How to make new friends Friendship is hard, but the best way to tackle it is to talk about it. In this episode, you'll learn from the experts about how to make new friends and deepen your existing relationships.

How to make friends? Accept the awkwardness

Lindsey Balbierz for NPR
An illustration shows how to make friends as an adult, including people going on walks together, playing sports, having deep conversations, walking dogs, hugging and sharing a beverage.
Lindsey Balbierz for NPR

Craving connection and friendship with other people is a fundamental part of being human. But what does being a friend mean in a world where hackers are trying to be your "friend" on Facebook?

This story comes from Life Kit, NPR's podcast for making life better — everything from finances to exercise to raising kids. For more, sign up for the newsletter.

The act of making and being a friend is as simple as it is difficult. We spoke with experts to help find ways to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have.

Here are a few of their insights:

Accept the awkwardness and assume that other people need new friends, too

"People assume that everybody already has their friends," says Heather Havrilesky, author of the advice column Ask Polly. "I got to tell you, nobody already has their friends."

Havrilesky says deciding to assume that other people also need friends is crucial to making said friends. And that puts you in a vulnerable position.

It's weird and uncomfortable to send the first text message or hang out one-on-one for the first time — you often feel exposed. You have to accept that awkwardness and the vulnerability it stems from, because guess what? You can't have friends without getting vulnerable.

Remember that people will like you more than you think they will

When you are moving through the world, don't forget that human connection is yours for the taking. It's science: Gillian Sandstrom, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, has done research on something called the "liking gap," which says that the little voice in your head telling you that somebody didn't like you very much is wrong, so don't listen to it.

"When you talk to someone else, you're actually going to brighten their day," Sandstrom says.

If you're up for it, Gillian and her colleagues have developed a scavenger hunt challenge to help you talk to strangers.

Invest in activities that you love

Ask anyone about how to make friends and they will most likely tell you to try a new hobby. It might sound hollow, says Havrilesky, but it works.

"Do the things you're passionate about and you will naturally draw people to you, and you'll naturally connect with other people because you'll be in the right place," she says.

Don't forget to start with something you are actually interested in, and if it doesn't work out, remind yourself that you contain multitudes! You don't have to be interested in just one thing.

It's OK to treat friendship as seriously as you would dating

Having friends is one of the most nourishing parts of being alive, so it's not weird or bad or wrong to prioritize it. Get comfortable putting yourself out there a little bit. Carve the time and space you need to find and nourish your friendships. It's what all the cool kids are doing.*

Be present

The planet is warming, our news alerts are constant, and there's so much good television out there to watch. We get it. But if you want to prioritize and nourish your friendships, you have to show up for them.

"Being a good friend is about noticing, processing, naming and then responding," says Rachel Wilkerson Miller, the author of The Art of Showing Up: How to be There For Yourself and Your People. She shares a few tips for being present and engaged with your friends:

    1. Listen and notice things about your friend.
    2. Take notes! It will help you remember your conversations and allow you points of connection later. 
    3. Remember the names of folks in your friends' lives. Another thing that can help: Ask to see a picture of the person they're talking about so it sticks better in your head.
    4. Think about a few things you'd like to talk about with your friend before you get together. Having a list can help your time feel more intentional.


*This author does NOT guarantee or endorse coolness as a concept and very likely has no idea what proverbial cool kids are up to.

Special thanks to Tom Pile and Running Dog Music for the song "Knocking Around."