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Published on August 21, 2018

Why It’s Harder to Make Friends After 40 (and How to Combat the Odds)

Why It’s Harder to Make Friends After 40 (and How to Combat the Odds)

No matter how old you are, it’s always a little challenging to make friends. When you reach middle-age, however, it can be super daunting. Not only do you face the typical hangups that people have (i.e. fears of what others will think of them), but you add to it a lifetime of having friends come and go from your life.

Does making friends in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s have to be intimidating and scary?

It doesn’t have to be, but we should look at some of the reasons why it’s difficult and consider how to overcome them. Here are the top 17 reasons why it’s hard to make friends after 40.

1. People are busy with their family.

Probably the top reason why it’s difficult to make friends after your 40’s is that by that point in their lives, most people have other commitments.

People in their 40’s typically have older children (i.e. teenagers) and those children tend to require a lot of time. So, unless you are involved in the same things those parents are involved in, it can be extremely difficult finding people your age to socialize with.

One way to overcome this hurdle is to volunteer to do things that these families are into. If the parents of teens are taking their kids to sports and other social events, then volunteer to coach or help out at those events.

You may feel weird doing that at first (especially if you don’t have kids), but when you get involved those feelings will dissipate.

2. People’s social circles rarely change after 30.

Studies have shown that, when people reach their 30’s, they start to value quality friendships over quantity.[1] Once their social circles dwindle, people settle for fewer friendships.

As an outsider to those social circles, you may find it more intimidating to “break in” to an already established social circle.

The best way to deal with this is to join clubs or activities that match your personality and interests. Find a common reason to come together with these people, and you’ll open the door to more quality friendships.

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3. Higher levels of individualism.

Existing quantitative research suggests that people are becoming increasingly individualistic, materialistic, and narcissistic.[2] Millennials are upending many of the social trends of the past because of this sense of individualism. People are spending more and more time online and, thus, keeping to themselves.

One way to address this issue is to find your own sense of individualism. Know thyself. Learn to be happy on your own so that you don’t come across as clingy in social interactions.

4. Lack of education on friendship and social skills.

If you look online, there are many blogs for helping people find relationships, but there are few that address making friends. The advice that one might give to make better relationships does not necessarily apply to making better friendships.

One of the best resources for making friends is a timeless classic: How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Or you can learn from the tips here:

14 Ways to Find Good Friends No Matter What Your Age

5. When you’re older, it takes more than one thing in common to make friends.

When you were a kid, it was much easier to make friends. You tended to gravitate towards anybody who had anything in common with you. If you played football, most of your friends were probably football players. If you were a cheerleader, most of your friends were probably part of your cheer squad.

Now that you’re older, you realize that compatibility is important in any type of social relationship. This is why the best plan of action is to join clubs and volunteer for things you care about. This allows you to socialize with people who care about the same things you do.

6. Fear of reaching out to others.

There’s a certain type of pride that keeps us from reaching out to others when we need them. We are afraid of rejection, and we fear the judgment of others.

Here are three ways to overcome that fear:[3]

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  1. Rewire your brain by reading and listening to motivational material.
  2. Have a plan for those times you fear the most (i.e. a lull in the conversation).
  3. Set the goal to talk to at least one new person every day.

7. You have nothing to talk about.

This is typically a sign that you need to spice up your life. If you have little to talk about, it may be time to address the reasons for that. Have you been so focused on work that you have forgotten how to enjoy your life?

It’s also helpful to understand that you don’t have to be constantly talking to enjoy someone’s company. When you’re hanging with the right people, you can comfortably share silence.

8. People are more set in their ways.

According to psychologists, people don’t change much beyond their 30’s.[4] This could mean that, if you’ve spent a significant portion of your adult life alone or without friends, it may be tougher to make friends in your 40’s.

You can still break that mold. In fact, you can reinvent yourself in any way that you want.

Start by making small changes in your life. Change the way you drive to work. Do something you wouldn’t normally do. Keep your mind open to new possibilities and reach for them whenever you can.

9. You aren’t making yourself available to others.

How often do people invite you to do things and you tell them no? You won’t make new friends if you don’t embrace new opportunities.

Start saying yes to these invites, even if you don’t particularly like the person who is inviting you. This will open you up to new opportunities which will inevitably lead to making new friends.

10. You don’t have enough money to do things.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it can be super frustrating when people want to do stuff that costs money. You don’t want to impose on them or sponge off of them, but you also don’t want to turn down opportunities to socialize.

Learn to make a budget. When you pay off a bill, earmark some of that new income for social purposes. Dump it into a savings account and only use it for social occasions.

11. Your social skills are rusty.

If you haven’t been out for a while, you may feel like your social skills are rusty. You may have never really had much of a social life to begin with. Whatever your situation, there’s only one way to overcome it.

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You have to be willing to fail and look foolish. You have to be willing to take chances. The only way to sharpen your social skills is to practice in real social situations. Consider using a group like meetup.com to help sharpen your social skills.

