A little over a year ago, I joined an 80-person choir. One of the reasons I auditioned was because I had enjoyed choral singing in both high school and college—but if you asked me to be honest about why I was really signing up for all those rehearsals and performances, I’d have to admit that it was because I wanted to make 80 new friends.
(Or at least three or four new friends, and 75-odd friendly acquaintances.)
Making friends as an adult is hard, but it gets easier if you are able to find other people with shared interests and make something interesting together. At best, you find a new bestie; at worst, you develop those low-stakes friendships that can make you feel like you’re part of a community.
Which is why I smiled with recognition when I saw this tweet by habit expert James Clear:
Friendship happens on the way to something else.
If you “try to meet new people” it feels weird and forced. The more you aim for friendship, the more it eludes you.
But if you aim to learn or achieve something with others, friendship happens naturally during the shared pursuit.
— James Clear (@JamesClear) February 5, 2020
As Clear puts it: “Friendship happens on the way to something else.” I’m not sure I’ve ever had a friendship develop that wasn’t part of some kind of shared pursuit (I’m counting stuff like elementary school classrooms as “shared pursuits”), except for the one time when I was eight years old and my parents took me to visit a family with another little girl my age and said “you two are going to be friends now.”
But that works less well when you’re a 38-year-old single woman—and we can argue whether it’s harder for single people or partnered people to make new friends in the comments, I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this—so I’ve made the effort to put myself in places where friendships can naturally develop.
Interestingly, it has been easier to make friends with people in choir than it has been to make friends with people in the group exercise classes I take at the YMCA. This might be because choral singing is the kind of thing where a room full of people work towards a unified goal—and BodyAttack, as fun as it is, is really just a room full of individuals each trying to squat a little deeper than they did the last time.
So if you’re feeling a little lonely this week, start looking for a way to make something interesting with someone else (or, if possible, a whole group of other people). As Dr. Miriam Kirmayer explained, in her Lifehacker podcast episode about making friends as an adult: “That really is the first step. It’s being intentional with putting yourself out there. Pursuing different kinds of activities where you know that you’ll meet new people—and, ideally, people that you share something in common with, because that kind of similarity is often the root of friendship.”