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5 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get About Making Friends

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5 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get About Making Friends

Most 20-year-olds are busy navigating the transition from youth to adulthood. One thing that’s not on their to-do list? Learning the principles behind making friends. It seems to come so naturally in childhood that they don’t give it a second thought.

What they don’t know is that the way we make friends changes as we grow older. Suddenly, growing a social circle isn’t something that happens organically. It takes effort, just the same way romantic relationships and career developments do.

The good news is that making friends is a skill that can be learned and nurtured like any other. Here are five things any soon-to-be-grownup needs to understand to develop a rewarding and active social life.

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1. Small Talk Pays Big Dividends

Young adults who are used to earnest, soul-baring, all-night discussions in dorm rooms often believe small talk is a superficial means of communication. In fact, small talk is the quickest, most efficient way to gain insight into someone’s personality and find shared interests.

Small talk is more than a conversation about the weather that’s become the clichéd definition. Anything from movies and TV shows to vacation spots and hobbies is a potential topic. It’s all about finding common ground to form a base for prospective friendships.

2. Shared Interests Make Stronger Ties

Kids are able to make friends by just “hanging out,” but, for adults, that’s no longer an option. Cultivating an interest opens the door to involvement in activities, providing an opportunity to meet others with a built-in common bond.

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The key is in choosing a genuinely fulfilling interest. If you become a compulsive “joiner,” people will see through the pretense, and insincerity is one of the quickest ways to end friendships before they even begin.

3. Friends Should Inspire Admiration, Not Dismay

It’s a fact of life that teenagers are often most attached to the friends who draw the most objections from their parents. As we become adults, we discover another fact, which is that we’re judged by the company we keep.

We have a tendency to seek approval by mirroring the appearance and behavior of those we spend time with. Seek out others who have qualities that you want to develop in yourself. When you’ve outgrown the need to rebel, the best friends are ones who challenge you to improve and become your best self.

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4. Making Friends is a Long-Term Investment

Once you turn 30, the window of opportunity for making friends begins to close. This isn’t a negative development. Rather, it’s part of the natural cycle of life as we marry and start families that take most of our attention. At that age we also have more fully developed values, making us more selective about those with whom we spend our time.

It’s smart to make as many friends as possible while you’re in your 20s. As time goes on, it becomes easier to maintain close friendships than to make new ones, so the relationships you develop then will be a significant part of your future.

5. To Have a Friend, Be a Friend

Twenty-somethings often make the mistake of thinking they have to be the smartest or richest or most athletic or best anything for people to like them. They can end up exaggerating or even lying about their achievements in a desperate bid for popularity.

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Think about someone who’s always talking about his or her great vacation or expensive new car. Are they fun to be around? Instead of making yourself look important, make others feel important by taking a genuine interest in them and what they do.

Making friends as adults is no longer the happy accident it is when we’re young, but we all have the basic tools to develop relationships. Creating a social network should be part of the learning curve of all 20-year-olds.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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