12. Digital interaction makes it harder to socialize in real life.

According to research, we typically can only handle about 150 friends at any given time.[5] This includes your online social network. Perhaps to supplement your lack of social interaction, you’ve inserted yourself into various online communities. These communities are taking up that space in your brain.

Scale back your online presence and start weening yourself off of social media. You don’t have to quit entirely, but you need to set some limitations on how much of your life it consumes.

At first this will feel strange, and your levels of loneliness may increase. But that is a temporary feeling that will give you the fuel needed to go make friends in the real world.

13. You find fault in everybody you meet.

Maybe you are sabotaging your potential friendships. Perhaps you are having trouble making friends in or after your 40’s because you have spent most of your adult life pushing people away.

Do you have some trauma in your past? Have you been burned by friendships in the past?

Take some time to self-evaluate. Address the issues that have you pushing people away or finding fault in others. Go to a therapist and work through these issues with someone who is trained to help people.

14. You’re trying to protect yourself from getting hurt again.

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous reason. If you’ve had a friendship go sour in the past, you’re going to be skittish about making new friends. We fear repeating the pain of a past failed relationship whether it be romantic or otherwise.

This is another thing to work through with a therapist. Be willing to take new risks or your attempts to make new friends are over before you start.

15. Your time is limited.

Perhaps you are too busy to make new friends. Maybe you’re forced to work two jobs and manage all of the other responsibilities in your life. If this is the case, then you need to analyze what is dominating your time and why.

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Make a list of the things you have to do in a week. Maybe you’re living beyond your means. The best way to save time and money is to downsize your life so that you can free up resources for other pursuits.

16. The older you are, the more difficult it is to get excited about spending time with people you don’t know.

When you’re young, much of the excitement of doing things is in the fact that it’s the first time you are doing them. When you reach your 40’s, there’s little that you can do that you haven’t already experienced.

I challenge you to see the world through fresh eyes. Practice changing your perspective on things. Listen to stand up comedy, podcasts, and audio-books that uplift you and shift your view of the world.

Many times a lack of excitement comes from being stuck in the same patterns for too long. It’s time to shake things up a bit and make some changes.

17. Your life isn’t as interesting as it was when you were in your 20’s.

Your 20’s are usually about discovering yourself and trying new things. Your social circle is usually as big as it’s going to get because you have so many irons in the fire. As you get older, things start to settle into a routine.

We are creatures of habit, and that habit can make our lives boring. The best way to change your perspective and make your life more interesting is to travel to new places. When you are remaking your budget, open up a category for travel.

The bottom line

Making friends in your 40’s can be intimidating and scary. Your goal is to make it an adventure. See it as a new challenge and begin tackling the reasons you’ve pulled away from people.

This will make your life (and you) more interesting. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Your new life awaits!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

James Leatherman

The founder of Happymindsets.com and is passionate about personal growth, psychology, philosophy and science

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone

9 Powerful Techniques for Building Rapport with Anyone

If you have ever heard the expression “doesn’t meet a stranger,” you likely know that the phrase describes someone who is unconditionally friendly and able to converse with anyone. Some people have this trait, and others wish they did.

I cannot tell you how many times a colleague has walked into work or sat down to talk to me at an event only to say, “Hey, I met your mother. She is so friendly and so nice.” My mother truly doesn’t meet a stranger. She seeks to find common ground with each person she engages.

Throughout my life, I have met other people who can walk into a room of strangers and emerge with the seeds for deep relationships and bonds. These people are open, vulnerable and – typically – great listeners.

From these folks, I have learned several techniques for building rapport with anyone:

1. Shift Your Mindset to an “I Am Worthy” One

If you struggle with feelings of low-worth, you may have difficulty building rapport. You will wrongly believe that other people are better than you, and perhaps that you do not deserve to be in communication with them.

You must believe that you are worthy in order to share your ideas, challenge ideas that are incongruent with your belief system and banter with others.

If you want to learn the skill of building rapport with anyone, you must first examine how you esteem or view yourself. At your core, you are worthy. You do not have to do or be anything to be worthy; you are worthy by virtue of your existence.

You are worthy because you are living the human experience. If you can shift your mindset and truly embrace your worth, it will be easy to build rapport with others.

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2. Ask Some Variation of “Tell Me About Yourself”

I recently read a fascinating article by New York Times reporter Jolie Kerr about NPR host Terry Gross.[1] Gross, the host of “Fresh Air,” starts her interviews by asking subjects to tell her about themselves.

She says opening interviews this way allows her to avoid mistakes that places subjects on the defense. She is also able to learn, via their own words, what’s important to them. Conversationalists may consider doing the same way.

3. Look for Indicators of Shared Humanity

At our core, we are all the same. When I feel anxious about being in a relationship or conversation with people who appear “perfect” or are very accomplished, I remind myself that at our core, we are all the same.

