How does adult friendship work? Imagine you meet someone great. You ask them to hang out sometime — maybe for drinks? You convince them that you’re not just being polite: you really want to be friends. They accept, and you go out for drinks, and have a great time. Then maybe you plan dinner. Hooray! You do that. Now what? More dinner dates for the rest of your life? Assuming you meet once a month, that means at most you can have 30 friends in town. No thanks.
That also sounds exhausting. I hate bars. And, while staring at someone over a table can be nice sometimes, there are whole vistas of human friendship interaction lost in this model. Playing games! Building things together. Arts and crafts. Projects. Music. Events. Cafehopping. Parallel play. Founding neighborhood associations.
There’s an alternate approach that works for me, and maybe you’ll find it useful.
I have a friendship card. I hand it to people liberally. And I invite them to hang out with me at an event. That’s it.
Here’s how an exchange typically goes:
Me: hands them a card, looks them in the eye “Let’s be friends!”
Them: Smile, put card away. Stop. Look at it again. “Wait, this card literally says let’s be friends on it.”
Me: “Yes, this isn’t my business card, it’s a friendship card. Let’s hang out.”
Them: suddenly taking this offer of friendship more seriously. “Cute! Let’s be friends. I like it. Write code, defeat evil, okay”
Me: “You’ll notice that it’s a villain mustache being *defeated*”.
Them: “Haha, love it. Okay, let’s be do this.” We exchange numbers, FB info, whatever
Me: “Listen, I’m throwing an event in a couple weeks. A big all-day outdoor picnic with a bunch of new and old people. The idea is that it’s long enough that you can show up on your schedule. Wanna come?”
This can be really fun! I’ve had the same basic design for almost eight years now, and it’s become part of my personality. These things happened to me:
- Once, I handed a new-to-me one of these. He paused, and said something like: “wait, I’ve had one of these in my wallet for two years”, and then we realized that we had actually met before. Oops! Now we hang out all the time.
- I was instantly offered a job based on my “demonstrated passion for community”
- So many friendships have been solidified this way.
- More than one romance has been kicked off this way. (i.e. “I know this card says let’s be friends, but what if we were at least friends?”)
- I threw a birthday party for a dear friend based on this giant picnic friendship model. Over 100 people came. To this day I’m meeting people, then we realize they were at that birthday, and then we instantly connect.
- Jobs, romances, fellowships, people even made a band together because they met at one of these giant-friendship-picnic-parties I do.
- I’m pretty sure I sealed the deal on my current partner because I invited her to one of these picnics and she could see how happy I was surrounded by friends.
So, to repeat:
- Be clear about your desire for friendship. Cards (not business cards!) work great.
- Always have an event queued up to invite people to
- Cross-pollinate new friendships at these events to build sustainable community.
The component parts:
First, be clear about your relationship intentions. I’m not here to be LinkedIn acquaintances, and I’m not here to flirt.
Second, always have a previously-scheduled upcoming event so that you can invite people to it. Make it a big one with lots of friends, new and old.
Third, at the event, introduce people to each other. That way, you start creating the building blocks of a community. There’s no way you can spend as much 1-1 time with people as you’d like. So get them to spend 1-1 time with each other, and bask in the communal good vibes and long-term connections all around you.
For more on friendship, check out StartingBloc — one of the best collections of good people in my life.
How do you form friendships as an adult? I just sketched out my weird way of doing it. I’m not really sure how anyone else does. I’d love to hear what this part of your life looks like.