011: Creating Friendships as an Adult (and Maintaining Them During a Pandemic)

According to the Angus Reid Institute, only 14% of Canadians would describe their social lives as very good! And this was before the pandemic, so we can imagine the impact that has had. Loneliness is a widespread issue that we need to deal with, and this episode contains some great tips straight from our clinicians on making friends as an adult.

When liming beliefs get in the way of making friends

A limiting belief is a belief about yourself that you acquire early in your life. It leads to maladaptive patterns of behaviour that we here at Shift have made our mission to correct. 

Do you identify with any of these? If so, you’re not alone at all. These ones really get in the way when trying to build connections with others:

  • I am not good enough
  • I am not interesting
  • I am alone
  • I am going to be abandoned
  • I am going to be rejected

What can you do about these? Well, step one is identifying them in yourself; in fact that’s a major step. Next is to determine where those beliefs came from and reprocessing the memories associated with them. We can help with that.

Grey-colored glasses

When it comes to friendships, we often have on our “grey-colored glasses,” finding the worst possible explanation for things and looking at things from our perspective only. If they didn’t call you back, it doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you and don’t want to talk to you. Think about what some other reasons might be and what the other person might be going through. 

making friends as an adult

Communication is key. If something is bothering you, talk about it. You never know what is going through the other person’s mind, and it’s often not what you expect.

CONFIRMATION BIAS: The tendency to favor and recall information that supports one’s prior beliefs (whether or not those beliefs are factual). 

If you believe “I’m always the one initiating,” then your brain will search for (and certainly find) evidence to support that idea. You pay a lot more attention to when you ask someone else to do something, but when they ask you, you just glaze over it, because it doesn’t support the belief that “I’m always the one initiating.”

With all the “evidence,” the belief gets stronger and stronger, and interpersonal relationships get harder and more painful.

Other beliefs you might have include: “I’m not good enough,” “no one has time for me,” “I’m not interesting enough.” Again, your mind will find examples of when these beliefs were true and hang onto them, and conveniently discard any instances that do not support these beliefs. 

How often does this happen to you? Now that you’re aware of it, determine what one of your beliefs might be and try to find evidence in opposition to it. We need to prove those beliefs wrong.

Tips for making friends as an adult:

  1. Focus on your interestsFind things you are interested in, and then find people who are into the same things. Join and/or start groups that bring people with similar interests together. If you don’t know what piques your interest quite yet, try different things and see what you enjoy.
  2. Be open minded – Don’t close yourself off to opportunities. We all have preconceived ideas of what’s “lame,” but don’t knock it till you try it. Say yes, and see what happens.
  3. Manage your expectations – What are you expecting from your relationships and from your social interactions? Are these reasonable expectations? Are you being hard on yourself or others? Instead of expecting something, be in the moment and just have the experience.
  4. Be authentic – Your early adulthood is where you really grow into yourself, hopefully with less and less fear of what others think as the years go on. Be confident in yourself, who you are, your interests and your opinions. Be respectful of others.
  5. Know your boundaries – Every healthy relationship should have boundaries. Determine what your needs are and what you are and are not willing to do. It’s also important to communicate these needs and boundaries.
  6. Cozy up to conflict – Understand that moments of conflict are okay; don’t try to avoid them at all costs. They present a chance to better understand people and work through something together, which is ultimately good for the relationship and makes it stronger. Successfully working through conflict together requires openness and good communication.
  7. Be vulnerable – This is related to being authentic. Be yourself and not be afraid to share things that have been difficult for you in your life. Social relationships are reciprocal and flourish when there is an exchange. By doing this, you’ll provide space for the other person to feel safe and be vulnerable as well. This is a major factor in creating closer bonds.
  8. Acknowledge, understand and accept barriers – Recognize that there are times this isn’t going to be easy. But that’s not a bad thing; any good thing is worth the effort. Building relationships takes time and energy, and sometimes those things are limited. Sometimes there are physical barriers too.
  9. Reflect – Explore why you feel a certain way, what your expectations are, how you behave, etc. Are you ever disappointed? Why? What limiting beliefs are being activated? Once you understand these things, it becomes easier to manage your thoughts and emotions. Also, the better you understand yourself, the better you understand others.