As we get older, we sometimes lose that childish abandon that allows us to make friends with anyone. Fortunately, these clever psychological insights can help make new friendships readily achievable.
“My family are very special to me – I care for my husband and find it hard to make new friends”, one Starts At 60 reader recently revealed. “It’s just sad I do not have a special friend”.
Whilst another reader added, “I’ve never really had a friend, as such. My family have always been my priority. I have had colleagues when I worked and some good neighbours, but not a girlfriend”.
For psychologist Dr Elizabeth Lombardo, it’s not surprising that women over sixty sometimes struggle to make new friends. For many of us, families have long taken priority.
“Friendship often gets pushed to the bottom of priority lists”, Dr Lombardo says. “It’s kind of like exercise: ‘I’ll do it when I have time'”.
As we grow older, we sometimes forget how to develop and nurture new friendships. Often we are much more cautious about what other people think about us, compared with when we were young.
“When we get older, (making new friendships is) harder both internally and externally”, Dr Lombardo says. We can be apprehensive about letting new people into our lives, and less likely to meet them in fresh social settings.
“We’re simply not exposed to as many people”, Dr Lombardo adds. “It’s less expected that you’ll become friends”. Fortunately, there are some clever insights you can use to build new friendships:
1. Draw on your existing circles
Often people who are already in our life have great mutual friends we could integrate into our own circles. Plan a morning tea or coffee event (where there’s less pressure than a formal meal) and ask your existing friends to invite along ‘plus ones’.
Alternatively, visit your local RSL, volunteer with a charity organisation that interests you or join a local reading, knitting or sporting group. Having common interests with people gives you ground to develop a new friendship upon, without the pressure of discussing too many foreign topics.
2. Ask more questions
In the famous book How To Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie suggests the best way to bond with someone new is by asking plenty of questions. Resist the urge to talk about yourself, and instead ask more about others’ life experiences, families and backgrounds.
By taking an active interest in the lives of new people, they will naturally gravitate towards you. The conversation will eventually return to yourself, and people will ask about your own world. By that time, they’ll be subconsciously pleased you’ve taken an interest in them personally.
3. Don’t be disheartened
If your first few attempts at making friends aren’t productive, don’t be disheartened. It takes a number of group events before potential new friends can ‘peel off’ into a one-on-one social setting.
After a group morning tea, invite two or three newcomers around for a cup of coffee at your house. This will give new friends a chance to understand your home and habits, without too much pressure.