How to Make Friends

how to make friends

This is a two-parter podcast and blog post about how to make friends.

We realise at Meg-John & Justin we often follow a similar structure whatever we’re talking about which goes something like this:

  • This stuff is really hard because wider culture gives us all the wrong messages about it and neoliberal capitalism likes us to individualise all our struggles and think there’s something wrong with us
  • So finding it super tough is 100% understandable and normal and don’t give yourself a hard time
  • Here’s how you might do this thing in a different way to normative culture which could work better
  • Here’s some things to watch out for
  • And by the way remember that it’s super hard and understandable that you don’t find it easy or get it ‘right’ all the time. Go gently with yourself

So this podcast goes something like…

Part 1

  • Making friends is really hard because there’s no script for it, representations of friendships make it look like it should be really easy, most of us have very little time to nurture friendships because of work (#capitalism), and we’re taught to prioritise other kinds of relationships (romantic and family)
  • So finding making friends super tough is 100% understandable and normal and don’t give yourself a hard time

Part 2

  • Here’s some ways we could make and develop friendships by tuning into what we’re looking for from friend relationships, and cultivating connections to intentionally and consensually develop them into friendships
  • And by the way remember that it’s super hard and understandable that you don’t find it easy or get it ‘right’ all the time. Go gently with yourself

How to Make Friends Part 1: why it’s tricky

In part 1 we reflected how young and old people are often expected to be able to be friends with everyone of the same age as them – we just put them together and expect them to get on. For adults there’s hardly any script for making and maintaining friendships. We’re meant to prioritise romantic and family relationships over friendships. There’s a sense that friendships should just happen and not require any work which is a problem because they’re not that easy for most people, and not that consensual if we just ‘do’ friendship without ever reflecting on it. There’s also ableism and neurotypical privilege involved in the expectation that everybody will find it easy to engage in social situations, automatically know how to develop friendships, etc.

Where wider culture does represent friendship it is in a very idealised way. TV shows from Friends to the Big Bang Theory are based on close, tight friendship groups where people have lots of fun and joy and hang out together. Movies often depict besties and buddies who have easy, close relationships. All this presents a model of what friendships should look like which doesn’t suit everyone (some people prefer multiple one to one friendships to a group, or non-hierarchical friendships, for example), and it continues to make it look like friendship is easy when actually it’s just as complex as any other kind of relationship – with the added challenge of there not being much of script of how to do it: making friends, maintaining friendships, and ending friendships.

Everything can be harder still when you have fewer friends to start with – for example if friendship is an area you find difficult, if you’ve just moved where you’re living or working, or if you’ve recently lost some friendships. When it feels like potential friendships are scarce, and/or when you feel low in confidence and scared of rejection, the whole area can become more loaded and fraught.

So how can we go about making friends in this tough territory?

How to make friends: Part 2, some ideas

For making friends – just like developing erotic and/or romantic relationships – a great approach is:

  1. Communicate with yourself about what you want
  2. Communicate with others on the basis of this to find the shared ground (e.g. to check in with existing friends, if you’re putting a ‘seeking friends’ profile on a dating or friend-finding app, or if you’re getting closer with somebody you’re connected to and sense it might be a burgeoning friendship)


Our Relationship User Guide Zine is a great place to start for figuring out how you want to do relationships of all kinds, including friendships. Things you might specifically think about in relation to friendship (first alone, and then with existing and potential friends, include):


  • What am I looking for from friendship (e.g. mutual support, doing activities together, fun, being part of each other’s team, helping each other develop and grow, etc.)
  • What can I offer to a friend in terms of time, energy, resources? What would I like from a friend in these areas? What are the limits on what I can offer?
  • What things do I really not want in a friendship? What are my boundaries? What would be a deal-breaker for me? 
  • What speed and intensity do I want at the start of a potential friendship?
  • How do I like/expect friendships to develop over time?
  • What do I want to commit to a friend, and have committed to me?
  • How much change and flexibility am I up for in a friendship (e.g. if one person moves, forms other close relationships, has family, etc.)
  • What areas of life do I want to share with friends, which are fine to be separate?
  • What kind of communication do I like to do – and not do – in friendships?
  • What about myself do I want to share with friends? What do I not want to share?
  • How do I like to navigate conflict in friendships when it happens?

It can also be great to chat with friends and potential friendships about your other friendships – past and present – which have worked well and less well for you, to get a sense of how you both like to do friendship.

In terms of finding friends there are a lot of different ways you could go about it, and different things suit different people. Here are some ideas:

  • Try to regularly attend events with like-minded people (social nights, workshops, conferences, meet-ups, etc.) Pay attention to who you connect with there and suggest meeting up one-to-one with people who you feel a click with. Cast your net wide. Some of those will be a one-off, others might develop into friendship
  • Use social media groups in a similar way to get to know people who are into similar things to you, moving to messaging one-to-one with people if you feel a click. With both of these it’s important to be consensual when suggesting one-to-one contact, e.g. ‘I really enjoyed talking with you about this. D’you fancy chatting one-to-one any time e.g. on skype/messenger? No worries at all if not.’
  • Use dating and friend-finder apps to look for friends in your area – this can mean online contact first which can feel safer
  • Get to know the friends of your existing friends if they’re up for social hangouts, and/or let friends know that you’d like more friends and encourage them to introduce you to people if they’re up for that.

Some things to watch out for with new friendships…

  • If you’re entering a new group of friends be careful that you’re not taking on implicit rules about how they do things which don’t feel like a good fit for you
  • It’s important to be mutual so make sure that you’re not imposing your way of doing friendship on another person, or having theirs imposed on you. For example it’s important to go at the slower person’s pace and to check any assumptions you might have about what being a friend means (e.g. not assuming that suddenly you get to call that person at 1 in the morning, or borrow things from them)
  • Are you being open with this new person and encouraging openness so that you can make informed choices about whether this friendship would work well for you both?
  • Do you feel safe around this person? If not then it’s worth slowing things right down and checking in with yourself more.
  • What patterns do you have in friendships that might not be so good for you? What would be the signs that these were playing out here to watch out for? Could your other friends support you in doing that?
  • Think about consent just as you would with any other relationship: What are the power differences between you? Might that impact one person’s capacity to say yes, no, or maybe to things, e.g. spending more money than they want to, physical touch, or teasing? If you have more power then what can you do to increase the other person’s capacity to feel free in the friendship and to express what they want and where their boundaries are

When you’re on a friend date it’s great to try to be present to them as they are rather than being too focused on what it might – or might not – become. There’s a balance to be struck between being real and showing yourself, and not overwhelming them – or you – by sharing too much too quickly. We’ll probably do a whole further podcast about that!

© Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, 2019