How to Make and Manage Friendships as an Adult

cover art of podcast episode how to make and manage friendships as an adult

In order to reap the benefits of friendship, you need to have a best friend or close friends. Both making friendships and maintaining them require attention. You need to spend time with people to build close friendships, get to know them, and have them know you.

[Friendship] is for aid and comfort through all the relations and passages of life and death. It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, poverty, and persecution… We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man’s life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom and unity. It should never fall into something usual and settled, but should be alert and inventive, and add rhyme and reason to what was drudgery.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in The Marginalian

Making Friends

According to the work of Professor Jeffery Hall, it takes over 200 hours before someone can be considered a close friend. Even moving from acquaintance to that next stage of friendship takes 40-60 hours. So we see that a crucial element of building a friendship is spending time together. The more pillars that you share with someone, the easier it is to develop close friendships.

Dr. Robin Dunbar has identified 7 pillars of friendship:

  1. Language
  2. Location where you grew up
  3. Educational trajectory (e.g., formal, informal…, a lot, a little)
  4. Interests and hobbies
  5. World view (morals, religion, etc.)
  6. Humour
  7. Music

Think about your friendships over the years. How do you feel about each of them? How many of the pillars of friendship do you share? You’ll want to enjoy many activities around the pillars of friendship to maintain a close relationship.

Concentric circles illustrating different human group sizes
Source: JelenaMrkovic/wikimedia

The psychologist Dunbar further asserts that we can only maintain five intimate friendships, our brain can handle 150 relationships, and we can know the names of up to 1,500 people. While five may seem like a small number to you, it also illustrates that you have space for more people than a spouse; you can make room for friendship even if you’re married. Depending on your personality, the amount of effort required will differ.

Friendships take communication and joint activities. Usually, this is a function of time as well. Over our lifespans, busyness is like a parabola, which affects the amount of time we have for friends. In childhood and old age is when we have the most time for friends. In the middle years, when people are busy with dating, having young children, and building families, there is less time for friends.

Patterns of Friendship

The main patterns of friendships are active, dormant, or commemorative. Active friendships are ones where both friends are available to each other and the friendship is in progress. Dormant friendships have the potential to become active. While interactions are not happening presently, there is space for this to happen. In commemorative friendships, we still consider someone friends because of our history together from a specific time and place.

Ways of Making Friendships

There are three main friendship styles: independent, acquisitive, and discerning.

People who have an independent nature tend to make friends wherever they go. Other people are more discerning and are slower at making friends, but they build deep friendships that last for a long time. When it comes to friendship, acquisitive people are the most flexible. They keep in touch with old friends but also make friends wherever they go.

How are you with making and keeping friends? Have you changed the way that you make friends over the course of your life? I would describe myself as discerning but when I discussed this podcast with a friend, she said that I’m acquisitive. Food for thought.

I have friends that I have a lot in common with, but I also have friends that are very different from me. A few years ago, I was visiting a friend in Japan when she told me that she could never fully trust anyone who is not Christian like her. I was shocked as I considered her my friend. I didn’t kno**w how to respond. I guess I should not be surprised that we are no longer friends.

At this point in my life, I have friends of many different religions and racial backgrounds.

Tips for building friendships

The most exciting friendship is the ideal friendship. It’s healthy and enjoyable for both parties. These are the friendships that we want to keep. Sometimes, a friendship can change and become unhealthy, either deviant or problematic, or it can wane.

Often friendships wane if we no longer have time or interest in maintaining them. They tend to not be unhealthy but may be hard to maintain.

Deviant and problematic friendships are unhealthy. They may still be enjoyable which makes them difficult. Usually, in those friendships, you or the other person are being harmed psychologically or physically, or there is a lack of balance or reciprocity.

Sometimes a friendship will start out being healthy and become unhealthy over time. It’s important to evaluate your friendships and make sure that they are serving both of you.

Here are some tips for building friendship:

  • join a class or group outside of the usual for you
  • be vulnerable with people
  • develop friendships with acquaintances by intentionally spending time and doing activities with them
  • be the friend you want to have (dependable, loyal, caring, etc.)
  • get in touch with old friends
  • ask open-ended questions that invite the other person to open up to you

“By identifying the key ingredients that define our real and close friends, we can be more mindful about which relationships to nurture.”

Psychologist Brandon Koh, as quoted in Today Online


If you think about the fact that we can only have five close, strong friendships, who will you put in that closest circle as the people that you will be a good friend to and whom you know will also be a good friend to you? Once you have decided on those people, the first action is to schedule some time with each of them. Thinking about the pillars of friendship, it could be sharing a joke with them, sharing music or a playlist, going for a walk, or doing a shared hobby together. The key is to come up with and make plans to do something that would be fun for both of you. Preferably meet with each of the five people in person, but if circumstances don’t allow it, you can also meet virtually.

Contact Me

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

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