If you feel like you’re the only one struggling to make close friends, you’re not alone. In fact, loneliness has hit epidemic levels in the U.S., now affecting over 60% of adults. Young people are twice as likely to report feeling lonely than older adults. Friends are important for anyone hoping to have a happy and fulfilling life, and close friendships play an especially big role in that equation.
Developing close friendships takes time and effort, and not everyone you pursue will become your BFF overnight. Still, the more of an effort you make to connect with a variety of people, the more likely it is you’ll develop at least a few close, strong friendships. This guide will show you how.
- How do people make close friends?
- What to look for in a close friend
- 10 ways to make close friends
- Evaluating potential friendships
- Common questions
On average, most Americans have three or fewer close friends, and about 12% of people report having no close friends at all. Most people form close relationships with the people they spend the most time around. That’s why friendships tend to naturally develop in high schools, colleges, workplaces, and between people who live in the same neighborhood.
Still, not everyone who you see regularly will become a lifelong friend. In order for a friendship to form, there has to be a certain degree of similarity between two people. Being about the same age, having a similar lifestyle, or having common interests or hobbies are some examples of commonalities that can be a foundation for friendship.
Friendships also require mutual interest and reciprocal effort. Without reciprocity, friendships can become one-sided or unhealthy. When both people put the time and effort into becoming friends, the next steps to becoming closer involve quality time together, opening up, and giving and receiving support.
Friends come in many shapes and sizes. It’s normal to make different types of friends that you can rely on for different kinds of companionship or support. For example, if you make ten new friends, it’s possible that only one or two will rise to the status of best friend.
It’s healthy to have a set of standards to determine who qualifies as a really close friend or as a best friend. While the particular standards will vary a little from person to person, there are some hallmark traits that any good friend should have. In addition to having some things in common, the traits to look for in a close friend include:
- Loyalty: They’re dependable and loyal; they will be there when you need them
- Kindness: They’re kind, and they treat you with respect and compassion
- Trustworthiness: You know you can rely on them to follow through and be consistent
- Support: They’re there to listen and provide help or support when you need them
- Empathy: They take time to understand you, your feelings, and experiences
- Honesty: They’re open, honest, real, and communicate in a clear way
- Enjoyable: They’re enjoyable and fun to be around and spend time with
Even after you find someone who has the traits and qualities of a good friend, building a stronger bond requires effort.
Below are 10 secrets to creating opportunities for close, lasting friendships.
1. Get out and meet new people in your community
For many, the hardest part of making friends is the push it takes to get out, meet and approach new people. Getting involved in clubs, activities, or events in your community is usually a great way to begin meeting new people and developing a pool of potential friends. Unless you have an existing social circle, it won’t be possible to make close friends if you skip this step.
Often, there will be at least a few options for recreational sports, meetups, classes, or social activities that align with your interests. If you have a hobby, sport, or activity you love doing, do an online search or look for event calendars in your community.
Also, don’t make the mistake of attending events, sitting in the back, and not talking to anyone! Make the most of your outings by starting up a friendly conversation with at least one or two people at each event you attend.
2. Download a friend app to meet people
The nice thing about using friend apps or websites is that you don’t have to stress or worry about whether or not the people you meet are interested in making new friends. This helps to relieve some of the uncertainty that comes when you’re trying to gauge a person’s interest in becoming friends. Also, most of the friend apps available allow you to make a profile which helps to match you with like-minded people who share some of your interests.
On a friend app, you can often set certain parameters (i.e., narrowing your filters to people of a certain age, gender, location, etc.) that help ensure you get quality matches. Spend some time messaging back and forth on the app and if there’s chemistry, consider meeting up in a public place.
3. Get friendly with your coworkers or classmates
Research shows that most people make friends with people they spend a lot of time around, which is why the workplace and classroom can be easy places to make close friends. Also, attending the same school or working in the same company gives you something in common, which can also make it easier to form close connections.
If this is an option for you, take full advantage by being more friendly and approachable with coworkers and classmates. If you feel awkward starting a conversation or don’t know how to ask someone to hang out, try one of these approaches:
- Offer a helping hand: Offering to help someone out is a friendly and easy way to spark a conversation and get to know someone better. If you’re feeling shy, this strategy is useful because it moves your focus away from yourself and onto the other person.
