Welcome back to another exciting edition of “Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything,” the internet advice column that puts “advice” in heavy quotation marks. Today we’re tackling what is probably our most relatable topic ever. So relatable, in fact, that we basically got the same question from two different readers! What problem is so vexing Pajibans?
Friends, and how to get ‘em.
(Reminder: Send your questions to [email protected] and we just may answer you in a future column! Think of this like a symbiotic relationship. Like Venom. Your problems are the black goo we wear like a fancy spandex suit and run around in. I, uh, maybe don’t understand symbiosis…)
Let’s start by taking a look at this week’s questions:
This isn’t earth-shattering or anything. But, how do you make new friends as a grown-up? I’m married, we’re in our mid-thirties and introverts. My husband and I have decided not to have children. As our couple friends have had kids, those friendships seem to be winding down, which is totally understandable - they are busy raising tiny humans and it is probably much easier for them to spend time with other grown ups who are doing the same thing. We love our life together, but we are terrible at meeting new friends - both individually and as a couple. Neither of us want to be part of a group that hangs out all of the time. We’re more like - “let’s hang out once a month - twice a month at most!” It also takes both of us a while to not be awkward around strangers. Any advice?
Married with a dog.
Longtime listener, first-time caller here. I’ve had this question rattling around in my head for some time, but haven’t sent it out because I figured you had more important stuff to deal with. But then I saw the Priyanka Chopra question and…yeah. I can’t go any lower than that.
So my question is, how on earth does an adult make new friends!?! I don’t really have much in the way of close friends from when I was in university or high school, due to a combination of being introverted and having a fear of failing, but now that I find myself in the working world, I’ve realized it’s even more difficult to find strangers with common interests outside the internet (at least in school, you had the common foundation of school to build off of). My work colleagues are fine, but any time spent with them leads to the conversation invariably bending back to work, and I’m already at work most of the week, I’d rather not think more about it when I’m not at work.
I don’t want to be That Guy, so I’m wary of approaching strangers even at mixers or similar events, and the combination of all that basically means the only new friends I’ve made since graduating have been online. Which is great and I love it, but I do wish I had some offline friends to balance it out, people I could go grab a drink with, or who would invite me if they were having a bbq or something like that. How does one make friends like that in the working world, or am I doomed?
Witty Pen Name Here
First off, I want to thank you both for coming to us with this issue. Because I think it means that you assume we don’t have problems making friends, which is so nice! We definitely are all just rolling in friends here. Yup. We’re friendly as fuck, and I can guarantee that one Overlord definitely didn’t read the first question and think they’d gotten drunk and emailed it in themselves. So uh… yeah. You’ve come to the right place!
All jokes aside, this is a topic that the Overlords had a lot of thoughts on, because I think it’s something that we all face at some point in our lives. Our younger years are spent learning social skills, and thus building a network of friends. But life takes us all in different directions, and before you know it your “friends” may be people who have become almost strangers to you. Add to that the time-consuming nature of adulthood, with jobs and marriages and housework and maybe kids to care for, and it’s no surprise that we have less time to invest in maintaining the friendships we have — let alone finding new ones.
So we put our heads together, and came up with some ideas that we think might help:
- The first most obvious solution is that you two need to become friends. So, Witty Pen Name Here, let me introduce you to Married With A Dog! Married With A Dog, this is Witty Pen Name Here. You both need friends, and you both have reading and writing into Pajiba in common. I feel like this could be the start of something beautiful!
- Regarding the issue of friends who have kids now: don’t discount those friendships just yet! Yes, the dynamic may change, and the friendship may wind down a bit. But it may simply mean that you need to invest yourself a little more in those friendships. In my experience, my friends who have kids may not have as much time to meet me at the bar anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good for them. They actually NEED to blow off some steam sometimes — and that’s where maybe you can be more proactive in making them take some time for themselves (with you). They need social time with other adults, but they may not be thinking of that or know how to ask for it. So do it for them.
