Once you hit a certain age, making new friends—particularly those of the meaningful variety—seems all but impossible. Why can’t creating a life-long relationship with another person be as easy as it was on the playground, when you simply tapped another kid, ran around the swing set a few times, and were forever bonded? Read on for six friend-making tricks taught by kids.
1. CONSIDER PROXIMITY.
Ever wonder why kids just so happen to live next door to their best buds? It’s what psychologists call the mere-exposure effect: the more time people spend with a person, the more they report liking that person. Keep this in mind with neighbors and coworkers in particular but also when you order a coffee from the same barista every day.
2. BE CONSISTENT.
Toddlers have mommy-group-planned weekly playdates. Elementary-school kids have daily recess. The lesson? Consider ongoing, regularly scheduled activities to help you get to know people naturally over time. Attending a daily spin class, volunteering at an animal shelter every weekend, or joining a monthly book club at the local library can open you up to getting to know others who are making that same commitment.
3. FORGIVE (AND FORGET) READILY.
Like their attention spans, childhood arguments don’t last more than a few minutes before all is forgiven … or simply forgotten. Adulthood is justifiably different, but there’s a shared lesson. Although time is said to heal all wounds, researchers maintain that it can make the situation worse, allowing people’s grievances to fester too long or letting them forget what was good about the relationship in the first place. If you and a friend butt heads, confront the conflict head on so you can both move on—together.
4. LET EVERYONE GET A TURN.
Whether it’s a batting order at tee ball or spinning the dice during a board game, kids are good at keeping an even score and naturally maintaining balance among friends. As adults, unfortunately, friendships can become one-sided, with one person always giving of themselves and the other constantly on the receiving end. Giving lopsided relationships a critical eye can benefit both sides.
5. PRACTICE INCLUSIVITY.
Before children are even aware of their differences—not just in terms of gender, race, or socioeconomic status, but also interests and aptitude—they all simply play together. Eventually, people begin connecting with those who have chosen paths similar to their own, especially in adulthood when professions dictate friendships. To foster diverse social interactions, keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself to people who are just like you.
6. CUT THE SMALL TALK.
When kids first meet, they don’t pontificate on the weather or how bad the traffic was this morning. They cut right to the chase, sharing likes and dislikes. A social psychology study found that, in lieu of superficial conversations, slowly increasing the intensity of a question-and-answer session between strangers can create friendly feelings in just 45 minutes.