Update: We’re signing off now, but you can always be our friends on the internet! Thanks for the questions! — @juliastmi and @GillianSocial

Julia: I'm a host and reporter for NPR who recently took 45 minutes to buy an ice cream cone because I was busy talking to the lady from the Mr. Softee truck (shout out to Leslie and her life advice!). Friendship is something I take really seriously, which is why I loved diving in to talk to a huge number of people about it for our recent Life Kit guides.

Gillian: I’m a social psychologist at the University of Essex, in the U.K. My research looks at the benefits of interacting with strangers and acquaintances (the starting points for friendship), and the barriers that hold us back from talking. My most recent research study used a scavenger hunt app to make it fun to talk to strangers, you can play too! I consider myself an introvert, but I’ve come to love talking to strangers. My favorite fact learned from a stranger: people can ride ostriches!

You can read more here: Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends (And Keep Them)

When Friendships Change, How To Cope

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How

Proof: https://i.redd.it/73oi89cncfo31.jpg

Comments: 35 • Responses: 13  • Date: 

blatant_spinach9 karma

  1. How is it possible for adults to make new friendships as a person who doesn‘t particularly like doing small talk? so to speak what‘s the secret „sauce“ on how to make friends :)
  2. What is the most important thing to do/consider in your experience to keep friendships alive despite work stress, family commitments etc., especially as people get older?
  3. As an Academic, you must have moved locations/coutries quite often. What was your experience in making new friends in totally new places? Was there a cultural influence that you observed?
  4. Gilian: What was it that you changed about making friends as a more introverted person?

npr8 karma

1. I don't think anyone particularly likes small talk! I see it as a means to an end - it's a way to start talking, so you can get to the good stuff. Research finds that people actually like talking about meaning things more than we think, so you could try experimenting with asking more probing questions more quickly. I think getting a conversation started is something that we can get better at, but I still fail regularly - after all, the other person has to cooperate, for it to work.

3. I have moved around a bit, though lots of people have moved more. I don't find it hard to talk to people and build a network of acquaintances, but finding those special people that I feel really close to, and safe with, is harder, and most of the people I'm closest to right now don't live in the same place, so I have lots of Skype chats across time zones. But in each new place, I meet people through my hobbies. I try to say yes as much as possible when people invite me to do things, and I also take the initiative to reach out to people, even if I've only met them once. Just as you don't find a favorite book or movie by reading only one book or watching only one movie, you might not meet your tribe by only hanging out with a few people. In one place, I unintentionally started a lunch group - I invited one person, and then when I wanted to get to know another person, it seemed to efficient to invite them to the same lunch. We got together again, and then they invited people, and soon we had a lively group that changed every week. My point is: you can also consider outsourcing invitations in this kind of snowball.

4. The way I remember it, one day, for reasons I'm not aware of, I talked to a stranger who had an amazing-looking cupcake. That conversation was fun, so I took the risk again with another stranger. I've now had so many fun conversations with strangers, that I'm a bit of an addict. Plus I research talking to strangers, so I'd better walk the walk, right? — Gillian

littlejilm5 karma

I'm a man in my mid-40s. I have a wife, 2 kids, and a job. I've tried to pick up a number hobbies but nothing has stuck due to my needing to prioritize my job and wanting to prioritize my family. Most of my older friendships have faded away and my current social circle is mostly the parents of my kid's friends. I don't drink and am fairly introverted. I can't for the life of me figure out how to make and maintain friendships at this point in my life. My wife seems to have no problem. Is this a male thing? I'm worried that one day I will look around and I won't be working, my kids will be gone, my wife will have full and fulfilling life and I will have nothing.

npr6 karma

Aw, Littlejilm my heart really goes out to you. In the episode that I reported about masculinity and friendship, one thing was abundantly clear and that is that you’re not alone. I would start with a two-pronged approach.

Step one: does it seem impossible to prioritize a hobby/activity once a week? I think if that seems within your reach, it seems really promising that you’ve already done it, so I feel like you can do it again and really say to your partner that finding consistency with that hobby is important to you. (You won’t develop friendships unless you try something consistency!)

Step two: The second thing I would recommend is sending a very simple text or email to one of your old friends who you have lost touch with. That relationship may feel miles away, but a simple text can go a long way. Here’s a little script you can follow if you’d like: “hey old friend, I was thinking of you and wondering how are things? Would love to catch up! Do you have a minute for a [phone call/walk in the woods/other fun activity] at some point in the next few weeks?”

There are some good pieces of advice in this episode we did on masculinity and friendship here, too, if you’d like to listen!

