Monday, 14 March 2011

Making friends as we get older

Professor Ewan Gillon, Director of First Psychology Scotland discussed the topic of friendship on BBC Radio Scotland today (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/z62tr/).  On this morning's Fred MacAulay show he talked about the challenges of making friends when we get older or move to a new city.

Making friends gets harder as we get older. Friendships develop over time, with repeated contact allowing for shared experiences and increasing intimacy. When we see people a lot and spend time with them we are more likely to become friends with them. This can become harder to manage when people have partners, families and busy jobs.

Research shows we tend to make friends with people who support what psychologists term as our 'social identity' (how we see ourselves in the world). People we befriend often share our values, interests, sense of humour, etc.

To make friends when you are a bit older, it is important to bear these facts in mind and use your time carefully. Focus on activities/hobbies that are social and require lots of interaction (like team sport or language classes) and ensure you meet up with the same people on a regular basis. This experience of a shared activity/interest, repeated contact and sharing of an an experience will maximise your chances of meeting people you get on with. As time goes by these interactions can grow into friendships.

It is important to be realistic though. Friendships from childhood and college days are based around lots of contact, time, close emotional bonds from shared transitions, challenges and experiences. New adult friendships will invariably feel lighter and less meaningful than these.

Give friendships time to grow and they will reward you in the end.

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