Regardless of how much money individuals have in the bank, they want to be treated with the same dignity and respect that each of us requires for ourselves. They want to be liked because of who they are, not because of what they have.

If you can remember that, at our core, we are all the same, you will be better positioned to build rapport with anyone.

4. Identify One Thing You Can Appreciate About the Person with Whom You Are Conversing

I grew up in a very religious household. Our entertainment was going to church revivals or visiting my mom’s friends’ churches. When our church had events, different speakers with different styles would preach sermons.

I learned that regardless of who the preacher was, the tempo of the music for different churches, I could receive something from the speaker. As a young adult, I worked for a Lutheran social service organization, and my mentor was a Methodist minister.

As a result of these experiences, on one day I could be in an apostolic church, and on another I could be in a Lutheran church. One day, I could be at a Pentecostal revival, and another day I could be at a Lutheran auxiliary meeting.

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Over time, I learned that it didn’t matter the race or religious tradition of the group I was visiting; if I paid careful attention and tried hard, each speaker and each congregation had something unique and worthwhile to offer.

The same is true in conversation. Separating the truly disgusting people who harm children or exploit the vulnerable, there is something to admire about almost everyone. Even your enemies have admirable traits. Even the colleague who annoys or triggers you in ways you didn’t know were possible has something that is worthy of praise.

If you approach every conversation with this mindset, you will indeed be able to build rapport with almost anyone.

5. Inquire About Family, Friends and Pets Only If Your Speaking Partners Introduce These Areas First

If you feel stuck in a discussion and are not sure how to make a connection, look for cues that the person with whom you are speaking is open to discussing his or her family or pets. These areas are deeply personal, and while most people gush when talking about their family and the animals that they adore, you have no idea what is happening in a person’s life that may make him or her less than receptive to tackling these issues.

Not every person’s life is filled with happy memories or experiences about family, friends or pets. For instance, there was a time in my life where I hated engaging with people outside of close friends about my oldest son, who at the time was living with his father. Being in situations where people assumed I had custody and then not knowing how to discuss the situation triggered anxiety and stress. I would get defensive or look for ways to exit the conversation.

I have also been on the opposite end where I asked what seemed to be a benign question about a person’s child only to learn that the child had recently passed away.

I offer these examples as cautionary tales – listen to determine what topics are within bounds and which ones are off-limit.

6. Research about the Person

To have substantive conversations, you must research the person or persons with whom you are engaging. You should know what drives them professionally and personally. This technique is more appropriate when you are attending an event and have a sense of who will be at the gathering.

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In the age of social media, this information may be more readily accessible than you expect.

7. Listen to Understand

Listening is an underrated skill. As a society, we are intentionally taught how to listen well. Even when we invite colleagues or friends out for lunch or dinner, most of us struggle with the urge to check social media, text messages or email.

When we are not distracted by technology and devices, sometimes we prepare responses while the person with whom we are engaging is still speaking.

Listening highlights how you hold the other person in esteem. Since many people are poor listeners, when you exhibit good listening skills, you signal to other people that you are interested and that they are worthy.

The respond in kind by having positive feelings about you and by wanting to be in conversation with you again.

8. Be the Person Who Tells the Truth

In my professional career, I have developed a reputation as a truth teller. I work to tell the truth in love and to tell the truth even when doing so carries some risk. I am learning that people in authority or in great leadership positions do not always have people around them who are willing to tell them the truth.

Honesty requires courage and a willingness to take a chance. It requires diplomacy and wisdom – and you must understand the conditions that make different leaders more receptive to truth. But many leaders can come to appreciate someone who they know will be honest with them.

If a leader asks you how you truly feel, find the courage and the words to diplomatically and carefully tell the individual the truth. This will improve your rapport with the leader.

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9. Be Open

So many conversations at happy hours, receptions, conferences and events are transactional and shallow. I am skeptical that many result in genuine and authentic connections.

I think one of the reasons this happens is because everyone has a representative, the better version of ourselves whom we send to social events. When someone dares to send or show up as their real selves, the decision is like a breath of fresh air. And it allows others the freedom to shed the persona and the liberty to be themselves. This works in large settings, and it can work as a technique to build rapport.

When I advise that you be open, I am not referring to giving too much information too fast or doing so in a way that is irresponsible. I mean acknowledging where you are in the moment.

If you are at an event but are focused on a presentation that you have that went awry, say that. The conversation may go something like this,

“I really am interested in learning more of what this speaker has to say, but I am mentally stuck thinking about a presentation that I just gave that didn’t go according to plan.”

When you do this, you give voice to what you are holding inside and you let the person with whom you are engaging know that there are dynamics at play that impact how you are showing up.

The Bottom Line

You can indeed build rapport with anyone, and these tips show you how.

If you are experimenting with other strategies for building rapport with others, I would love to hear about them. Feel free to message me on Twitter or LinkedIn and share what you are doing and how it’s working for you!

More Resources to Enhance Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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