When we were young we made friends based on proximity. The kids we were required to spend 8 hours a day with. They were the ones we had to share our toys with and play on the playground with.
As an adult, we also make friends because of proximity. This is why we often end up with work friends, neighbor friends or people-whose-kids-are-friends-with-your-kids friends.
But those adult friendships aren’t always easy to maintain or grow to be more than just surface level. I had a realization the other day. A few of my childhood friends have very different values than I do. But that’s because as a kid you don’t need to have the same values, heck you aren’t even sure what you value yet! But as an adult I can choose to spend more time with people who share my values and less time with those who don’t.
Here are my tips in choosing and nurturing your adult friendships. (Please note that I’m far from an expert! Like many of us I often fall back into my comfort zone at home on the couch and don’t put the effort into maintaining friendships.)
I find myself starting stories about my workday off with, “my friend,” and then stopping myself and saying, “well not really my friend, my coworker.” Maybe it seems unnecessary to specify if someone is a friend or coworker, but it helps me to remind myself that I don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Just as I stated previously, we can be more selective with the people we call friends.
How do you know if your values align? Well, you have to talk to people! Ask your coworker what they did last weekend. Share with them what you did. Sometimes it feels awkward to try and be friendly with someone who isn’t a friend yet, but that’s how it works.
So you’ve talked with some people close in proximity to you and you’ve found a few you really like, but how do you grow that friendship? By reaching out! Friend them on social media and you’ll get to know them a lot better! Then ask them to hang out, don’t wait for the next child’s birthday party or work happy hour.
Maintaining Adult Friendships
In my younger years, I was incredibly self centered. I had a really hard time caring about other people’s lives. But how was I to expect them to listen intently to my stories about my sister or my job search if I didn’t give equal attention to their stories about their cat and their dating life? It’s okay if you and your friend are at different stages of life. I have kids, my closest friends do not.
You can share the same values without sharing the same interests. I value inclusivity, kindness and social justice. So do my friends. We care deeply about our community. I don’t have a dog and I don’t want a dog. But if my friend loves their dog, you better believe I’m going to ask how their dog is doing! I used to put very little energy into caring about I couldn’t personally relate to. But now I see that there is joy in sharing in other people’s joy.
Even if my friends could never see themselves changing poopy diapers or playing make believe, they share in my joy. They let me vent about the tough stuff. They hope with me when I have hopes.
And I hope I do those things for them, too. At least I’m going to keep trying. It does take a lot of effort sometimes to maintain adult friendships. Unlike in college, my friends don’t live across the hall. I’m never going to run into them on my way to class. We don’t have the luxury of close proximity. But if you start to reach out a little more and put in that effort, I think you’ll find that friends are worth the effort.