Making friends in your twenties while out in the “real world” is hard. And it’s even harder now that we’re all mostly stuck inside.
Back in college, it was so easy. At my college, for the most part, students lived on campus (can anyone say captive audience?). You saw the same people at every event and eventually decided to be friends based on your common interests, which were easy to figure out because they were at the same events so CLEARLY they like the same things as you! Not only that, but oftentimes they stayed at the same school and in the same major, so you never had to go without them. If you drifted apart from your friends, you joined a new club or a new clique, no biggie.
Now that you’re out of college, you can’t exactly start conversations with “What’re you majoring in?” or “Are you rushing in the spring?” It’s a lot more difficult to find friends, and often coworkers want to keep professional relationships “at work.” I guess it’s not correct work etiquette to talk about inappropriate feelings for animated Disney characters in the work kitchen. Well, at least I now have some lovely, if not somewhat threatening, “friends” in HR!
Here are some of the methods and topics of conversation that I’ve found to be particularly successful when trying to make new friends!
Nothing makes faster friends than commiserating about the pain of existence. Life is pain, right? And being around other people only makes it worse. Be sure to complain loudly about how much you hate people in the middle of a crowded party and see who agrees with you. At this point in my life, the best connections I can make are with people who don’t recoil when I talk about how bad existence and humanity are. Give me that look that says “I know, right?!” and we are instant BFFs.
Obscure, but Real and Universal, Truths
If the “existential dread” route isn’t really for you and people aren’t responding to your “existence is pain” vibe, try keeping some lighter thoughts that people will agree with in your back pocket. One of my favorite tactics is saying something obscure that a lot of people agree with to automatically get people on my side:
“Curly fries are the best type of fry. And I will fight anyone who says otherwise.” (Just kidding, I’m 5ft, I’m not going to challenge anyone to a fight — all I can do is gnaw their ankles.)
“Wet socks are the worst.”
“Wearing pants is the worst.”
“People are the worst.”
(Mostly having people agree over mutual hatred. As Charlize Theron says in Million Ways to Die in the West, “There is something about connecting over mutual hatred that is just so much deeper than mutual love.”)
Make Yourself Stand out by Oversharing
I find that oversharing is a great way to make fast friends. There’s nothing like telling near strangers intimate details of your life and seeing how they react. I find that we can cut out a lot of that getting-to-know-you awkwardness if I can show my true colors and the other person can decide whether or not they like me right off the bat. People appreciate honesty, and there’s no better way to show them you’re honest than to tell them things that normal people would only say to a certified therapist!
One of my most recent challenges in making friends as an adult is finding the exact line where over-sharing goes from uncomfortably relatable (or is it relatably uncomfortable?) to unnecessarily creepy. I have to gauge how much I can tell any given person. Will this person cringe hearing my bathroom habits? What about my complicated relationships with my exes? Weird rashes? Creepy Russian doll collection? What’s off limits? What’s not? Only one way to find out…
So now you’re clicking. It’s clear that you have some traumas and mental illnesses in common. Fantastic. Why not take it to the next level? Why not invite them to vacation in Fiji with you over the holiday? What a great way to bond with your new friend. Make sure you let them know that you’re interested in developing this relationship by talking about what great friends you’ll be and making a lot of eye contact.
Next, nothing says “we’re pals” like using nicknames! Whether it be a shortened version of their name or something reminiscent of something funny that they did the night you met, nicknames can be a great way to show them that you already feel that the two of you are close. The more embarrassing the nickname, the better!
Seriously, let them know that you hate yourself as soon as possible. You’ve already talked at length about every traumatic experience in your life and how depressed you are, why not go all out and talk about how terrible you really think you are?
You don’t want to be too much of a bummer, so let them know that you can laugh about your anxiety and depression.
They always say that it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. I say that you should show them this right upfront. Everyone’s happy while they’re laughing, and if you set the precedent that you both can laugh at you, they’ll get the impression that being with you is always a riot! Enjoy being the butt of the joke, and try not to retreat to the bathroom to have a breakdown every time someone hits a nerve. Buck up, buddy, this is friendship!
When starting a new friendship, I find that it’s really helpful to show them that you’re supportive by supporting their ventures. Are they in a band? Go see them play! Do they have an artistic hobby? Buy their products! Do they have a blog? Subscribe! (I know that you’re thinking that I wrote this about supporting me, but that’s not it, I swear!). When you’re mentally unstable and unable to support anyone emotionally, the best thing that you can do for your friends is to throw your money and time at your friendships!
Sorry that I didn’t know what to say when your fish died so I disappeared for a few days, but I did just buy the newest jewelry in your Etsy shop and listened to your podcast. We cool?
Exactly like my previous guide to fancy holiday parties, this advice may sound sarcastic, but it actually is how I approach making new friends — whether I do it deliberately or if it’s just what comes out of my mouth at the time. I find that I personally connect best with those who also suffer from depression and anxiety, so I look for that common ground, even when talking to new people. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a guide that doesn’t involve mental illness, this one probably isn’t for you. Although, I may have tipped you off that you should avoid me, so at least that’s something!
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