- Ask for input: Asking someone for their input, advice, or if they have any tips on a work or school project is a great way to show you value someone’s ideas. It can also provide a chance to spend more time with them 1:1.
- Give a shoutout: Giving a coworker or classmate credit or supporting their ideas helps to create good vibes and feelings of camaraderie with them.
- Casually invite them out: When you’re heading out for a lunch or coffee break, consider casually asking a coworker if they’re hungry or letting them know they’re welcome to join you.
4. Get closer to an acquaintance
Acquaintances aren’t the same as friends, but that doesn’t mean an acquaintance can’t become a close friend. Most friends start out as acquaintances and then gradually forge a tighter bond over time. Acquaintances are easier to approach than strangers, so it’s a good idea not to overlook people you already know when you’re trying to make friends.
Consider some of the people you know casually that you’d like to get to know better. These could be people from your neighborhood, class, or even people you bump into at the gym. Next, make an effort to get closer with them by using one or more of these strategies:
- Make small talk: Say hello, ask how they are, or just make comments about where you are or what you’re doing.
- Show interest in them: When you show interest in someone, it makes you more likable to them. Show interest by asking questions, listening, and showing you care.
- Be friendly and approachable: Smiling, making eye contact, waving, and saying hello are all simple ways to be more approachable. This means you’re less likely to have to do all of the work initiating conversations with people.
- Exchange contact information: After a few times of talking or even one long conversation, consider asking, “What’s the best way for me to reach you?” or, “Would you mind if I reached out some time to talk more about ___?”
- Continue the conversation: After you’ve swapped contact information, reach out and let them know you enjoyed talking or ask a follow-up question about something you talked about.
5. Spend quality time together
One of the best ways to get closer to someone is to spend more time with them. Whether you’re trying to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, or turn acquaintances into friends, quality time is an important step in the process. Keep in mind that being in the same place or doing the same activity together doesn’t necessarily count as quality time.
Quality time has these key elements:
- It’s undivided: You give attention mainly to each other and the time you’re spending together/experience you’re sharing (i.e., you’re not distracted by other things, such as your phone)
- It’s positive: It’s spent in ways that are enjoyable and foster positive feelings (e.g., talking about others in a positive way rather than gossiping)
- It fosters togetherness: It helps to bring people closer together and makes them feel more connected to one another (e.g., not just watching a movie silently together)
6. Take time to get to know them
Since everyone is a little different, there isn’t an exact manual that you can follow to become best friends with anyone fast. That’s why it’s so important to really take the time to get to know someone who you want to become close friends with.
Paying attention to details and taking note of things they like and appreciate will help you understand what they want and need from a friend. Being attentive is also a sign of a good friend and is usually appreciated by other people.
Here’s a list of some things to pay attention to when trying to become better friends with someone:
- Their interests: Things that make them excited, talkative, or enthusiastic (i.e., hobbies, passions, and topics they enjoy discussing)
- Their core values: Principles that they seem to value, care about and live by (i.e., honesty, kindness, creativity, contribution, etc.)
- Their love language: Showing affection through gifts, physical touch (e.g., hugs), quality time, words of affirmation (e.g., saying nice things), or acts of service (e.g., favors)
- Their lifestyle and routine: How they normally spend their time, their work schedule, daily routine, and what they like to do in their free time.
- Their priorities: Things they need to do, people or tasks they care the most about, goals that they are pursuing (e.g., work projects, family, fitness, etc.)
7. Be a good friend to them
Once you’ve spent quality time and opened up to each other, you can deepen your friendship by proving that you’re a good friend. Most people are looking for friends who display certain traits and qualities. These are probably very similar to the ones you want in a friend, including loyalty, kindness, and dependability.
Most people have been burned by a fake friend in the past. A new friend might feel more comfortable if you can demonstrate that you are supportive, kind, and consistent. Here are some tips on how to be a good friend to someone:
- Be supportive and helpful: Offer a listening ear or helping hand to your friend to demonstrate that you’re loyal and caring.
- Use thoughtful gestures to show you care: Find small, thoughtful ways to show your friend you care, like getting a small gift, sending an encouraging text, or remembering to check in on meaningful dates, such as anniversaries.
