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How to make new friends without giving yourself the ick

smiling female friends applying lipstick while reflecting in mirror at home
The cringe-free guide to making new friendsKlaus Vedfelt

Admitting you want to make new friends when you're over the age of 10 can (unfairly) sometimes feel, well, just a bit icky – and reaching out to potential pals can be a challenge too. Whether you’re feeling a tad rusty, awkward or embarrassed about the whole thing, we’re here to help (and remind you that there ought to be no shame in seeking human connection, be it platonic or romantic!).

Although some of us may associate making friends with school playgrounds, as relationship expert and coach Anna Williamson points out, it’s natural to find new friends throughout the various stages of our lives - and sometimes we can find ourselves wanting to expand our social circle as we enter a new phase.

In fact, new research from Snapchat shows more than half of young women are prioritising friendship over romance in 2024, with 31% of the 18-24-year-olds surveyed saying making new friends is one of their top priorities this year - so when better to find your next BFF than now?

Maybe you’ve moved recently or become a parent for the first time. Maybe you just fancy seeing who else is out there in the world. Whatever your reasoning, our pals offer us support, love, and laughter, as Williamson tells Cosmopolitan, and there's so much to be gained from these relationships.

Ready to get out there? Great, us too! Here's how to make new friends as an adult – without giving yourself the ick in the process.

Get out of your head

Unfortunately, yes, it's possible to give yourself the ick before you even talk to your potential friend.

'What if they’re really busy? What if they don’t want any more friends? What if they think I'm hitting on them?' are just a few of the thoughts that might cross your mind when approaching a stranger, along with, 'What if they don’t like me?' But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Williamson.

"We need to be careful we don’t catastrophise, project and overthink. It serves no good, catastrophising about the what ifs."

Instead, she recommends being intentional about what you want, why you want it and how you want to go about it.

If you need a confidence boost, "Ask yourself, 'What makes me a great friend?' and really answer that to yourself. You go, 'Because I'm loyal, I'm chatty, I'm interesting, I'm funny'," says Williamson. Need to hammer it home a little harder? Write your plus points down in a notepad or on your phone’s Notes, seeing it in front of you can offer that extra reassurance and solidify that self-love.

Be natural

This tip applies once you've identified someone you'd like to be friends with and you're both in the same room (maybe you attend a class together or perhaps you frequent the same coffee shop). When you go to make your move "be natural", says the expert.

"Use whatever you like about that person as a conversation starter (maybe you've connected over a mutual interest or love what they're wearing) and then you can ascertain whether there is rapport," Williamson explains.

Get plans in the diary

Once you've found a connection, don't be afraid to make your next step. "Be bold in saying, 'Do you fancy nipping out for coffee after this class?’ offering to take that interaction to the next stage, which is perhaps outside of the activity you’re doing," Williamson advises.

"You're putting it out there but you’re doing it subtly. I think by doing it subtly you will find you have a much more authentic and organic friendship that will start to blossom."

Social media is your friend(ship finding tool)

If you’ve yet to find a kindred spirit in your local coffee shop or spin studio, don’t give up hope. You might find your next friend through your phone, via social media or a dedicated friend-finding app. Bumble BFF could be an option, for instance, says Williamson, as is finding communities of others who share your interests or life experiences.

For instance, why not comment under your favourite band's latest IG post and ask if there are any other fans in your area going to their next gig? Or try joining a local community group on Facebook and posting that you’ve just moved to the area and would love to meet fellow new mums for a walk in the park. You’ll be surprised by how many others might respond and are in the same boat.

We've also rounded up some other great apps for making mates here. Just be sure to be as safe as you can when meeting strangers you’ve met on the internet: tell someone when you are heading, meet in a public place and ideally during daylight hours.

Don't take a 'no' to heart

a young couple sitting in front of a large window in a quirky cafe
Tom Werner

Once you've reached out to someone (online or IRL), what happens next is out of your control. But, if you're feeling a little apprehensive, you might benefit from trying to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re reaching out to.

"How would you feel?" Williamson questions. "Would you go, 'Oh what a saddo, I can’t believe they asked me that,' or would you go, 'That was really sweet'?"

Of course, it’s possible you’ll be met with a, 'No, thanks.' But try not to take it personally, Williamson advises. If it so happens that they say something worse, well that's not the type of person you want to be friends with anyway. But there’s every chance it will go well. Plus, the more you put yourself out there, the less scary it all seems (think of it like a muscle that you’re building – the more you use it, the stronger it gets).

Don't worry about giving someone else the ick

Now we've covered how not to give yourself the ick, are you likely to give your friend-to-be the ick? Urm, possibly. But remember you’re paying them a compliment, says Williamson, and "the flattery should far outweigh any ick".

Remind yourself lots of people are looking for new friends

If, by the end of this article, you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed, do remember lots of people are probably feeling the exact same way as you right now. One million people aged 16 to 29 experience ‘chronic loneliness’ (meaning they feel lonely "often or always") according to the Office for National Statistics, and a poll of 1,500 Cosmopolitan UK readers found that 96% of you have dealt with loneliness.

Take heart in knowing there are friendships out there just waiting to be found, with people you might not even know you need in your life yet. But as your life changes, so too will your friendship needs ("friendships are like seasons," according to Williamson). Don't be scared to embrace that.

Happy friendship finding!

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