It’s hard to make new friends as an adult. We have some tips to get you started.

·7 min read

Making friends as an adult can be challenging.

It’s a bit harder than when we were kids and could plop down a cafeteria tray at school and chat with our classmates.

But it doesn’t have to feel impossible — it just takes a little extra effort, especially if you’re looking for friends outside of your workplace.

Ajay Mathew Rajamanohar, who moved from India to North Carolina in 2014, says he thinks people need to seek out opportunities to build relationships outside of work.

”People should be more than the 9-to-5 crowd,” he said. “A job is a job, but your life is a lot larger than what you do for a living.”

Rajamanohar initially moved from India to Charlotte, but relocated to Cary in 2017 to take a new job.

After a few months of traveling from Cary to Charlotte and back every weekend, he decided he needed to make friends in his new town. He joined a meetup group to play board games, but he didn’t feel like he was making any real friendships there.

He then sought out groups to find people who cared about the same things he did: his LGBTQ+ identity and his passion for growing orchids. Rajamanohar is now an active member of the Triangle LGBTQ Group and the Triangle Orchid Society.

“It takes time to establish connections, but you have to be yourself. Your real, authentic self,” Rajamanohar. Otherwise, he said, you won’t find your crew.

“That’s what’s really going to help you integrate into community,” he said.

Here are some tips for making friends in a new area:

Seek out groups around a shared interest

Do you love slacklining? Listening to opera? Baking scones? Stargazing?

There’s probably a group of people who already gather and do that stuff. Here’s how you can find them:

• Use social networking apps like NextDoor or Facebook: There are likely already tons of groups and organizations in your own neighborhood, and many of them probably have some kind of social media connection. Use these apps to see what’s nearby and if your neighbors are involved.

• Contact similar organizations: Are you struggling to find a club specifically for red wine lovers, but you know there’s a wine-tasting club? Call up the similar club and see if they know anyone who’s a part of what you’re looking to find.

“The Triangle is full of surprises,” Rajamanohar said. “There’s so much here, but you do have to search.”

• If all else fails, ask around: When you’re grabbing your mid-morning cappuccino or buying your weekly produce at the farmer’s market, strike up conversations. You may meet people who have been in the area much longer than you have, and someone’s brother’s friend’s colleague might be a part of the club you’re itching to learn more about. Just ask!

That’s how Neal Goodwin, owner of NCG Real Estate, found his group when he moved to Raleigh from San Francisco a few years ago. Goodwin wanted to join a local LGBTQ+ advocacy group and learned about Sage Central North Carolina through mutual friends and some internet searches.

“I had no idea what to expect, and I went there and felt a little nervous about it, but it was so warm and welcoming,” Goodwin said.

“As people move here, I want them to feel like Raleigh has a warm fuzzy feeling about it, and there are people out there you can make friends with.”

Shona Wynn, middle, and Adrian L’esperance, right, prepare breakfast for shelter residents at the Urban Ministries of Durham on Thursday morning, March 19, 2020. Volunteering is a great way to make new friends when you move to a new town.
Shona Wynn, middle, and Adrian L’esperance, right, prepare breakfast for shelter residents at the Urban Ministries of Durham on Thursday morning, March 19, 2020. Volunteering is a great way to make new friends when you move to a new town.

Make friends through volunteer work

There’s an abundance of volunteer opportunities anywhere you live in North Carolina.

Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people who share similar interests, and choosing where you want to volunteer — at an animal shelter, a music organization or a community garden — can help make that possible.

Here are a few starting points:

Join a local sports teams

Did you know that lots of towns in our area have adult sports leagues? Here are a few.

Local clubs, workplaces and houses of worship sometimes have sports leagues, too. So if your sport of choice isn’t offered by your town, there’s probably another way to play.

Make sure everyone’s included

Socializing comes easy to some, but not to all. And attending a gathering with new people for the first time can be a huge first step.

If you’re at a gathering and notice someone who is sitting alone, be sure to spend a little bit of time with them to help them feel more comfortable. And who knows, that might be how you meet your new best friend.

Philip Woodward, systems change manager for the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, encourages those seeking friends – and those in any social situation – to be sure they’re being inclusive of everyone in attendance and that nobody feels isolated or lonely.

“One thing you should do is make a conscious effort to get to know everyone and find opportunities for everyone to share their gifts,” Woodward said.

Here are some tips to make sure everyone’s included in group hangouts:

  • Make sure the meeting space is accessible: This can include rearranging furniture so those who use wheelchairs can get to tables and move around. “Making an accommodation doesn’t have to be something drastic, and there are lots of accommodations that don’t cost extra money at all,” Woodward said.

  • Embrace virtual gatherings: Now that video calls are a part of everyday life, you can take advantage of technological tools to meet new people. Make sure accessibility services, like captions and language interpreters, are available for those who need them, Woodward said. At-home scavenger hunts and Zoom games can make online parties fun. “Once you get to know someone and what their needs are, you make that accommodation so they won’t be left out,” he said.

  • Recognize that connections take many forms: Take an extra moment to think through different ways to connect with someone, and you may open yourself up to getting to know even more new friends. “I’m a very social person, but I’m hard of hearing, so sometimes people feel like they can’t talk to me unless they know American Sign Language,” Woodward said. “But we can text, or we can use an app on my phone that turns speech to text so I can read it.”

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