Relationship development experts apply scientific research to the art of making friends
Recent research shows that our friendship circles are getting smaller and smaller. Studies show that we begin to lose our buddies around 25 years old, as our careers, families, and marriages begin to take focus away from our friendships.
“It may seem inevitable to lose friendships as we grow up, but it is dangerous to be cavalier about this lack of social support,” says AJ Harbinger, relationship development expert. “In fact, Harvard research shows that our social network has the most powerful impact on our mental health and well-being. In other words, friendships are the building blocks of happiness.”
Together with Johnny Dzubak, Harbinger hosts the popular lifestyle podcast The Art of Charm (since its inception, the podcast has been downloaded by over 150M+ listeners).
Dzubak says, “People today suffer from a unique form of loneliness. They are always plugged into social media, yet the feelings of disconnection and isolation can be overwhelming. We have lost the art of relationship-building and the ramifications of this are really grave.”
Here, Dzubak and Harbinger
1. Ditch the instant-gratification mindset. “We live in a world of instant gratification, but building relationship skills is the same as building a six-pack or an investment portfolio. It takes time, effort and intention. A recent study from the University of Kansas found that it takes 80-100 hours to build a friendship,” says Harbinger. “Think of that: 80 hours. That means if you hang out for 2 hours each time you get together, you need to have 40 experiences together before you and this new person can really establish that bond. That takes commitment.”
2. Be intentional about your lifestyle choices. “It may sound simplistic, but studies on friendships have shown that one of the biggest predictors for friendships is something as basic as location. People build the closest relationships with the people they see the most often,” says Harbinger. “So, you need to apply this research wisely to your life. You can’t necessarily control your job and who works there, but you can be mindful about other lifestyle choices. If you work out at a gym where no one seems to have time to talk, or you live in an apartment building where everyone is older than you and not interested in socializing, you’re simply limiting your options.”
3. Use your time together wisely. “Research on friendship shows that mutual disclosure is a key part of relationship-building. You can’t create tight-knit friendships if you only have surface conversations or constantly find yourself in situations like loud bars or baseball stadiums where it may be difficult to be intimate and open,” says Dzubak. “Similarly, if you are trying to build bonds with your coworkers, but you only ever discuss work deadlines or your boss’s poor wardrobe choices, you are not going to be able to create sustaining, deep friendships.”
4. Find a partner that prioritizes friendship. “If you wind up with a significant other who doesn’t have a lot of friends or doesn’t socialize much, you’re going to find yourself in the same boat. If friendship is important to you, you need to find a partner who supports and enhances that,” says Harbinger. “You don’t want to make a lifetime commitment to someone who complains every time you want to go out with your friends or socialize with the new neighbors.”
5. Be resilient. “Friendships don’t always pan out. You are going to get your feelings hurt. You are going to have your trust betrayed. You are going to get into arguments,” says Dzubak. “But that doesn’t mean that friendships aren’t worth it or that people are always going to let you down. You have to be resilient and realistic about your expectations. Remember, a strong social network is important for your physical and emotional health, so even though it can sometimes be difficult to maintain and cultivate these bonds, it is rewarding in the long-run.”