I’ll say it. Making friends can be incredibly daunting, no matter what age you are. But the older we get, the more difficult it becomes. And now we have the added barrier of social distancing. This is where Dr. Miriam Kirmayer comes in. Dr. Kirmayer is a clinical psychologist, writer, speaker, and relationship expert located in Montreal who has spent the past decade researching the science of connection and friendship. Here are some of her tips for making and keeping friends for the long haul!
First and foremost, you are not the only one.
Dr. Kirmayer emphasized that it is super common to experience difficulty making friends. It’s something that we are all either currently dealing with or have dealt with in the past. We just aren’t open about it, which brings me to my next point.
We need to talk about it.
You may be thinking it was way easier to make friends as a kid. And that’s in part because the people around you were talking about it. Growing up, parents and teachers were constantly discussing our development and the now-intimidating process of building relationships. “The more we can recognize that talking about this not only helps us to reduce the individual shame that we might be experiencing, but also actually provides the pathway to closer friendships, ultimately will really help us to build and sustain our connection,” said Dr. Kirmayer.
Get set up!
Dr. Kiramyer says the first step in making a new friend is to decipher where you might actually meet them. This is where your existing social network comes into play — whether it be a friend, co-worker, or distant relative. Dr. Kirmayer says to think about “who are the valuable people in my social network … that can perhaps connect me with other people I might not know?” We already have blind romantic dates, so why not a blind friendship ones?
Deepen your casual connections.
We all have workplace acquaintances that we know deep down could be something more. Dr. Kirmayer suggests taking the leap to growing those relationships. Find a common denominator you can bond over, like a shared hobby or interest! You don’t have to talk about work. “Making an effort to gradually open up about different parts of your life, that can help to deepen that sense of connection,” said Kirmayer. Talk about your life, what you like to do in your free time, etc. Perhaps set up a Zoom coffee chat with your fave colleague or schedule a hangout with the neighbor you always joke with in the hallway. (All socially distanced of course!)
Use friendship apps. Seriously!
You already use Tinder, what’s one more app? With social-distancing and stay-at-home orders, apps are a great way to meet people. Dr. Kirmayer recommends Bumble BFF, VINA, and Peanut (specifically for new moms). There are also apps and sites where you can connect with people who share a similar hobby. Dr. Kirmayer notes her clients have seen a lot of success with Meet Up, where you can post events for people to join. Apps are a great alternative to meeting in person and more convenient since you can do it all from the comfort of your own home!
Remind yourself why you’re doing it.
Now I know you’re thinking … this all sounds so awkward. And as a member of Gen Z, I am all too familiar with the anxiety that comes with approaching new people. Dr. Kirmayer wants us to normalize the anxiety and awkwardness — it’s part of the process. Just keep your eye on the prize: a new friend! We need to “remind ourselves that this is uncomfortable. This makes me feel nervous. It makes me feel insecure. And I’m still choosing to do this for me.”
Quality not quantity.
Working to build a relationship with someone you really connect with will be the best case scenario in the long run. To be honest, it’s exhausting to commit yourself to hanging out with a million different people. So focus on the people you truly want to build deeper relationships with. As Dr. Kirmayer noted, we are all too busy to be giving our whole selves to every single connection or relationship, which brings me to my final point.
Know when to let go, or at least kind of let go.
We aren’t meant to hold on to every single connection we make. Dr. Kirmayer notes it is important to deepen meaningful relationships, but it’s also okay to drift from some people. Whether we’re moving, growing up, or changing, sometimes we lose certain connections — and that is okay! “The more we can do to normalize and allow for that kind of change, the better able we are to shift our attention to the relationships and friendships that we really need and value.”
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Kirmayer’s friendship research, click here.