"What happened to all the friends I used to have?"
You might not be able to pinpoint exactly when or how it happened, but the end result is clear: your social circle has thinned out, and you no longer have all the friends that you used to.
If you've experienced this, you're not alone. It's extremely common for the over-40 crowd to find that as they've been moving forward in life, their friendships haven't kept up. Between job changes, starting families, and a host of other life changes, many people find that their social circle shrinks as they get older. It's a challenging situation to find yourself in, because making friends over 40 tends to be much harder than it was when you were younger.
For starters, your daily interactions with other people probably aren't as plentiful as they were when you were younger. Even when you do interact with people, you might find that they're navigating through a different stage of life than you are. While those differences don't necessarily preclude friendship, they can definitely make things more difficult. For instance, the goals and responsibilities that someone has might be fairly all-consuming, so that forming new friendships is a low priority for them at the moment. They may be focused on raising kids, caught up in work, busy navigating career changes, or caring for aging parents.
The good news is that in spite of the challenges and obstacles, it is possible to form new friends at any age, and the following practical tips can help.
Make warm, friendly, and conversational your default setting.
You never know when an opportunity to connect with someone will arise, so it makes sense to be as ready as possible at all times. Being pleasant, warm, friendly, and open to small talk ensures that you won't miss potential friendship opportunities that come your way. That doesn't mean you should pretend to be something you're not, or adopt an over-the-top gregarious persona that isn't really you. Quite the opposite, you want to be your genuine self, letting your own unique personality shine through.
Recognize that without the benefit of frequent close proximity, greater effort and more time is needed to establish familiarity and trust.
It's no surprise that frequent close proximity, such as classroom or workplace settings where people actively engage with each another daily, supports the development of friendships. These environments allow friendships to take root and mature in a natural, organic way that often feels effortless. In the absence of such proximity, greater effort and more time is required to achieve the same outcome. A basic level of comfort typically needs to be present right from the start, in order to prompt the parties to pursue things further. But recognize that it will take time and effort to earn trust and build a solid connection.
Use common interests as a starting point, rather than expecting them to be a guarantee of friendship.
For some people, a shared interest is all that's needed to develop close, satisfying friendships. If, on the other hand, you're someone who tends to connect more around shared beliefs and values, shared interests alone likely won't be enough to enable you to form deep, meaningful bonds with others. But even if you fall into the latter category, meeting and connecting with people around shared interests still has value. Joining some type of social group, especially one where members meet on regular basis, is a great starting point for getting out and meeting new people. Once you've established some basic connections at this level, take note of who you feel most comfortable with or drawn to, and stay alert to opportunities to build deeper friendships.
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