Also: just a gentle reminder to be kind to yourself because you’re doing your best. Your life certainly sounds full, and I bet it’s a little more fulfilling than it can seem when you’re in the fog of loneliness. Good luck and I’m rooting for you! — Julia

npr4 karma

Picking up on just one part of this, I would say that it's never too late to rekindle an old friendship. It doesn't take hours and hours of time to keep a relationship alive - maybe you have a few minutes (e.g., while commuting?) when you could have a quick check-in?

I remember being embarrassed when my Mom started telling everyone where I was going to university. I thought: why would they care? But then people would know someone who went there, or have useful tips. I've since found this over and over: you have more in common than you think, people are more helpful than you think, and they can help you more than you think. So, you might find that spending more time on friendships, and talking about your challenges at work, might just help at work too (or lead to a new opportunity, or...)

— Gillian

TheHumanRavioli5 karma


npr4 karma

Hi! This is a tough conundrum to manage, especially when you’re dealing with a disconnect between who you want to be and who you feel you are (introvert vs. extrovert.) One of the folks I really enjoyed learning about and whose book, Friendtimacy might be interesting to look at here is Shasta Nelson. She has a TED talk, too! Anyway, Shasta Nelson talks about the concept of a friendship triangle: at the base of that triangle is positivity, and then the two arms of the (equilateral) triangle are consistency and vulnerability. And in this model, vulnerability and consistency should sort of increase at the same pace. So basically, if you are consistently hanging out with a new friend, and you feel positive after you spend time with them, then it might be ok to be vulnerable about your struggles with depression. But I also think that a lot of people struggle with depression, and disclosing that in a way that feels comfortable to you is important. So listen to your intuition about it, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with people you trust. — Julia

npr2 karma

Friendship is like a dance of the seven veils - you reveal stuff, then they reveal stuff, and this mutual self-disclosure helps us grow closer. Unfortunately mental health is something that a lot of people still struggle to talk about. That doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about it, but it might mean that you talk about it a bit at a time, and build up intimacy before sharing the full extent of your experiences. Think about what you're comfortable talking about, and feel free to tell the other person what you're ok and not ok to talk about. Everyone's different, so you need to communicate your needs. And remember - LOTS of people struggle with mental illness, so chances are your new friend has had their own struggles. — Gillian

El_Bard04 karma

The older I get, the less I have tolerance for putting up with people's BS or 'nuances' to the point where I'd just rather be alone. What do you recommend to deal with that?

npr2 karma

I would say that the first order of business here is accepting that it’s okay to be alone! I think that there is a lot of societal pressure to be extroverted and constantly surrounded by people, and that pressure doesn’t work for everyone. I would check in on why and how the relationships you have are stressing you out. If the way somebody is acting is just BS to you, I think you should interrogate what about it is really bothering you — dig deep here — and be honest first with yourself and then with your friend about how you feel.

The second thing I would recommend is sitting down and seeing if your friendship is taking up your TME, which is a concept from Rachel Wilkerson Miller’s upcoming book, "The Art of Showing Up". TME is short for time, money and energy, which are three things of incredible value to you that you should be really smart about spending. If your friend is taking up an hour of your time and you’re not getting a word in edgewise, or if they keep flaking on you — realizing that your TME is being spent can help you evaluate what you’re getting from the relationship and address it as directly as possible. — Julia

leylaheyla3 karma

Where to meet new friends as adult?

npr5 karma

In my reporting for the friendship series, one piece of advice just kept coming through: find a hobby. It’s the kind of thing a lot of people would probably tell you if you said you wanted to meet new friends, too, right? The thing about this advice is that...it kind of works. If you take something that you love to do — badminton or fire swallowing or dominoes — there are other people who are into those things, too. So finding a thing that you like to do anyway is a really good place to start.

After you’ve decided on the thing it is that you want to do, make sure you give it enough time to become a little bit of a habit. If you go to the same class at the gym every week, or if you attend your local library’s book club every month, you will begin to see some familiar faces that can eventually turn into friendships. Sometimes, the showing up multiple times is the hardest part — so don’t be afraid to push through that. There are also a lot of apps that can help you meet new people! You can try Bumble BFF, or Meetup, or find a community online (hi Reddit!) that can serve as your starting point. — Julia

qoning3 karma

As a male, I find the concept of "friendship maintenance" very boring and wasteful. Yet, if I don't regularly keep in touch with friends, even if there is nothing new to talk about really, the friendships die off. How can I make friendship maintenance fun and worthwhile while doing it as little as possible so that the relationship lasts until there actually is new stuff to do or talk about?

