“Why can’t I make friends? It feels like no one likes me, and I’ve realized that as an adult, it’s way harder than it was before college.”
Here are several common reasons why it might be hard for someone to make friends. We’ll look at how to address these issues and be more likable.
1. Are you afraid of rejection?
Fear of rejection can cause us not to take the initiative and seek out new friends, introduce ourselves, or decide to keep in touch with someone we get along with.
You can change the way you look at rejection. Rejection might feel like a failure to you, but in reality, it’s a sign of success. It’s proof that you’ve been brave enough to take the initiative. On the other hand, never getting rejected might be a good thing in your mind, but in reality, it’s a sign of failure. It means that you haven’t dared to try enough.
With this new mindset, practice taking more initiative to meet people and keep in touch with them.
2. Do you feel like no one will like you?
This is hard to admit to ourselves, but it’s relatively common and… more importantly, it’s correctable. You could be introverted or a bit awkward. Or you may have had bad experiences with people not taking care of your feelings, or excluding and victimizing you. If you feel like this, it’s an understandable conclusion.
What we put out into the world, we tend to get back. If you assume that people won’t like you, it can make you come off as stand-offish, and then others will be stand-offish back.
Remind yourself that every person you meet is a new start. They haven’t made up their mind about you yet because they don’t know you. If you dare to be friendly, more often than not, people will be friendly back.
3. Are you painfully shy or socially awkward?
Shyness, being awkward, or having Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) makes it hard to reach out.
Yet the only way to find friends is to meet people, and to be able to do that, you need to find ways to manage your shyness or social anxiety. The good news is that there are effective methods to overcome this.
See this article where we rank the best books on social anxiety and shyness.
4. Are you unsure how to turn a nice person into a friend?
So you’ve met a nice person. You had a good conversation about something you both enjoy. You’re heading to your respective homes/offices/classes, and you think, “how do I stay in touch with this cool girl/guy?”
Answer: Say, “Let’s trade numbers. I’d love to keep chatting, but I gotta run. Maybe we can grab a coffee later and pick up where we left off?”
Then, do what most people never do: Follow up. Text them something related to that interesting thing you talked about. Ask if they want to meet up and what date would suit them.
Sometimes, we don’t dare do this because we’re afraid we’ll come off as desperate or needy. Which leads us to our next tip.
5. Do you hate seeming desperate or needy, so you don’t reach out to others?
Balance is vital for a rewarding friendship, but someone has to take the first step and make sure you get together.
When you suggest meeting up with someone, be specific, and tie back to what you connected on the first time. “I’m meeting up with another friend this weekend who also loves modern art. Do you want to join us?” or if your acquaintance loves sci-fi, ask if they want to watch that new sci-fi movie with you. What made you connect the first time is a natural way to connect a second time (and a third, etc.)
If they can’t join, they might just be busy. Invite someone twice before you give up on them.
Check this article out for more ideas on how to stay in touch.
6. Are you a people pleaser who goes too far to get others to like you?
Are you so concerned with making others happy, that people don’t get to know the real you? Being a people-pleaser can signal a desperate need for acceptance, and that makes someone less likable.
Friendship is a two-way street. Don’t do what only pleases others. Don’t do what only pleases you. Do what you think is right for both of you.
7. Are you guilt-tripping people into hanging out?
I know someone who makes me feel guilty for not meeting up. She wants friendship, but the way she goes about it is via obligation, instead of mutual interests and genuine appreciation for one another.
If you can relate to this, remind yourself that you can’t force someone to be your friend. The best way to attract friends is to make it enjoyable to be around you. Here’s more on how to be likable.
8. Are you too clingy?
Some of us are too stand-offish, others are too attached.
Clingy friends tend to need a lot of validation and can have unsaid expectations or rules that are easy to break, which then causes tension in the friendship.
If you find you do this, remember that friendship requires both people to be equally invested in the time you spend together.
If you find yourself pushing for more than your friend can give, then try contacting your friend a bit less. Focus more on getting to know other people to cover your social needs. Don’t stop keeping in touch with your friend completely. You want to find a balance where you both feel comfortable.
9. Does your mouth say “Hi” and your body says “Go away”?
Body language is a persuasive communicator. When you’re making small talk and being cheerful, are you thinking, “I just want to find a couch and disappear into the corner for a while”? Your body language might be telling the world this, without you knowing it.
10. Are you too negative?
We all know a Negative Nancy. A relative, or someone in class or at work. It seems like they always have a complaint about someone, something or somewhere.
