Friendship Experts Exist Because Adults Need Social Help, Too

It’s not just kids who need tips for making friends.

Maintaining, creating and/or ending friendships is often a complicated balancing act all through life, but even more so as adults when there is less time carved out for socialization. It becomes increasingly difficult when a person is moving to a new city, pursuing romantic relationships, starting a family, all while juggling their career and self-care.

Thankfully, friendship experts exist, and are here to help! Miriam Kirmayer is a Ph.D. candidate and therapist specializing in friendships, who caught up with Personal Space to go over some of the frequently asked friendship questions! 

Personal Space: What is the best way to make friends when moving to a new city solo?

Miriam Kirmayer: Accept that making friends can be a little awkward, will likely require you stepping outside of your comfort zone, and will undoubtedly take time and effort. Just like dating, making friends usually requires that you put yourself out there — both physically (by showing up to social events and activities) and emotionally (by accepting that you might feel uncomfortable or vulnerable). The good news is that this kind of openness really is the key to developing authentic connections. Pursue activities that you genuinely find interesting. Take that art class you’ve been thinking about, join a gym, or learn a new language just in time for an upcoming trip. Having something in common is often the starting point for a friendship and these kinds of social settings can make approaching someone much less intimidating. As much as possible, it also helps to say yes to social invitations. You never know who you will meet or who they can put you in touch with. Don’t forget about your existing social network. Even if you don’t know anyone in your new city, there’s a good chance you know someone who does. Reach out to friends, colleagues, and family members and let them know you’re hoping to make new friends. People are usually really excited about the possibility of setting you up and it can be great way to kickstart your new social group. Friendship apps (like Bumble BFF or Peanut for new moms) can also be hugely helpful, especially when you’ve moved cities and don’t know anyone.

PS: Are major political differences a deal breaker in friendships or should politics be kept separate?

MK: Just like politics are personal, so too is the decision to talk about your differing views. Some people have no trouble talking politics and even enjoy a little friendly debate. For others, these kinds of discussions are too contentious and can lead to more serious conflicts. Often, what matters more than the specific views friends hold, is that both people demonstrate a willingness to hear the other’s perspective and approach the discussion from a place of curiosity, as opposed to judgment. That it feels like an opportunity for connection rather than criticism. That said, the reality is that friends actually tend to be quite similar in their views and values and so major clashes are luckily not too common. If you do find yourselves clashing, it’s perfectly okay to set limits on the kinds of topics that you discuss. These kinds of boundaries can preserve the healthier and more satisfying aspects to your friendships.

PS: What is the proper etiquette on ending an adult friendship that is becoming a burden — Is there a breakup process?

MK: This is one of the questions I’m asked about most often and there really is no one right way to end a friendship. It largely depends on your own personality and way of resolving conflict, your friendship, and the motivation for the friendship breakup. Sometimes, it ends up being an outright discussion whereas others it’s more of a gradual distancing or unspoken thing. I would say a friendship breakup more likely to be abrupt and overt when there has been a serious betrayal. When the issue is that you are growing apart or just don’t have time to invest in your friendship any more, the ending usually happens more organically through a gradual distancing. In terms of general rules or guidelines, ghosting is particularly hurtful and damaging and should ideally be avoided. It’s also important to be sensitive to a friend’s feelings and requests. If they are looking for information about why you’ve been distant or what they could have done differently, being upfront is greatly appreciated.

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