 80 to 100 hours to call someone a friend, and over 200 hours of togetherness before someone rated as a best friend.What healthy friendships look like? ›
Healthy friendships and relationships also mean learning to respect and trust each other. People respect each other for who they are. People may disagree with each other. But with respect and trust, they can talk about how they feel and work things out.How often should you hang out with your best friend? ›
"Bonds can be formed through a range of activities from team sports to male banter—or simply having a pint with your pals on a Friday night," Dunbar continued. "However, the key to maintaining strong friendships is to meet up twice a week and do stuff with the four people closest to you."What is true friendship? ›
A true friend is a friend when it is convenient and when it is not. True friendships stand by you consistently both when you are present and when you are not. True friendships are full of support, and can offer a good laugh after a long day. They Answer You With Empathy, Perspective, And Honesty.What is the core of friendship? ›
True friends always have caring and affection about one another. We share almost everything with our true friends, even those things too that we don't share with our father and mother. Having a true friendship not only makes one feel better, but also helps to keep proper happiness in one's life.What is intimate friendship? ›
Intimate friendships involve a deep familiarity between the two sides, including an awareness of the friend's feelings, preferences, and beliefs, as well as knowledge of details about their personal life.How long does the average friendship last? ›
Maintaining a lifelong friendship isn't easy. In fact, a 2009 Dutch study found that a large majority of friendships only last about seven years. Like any relationship, friendships take work if you want them to last.What do u do when u lose your best friend? ›
- Acknowledge your pain. First, know that your grief is normal. ...
- Practice self-care. ...
- Avoid rumination. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Talk to someone. ...
- Read about others in your situation. ...
- Try a new friend group. ...
- Examine what went wrong in the friendship.
Your friend is being more vulnerable than usual around you. The closeness that you two have has become deeper. If you both share deep secrets or things you're scared or hesitant to verbalize to others, the line between friendship and love is getting blurry.