Gaining friends as an adult is easy. Keeping them is the difficult part. The solution to social exclusion is a simple thing to decode … but it involves effort.
If you’re beyond the age of 28, ha ha, you have no friends.
Not a criticism, because me too. The problem, of course, is life. Meeting new friends in your thirties (and beyond) is not a difficult thing; keeping them certainly is. It is a lack of social stamina that kills. You see, turning up to things in your twenties was a given thing. You wanted to do things. Now, everyone understands, that the best plans are cancelled plans, and doing things, anything is a fucking trial.
Peep this everyday scenario.
You meet someone rad. You think maybe you could be friends. They’re also into meme socialism and David Lynch and Tiny Desk covers and indoor gardening but in an ironic-non-ironic way. This person seems cool. So, you make future plans. But, as future plans become the present, things change. Not with them, but with you. Maybe you were keen at 2:00 p.m., but not now. Maybe life was too hard. Maybe you got a better offer, maybe you just didn’t feel like being “on.”
So, “sorry, I can’t make it” apologies turn into “some other time,” which turns into no other time. So, maybe you meet again in a bar, the same bar, return each other’s nod, but instead of saying hello, you retreat to your phone and wonder what could have been.
I get it. Unless there is sex on the table, occasionally motivation is scarce.
So, what to do?
Show up for people who matter to you. Sometimes that means your physical presence; sometimes that just means your emotional support.
Well, according to the internet, one needs to picture it as reverse dating. Like a first date, but the complete opposite.
1) Don’t be chill when it comes to making friends. Be immediately too much. Tell those people you like or respect or value that they’re great and you want to hang out with them. If they signal that they’re not interested, that’s fine — but don’t miss the opportunity to get to know someone wonderful just because you don’t want to appear overly eager.
2) Be personal. Talk about your real problems, and ask people about theirs. Invite someone into your home instead of going to a bar or coffee shop. Give thoughtful gifts. A big part of friendship is understanding someone for who they are and having them understand you for who you are, and that’s not possible without some degree of vulnerability.
3) Get comfortable saying “no” to people you don’t want to prioritize. That sounds harsh, but in the end, it will save your time and effort and theirs. It’s not a kindness to “perform” friendship without genuine support and commitment, and both of you have limited time to spend. Instead of saying you’ll grab lunch and then cancelling yet again, you can just part ways and make friends who are better suited to each of you.
4) Remember to reciprocate. If your friend is always the initiator, invite them to do something with you. If you do have to cancel on someone — sometimes circumstances happen — you should be the one to make a plan for the future. And then make sure that it happens.
5) Show up for people who matter to you. Sometimes that means your physical presence; sometimes that just means your emotional support. There will always be reasons to not be there, but if you keep choosing other commitments over a friendship, that’s a signal to that person. Friendships aren’t static. They require work from both people.
The subtextual lesson here is to not flake, not dog, nor cancel. Make an effort, be a pal. It seems obvious, but maybe your mother was right.
There’s a twist on that thought, though. If you’re going to be a flake, it’s best you be an uber flake, so your habitual not turning up to things is even.
No one is being singled out, because everyone misses out equally.