- In fact, maybe it’s time to think back on people you’ve lost touch with and try to reconnect. Look, some friendships fall by the wayside because they just aren’t that important to us. But other friendships take a backseat because they’re so solid they CAN be neglected. And when you talk again, it’s like nothing has ever changed! If you have any of those people in your life, give them a call and see how they’re doing. One thing my college friends and I do is try and plan a reunion hang each year. We save up money, and pick a location on one coast or the other, and we get together for a long weekend. It may not scratch the monthly BBQ itch, but it’s a start!
- And if you have existing friends or spouses who are really sociable — USE THEM. Make them do the legwork for you! Follow them into new situations, and wait for them to meet people. Then you just have to sit there and join in the conversation!
- But on to the whole “new friends” thing. Work friends are tricky, because as Witty noted it’s very easy to just focus on the one thing you have in common (the job) and only talk about that. But I think that sometimes that’s just a way to get the ball rolling. Besides, we all need an outlet to blow off steam about work, and over time you may find other interests in common. Same goes if you’re a parent who only seems to interact with other parents, because it’s all at birthday parties for your kids! Also, your work friends and parent friends may introduce you to THEIR network of friends, whom you may also hit it off with. Think of them as gateway friends!
- The trick to meeting strangers is to be open to it. And part of being open to it is finding ways to MAKE yourself open. Basically, go do stuff! Find activities in your area that match your interests, and go. That way you’ll be sure to have at least one thing in common with everyone you meet there! Meetup.com is one easy tool to see what’s happening near you, but be forewarned: sometimes shit can get a little weird, as one Overlord discovered recently…
You can also start your own Meetup, around something that interests you, and see who shows up! One of the things this topic brings up is a tangential problem with adulthood, which is having hobbies and interests in the first place. Maybe this is an excuse to reinvest yourself in your own interests first, and making time to explore them — and then meeting people will happen organically!
- But Meetup.com isn’t the only tool available. Keep an eye on the newspaper, or flyers in the coffeeshop. Maybe a local bar has trivia nights, or there are readings at a bookshop, or a podcast you like is recording near you. Hell, just go to the same bar every night until you’re a regular and everyone knows your name! Or find ways to volunteer in your community. It takes effort, but once you set your mind to it you’ll see that there are lots of things going on that you can take part in. And once you’re there, you just have to talk to people.
- But look, talking to strangers is HARD. I get it. And honestly, meeting new people isn’t the same as meeting new people you actually might like. I think that being social is a skill that needs to be trained just like a muscle. It takes practice, and practicing on people you don’t really like may help you when you find someone you think actually could become a potential friend. It may seem creepy walking up to strangers and striking up a conversation, so maybe start by focusing on not shutting down the people who try and strike up a conversation with you. If it gets too weird, just walk away, but until then keep an open mind, be receptive, and try to keep the conversation flowing once someone else starts it. Hell, sometimes I practice with cashiers! They’re happy that someone is being nice to them, and I know they’re stuck behind a counter and can’t follow me to my car. It’s perfect.
- So what do you do when you do find a person you think might make a good friend? Step the fuck up! Ask for an email address, invite them to coffee or to some kind of hang. Find an excuse to keep the conversation going offline. You may need to be the pursuer, but if the person is worth it, put in the effort. I feel like “effort” is the key word for this whole topic.
- One thing that should be said is that online friends are legit. They may not invite you to BBQs, but I’ve seen people get their social itch scratched by doing Destiny raids with XBox strangers and it works. It’s a safe way to have some kind of regular human interaction. Just don’t tell them your name or where you live, because they also might be crazy.
- One piece of advice an Overlord received when she did a work exchange program was to say yes to anything and everything. And it worked! Sure, you may not feel like tagging along to a concert for a band you hate. You may not even like the person that invited you! But again, sometimes you have to open yourself up, and along the way you might meet a person that you do like, just because you took a chance. And if nothing else, forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone is good practice.
- And finally, just remember: they can’t run away from you if they’re stuck in a bear trap. So maybe try using bear traps to make friends! Just pretend you didn’t set it yourself, and they’ll be so thankful you came along to free them that they’ll surely buy you a drink. You know, once their massive leg wound has healed.
That’s all for this week! May you all go forth and find joy in the friendship of others. Just leave me out of it. I need my alone time.