- Stay in regular contact: While you don’t want to bombard your new friend with constant texts and calls, it is a good idea to periodically check in with them to say hi, share news, or ask how they’re doing.
- Show interest in things they care about: Showing interest in things that your friend cares about is a way of showing that you care about them, which is why it’s important to ask about their partner, family, job, hobbies, or interests.
- Prioritize quality time together: Quality time together can foster closeness between friends, especially when it’s spent doing things that are positive, enjoyable and promote positive interactions.
- Take turns and reciprocate: Good, close friendships are reciprocal. There is a natural balance between talking and listening, and both people make an effort to give and receive.
- Respect their boundaries: Even close friends sometimes need space from each other, which is why it’s essential to listen to and respect any boundaries they set.
8. Include them more in your life
Opening up and sharing more of yourself and your life is something you do with close friends, but it’s also one of the ways to become closer friends with someone. This doesn’t mean oversharing, spilling all your secrets, or making conversations all about you. It just means being willing to open up, be real with them, and also include them more in your day-to-day life.
For example, you could send them a text after something funny, weird, or awkward happens at work, or you could call them when you hear good news or bad news. Snapping pictures or sending memes that remind you of them or things you’ve done together is also a great way to create shared experiences, even when you’re in different places.
9. Talk openly and honestly
Open and honest communication is one of the hallmarks of close relationships. Being open isn’t always easy. In fact, it sometimes means talking about things that are personal, sensitive, or difficult. Sometimes it means bringing up things that bother you or working through disagreements openly.
Even though this can be tough, these harder conversations ensure that little issues don’t snowball into bigger ones. Being honest is also part of being authentic and genuine, which is important when you’re trying to form friendships that allow you to be yourself.
10. Maintain your friendships
Once a friendship is developed, it also needs to be maintained. Regular communication and quality time together are some of the best ways to maintain your relationships with friends. Allowing too much time to pass without talking is how friends grow apart and lose touch.
Prevent this from happening by making an effort to stay in touch with your closest friends. Make time to regularly talk and hang out with them. If you live in different places, consider scheduling time to speak on Zoom or Facetime. You could also meet up periodically for trips or even vacations. Social media, texting, and even sending postcards or cards in the mail are also great ways to fill in the gaps between times when you talk or see them.
It takes time to assess someone’s personality and to determine whether or not they’ll be a good friend to you. Sometimes, it’s only possible to see who your true friends are when you’re going through a tough time, need a lot of support, or when you and your friend have a conflict. Hardships and conflicts put friendships to the test and can help you distinguish your real friends from fake friends.
- Do they follow through with plans and things they say they’ll do?
- Can I be my true self around them, or am I always walking on eggshells?
- Have they been there for me during hard times or just when it’s easy for them?
- Do they make me feel like a priority?
- Have they consistently treated me with respect, no matter who else is around?
- Can I trust them with a secret or to help me with something really important?
- Do they make an effort to reach out, initiate plans, and stay in touch?
- Are they there for me when I need support or just want to vent?
- Have we been able to work through our differences or disagreements?
- Do they show interest in the things that really matter to me?
If you can answer “yes” to most of these questions, you’ve probably found a good, close friend.
A lot of people struggle to make friends these days, and it can be especially difficult to find close friends. Look for like-minded people in your workplace, community, or even in your existing circle of friends or acquaintances. Spark up more conversations with people and then try to work up to talking or hanging out with friends 1:1. Deepen these relationships by spending quality time together, opening up, and leading the way by being a good friend to them.
Is it normal to have no close friends?
About 12% of Americans report not having any close friends. But most people are healthier, happier, and more satisfied in life when they have friends. Quality is more important than quantity, so even 1 or 2 close friends is enough to make a difference.
Is being a loner OK?
A better way to frame this question is to ask whether it’s healthy or not to be a loner. For most people, the answer is no. Humans are social creatures who generally need to connect and interact with other people to be healthy.
How do you keep friendships from fizzling out?
Staying in contact, spending quality time together, and doing the little things that prove you care about someone helps to maintain friendships. Even simple, thoughtful gestures like a phone call, funny text, or treating someone to an iced latte can go a long way towards keeping a friendship close.