This is easy if you're already forced to be with your friends (work, neighbors, school,..) but I live alone and my work doesn't involve spending much time with other people.

npr3 karma

That seems pretty normal - despite what people show us on social media, most of us don't have fun-filled adventures every day! Maybe you could consider inviting people along, when you're doing the things you're already doing. You don't have to always come up with something exciting to do - it's just about sharing an experience. I read a quote once that really struck me, about how we don't change much, except for the books we read (I read that as: the things we learn) and the people we meet. Maybe you're actually itching for more change yourself, and need to reflect on how you might do that? — Gillian

npr3 karma

Being bored in a relationship is something that happens a lot, I think, and it’s not often talked about so kudos to you for putting words on it! I love Gillian’s suggestion to create situations where you can have new experiences. Even if your friend isn’t in the same place as you, you can see the same movie or even read the same book so that you can have more to talk about. There’s an entire episode in our series about masculinity and friendship that you might want to check out, too! — Julia

Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How

SSJGodFloridaMan3 karma

Is it normal for the vast majority of social interactions to be anxiety inducing and exhausting?

npr4 karma

I mean...yes! I think we’re in a real moment where people perform a certain kind of ease that isn’t really true. You scroll through social media and it can seem like everybody’s just breezin’ through their life without a care in the world but I would venture to say (and my reporting confirms) that people feel a LOT of anxiety and exhaustion with their social interactions. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the social things you have in your life, my advice would be to really evaluate and interrogate where that feeling is coming from. Have you given yourself the time to recharge? Are you participating in social activities that nourish you? Is there a way to hang with your friend one-on-one instead of going to the big party, if that stresses you out? My advice is to really evaluate the specific things that stress you out and exhaust you, and to not be afraid to opt out or change the dynamic of your social life so that it feels less oppressive. One book that I think could be a good read for you is Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking! I know it has helped many of my friends who were struggling to put words on their similar feelings of exhaustion. — Julia

Chtorrr3 karma

What would you most like to tell us?

npr5 karma

Fun question!

  1. It can be fun to talk to strangers :) (even for introverts like me)
  2. It's not as hard as you think, though you may need to practice a bit to feel comfortable with it (e.g., play the free scavenger hunt game).
  3. People like you more than you think so you shouldn't worry so much about rejection. — Gillian

verbalpolaroids3 karma

Hi! The question of how to keep or maintain adult friendships is something I think about or struggle with a lot actually. How do you deal with accepting that some friendships end/run their course? And what is the best way to maintain friendships when people have busy schedules or different jobs, life paths etc.? I try my best to schedule regular meet ups with various groups of friends but people get busy and I haven’t been great about keeping in constant communication with people that I’m close to who move away. I also feel hesitant to reach out to friends to talk about problems, ask for advice, or share random things I’ve read because I’m afraid/assume they’re busy. How do you find a good rhythm in keeping thriving friendships?

npr6 karma

I moved to one city to complete my PhD, another country for a temporary post-doctoral position, and then another city for my current job, so I can relate to having trouble keeping in touch with people who are far away. (Time zones are a bitch!) A good friend of mine gave me a tip that works well for me: never end a catch-up without scheduling the next one. Sometimes you'll have to reschedule because the date will no longer work, but if you've got a date in the calendar, then you can at least try to protect it. — Gillian

npr4 karma

Thanks for this question! I’ve had some really close friendships come to an end and honestly I think about those friends pretty regularly, even years later. My friend Rachel Wilkerson Miller who I spoke to in my reporting has a really interesting perspective on how to evaluate friendships that I think would be helpful here. She talks about it in her book, The Art of Showing Up (preorder it here!). Basically, she says that relationships can weigh on your time, your money and your energy: TME. And so if you use these three concepts to evaluate the relationships that are important to you, it can be clarifying. Like, if a friendship requires you to be expending a lot of time and energy on it but that person isn’t really giving back in a way that nourishes you, it’s ok to let it go.

As for when folks move away, I have a lot of family that lives in Brazil so I have some experience with long distance friendships/relationships. I find that establishing some kind of regular check in — weekly, biweekly or even monthly — and sticking to it can take the pressure off both parties to keep maintaining the relationship. Also, give yourself permission to send a little silly emoji or a “hi, I’m thinking of you” text occasionally to keep in touch. It’s ok to be busy and to struggle finding the time. Releasing yourself from the pressure of having to send a BIG, meaningful email or text can be really helpful. — Julia