Being negative is no fun to be around. Sometimes, we may not even be aware that we do this. You can check if this is you by thinking about your ratio of positive and negative comments. You want the positives to far outweigh the negatives. If you realize you’re being negative, practice focusing your conversations on what’s good in life.
11. Do you lack self-awareness?
Perhaps your family and friends have dropped hints about issues in your behavior that you can’t see or don’t agree with. It could be that they’re wrong, or it could be that they see something you don’t.
Self-awareness helps us see ourselves from a more objective perspective. Here’s an exercise you can do: Think back to when someone raised an issue about your behavior. It’s natural to come up with examples that disprove their point. Can you also come up with examples that do prove their point?
These various examples for and against will help you paint a more realistic picture of your behavior.
12. Do you misinterpret people’s social cues or their body language?
If you expect something to happen, it generally does. Whether it really does or we make it happen is a debate about self-fulfilling prophecies.
If you’re talking to someone and they break eye contact a couple of times, what do you think? Are they scanning the room for someone better to talk to? Do they think you’re boring? Or are they organizing their thoughts because it’s really distracting to watch someones’ facial expressions and talk?
If someone doesn’t want to meet up, you might think it’s because they don’t like you. But could it be because they’re just tired. Always challenge your internal voice. It might just be your low self-esteem painting worst-case scenarios. Assume that people will like you until proven otherwise.
13. Do you have a hard time trusting people?
If someone’s betrayed you in the past, it can be hard to trust again. The problem is that trust issues keep us from letting ourselves get close to new people.
When you’re making a decision whether to trust someone or not – be brave, go for trust.
14. Do you have a hard time adapting to change?
Last-minute changes rattle you. The plan was to go to the movies or on a road trip, but now that’s off. The new plan is different. Not better or worse, just different. Regardless, you don’t like it. You were ready for “A,” not “B.”
Adapting is a life skill. You can say, “No, I can’t go.” But that leaves us….alone.
Change your default switch to ‘Why not?’. Give yourself a chance to adapt. It could be good. It could even be better. Let yourself think about the possibilities and the big picture if you say “OK.”
15. Do you feel like having friends is a lot of work?
People take a lot of emotional energy. Sometimes it’s fun and easy-going but not always. It takes effort to be entertaining, open up, and give your attention to someone else.
That’s the trade-off, though. You have to invest the energy to get the same back from others. You don’t need tonnes of friends, just good ones that you can count on, and they can count on you.
Choose wisely, especially if you’re an introvert who gets drained by socializing. Invest in people who will make your life better. Here’s our guide for how to socialize as an introvert.
16. Do you have a low threshold for B.S. and cut “toxic” people out of your life surprisingly often?
This one relates to not trusting others because of their potential for disappointing you. In this case, someone has sent up a behavioral red flag, and you’re ready to bolt.
Is it really that bad? If you did something similar, would you hope to be forgiven? Perhaps someone’s being negative or forgotten to invite you out or let you down. Is it constant or just a phase because a few crappy things happened all at once?
Before you sever all ties to this friend, have a look at this article on toxic friendships. It can help you sift the gold from the dirt.
17. Have you moved away from your hometown or changed jobs?
New city/job/school = no friends, yet? This is a rite of passage for most people, at least once, if not multiple times in life. The best advice here is to be warm and friendly. Dare to say “hi” and make the first move. If you find someone who is kind and open themselves, ask them if they want to grab coffee or lunch.
Your people are out there, but you need to be proactive in finding them. Read more here on how to make friends in a new city.
18. Have you broken up with your significant other and realized all your friends were actually hers/his?
It can be hard to suddenly have to make new friends again if you previously had a friend circle for free. Research shows that men especially have fickle social circles that are based more on activities like sports, than emotional bonding.
The secret is to create new habits of reaching out and meeting new people. Cultivate friends that you have an emotional connection with and maintain it over time and distance.
Read more here on how to make friends after college.
19. Do you avoid big social gatherings?
House parties, work mixers, holiday get togethers…No, No & Nope? Big social gatherings are not the place to develop deep connections, but they’re essential to get to know new people who might turn into friends down the line.
I usually stake out a few people who seem interesting and get to know them over some small talk. If we find out that we have things in common, I ask to exchange numbers.
Here are some tips on how you can make your conversations more interesting.
20. Are you an introvert who’s significant other is their best and only friend?
If you’re introverted, you don’t need a bunch of people in the first place, and because your S.O. checks so many of your’ favorite kind of people’ boxes, your need for others is even less.
However, a word of warning. Putting all your friend eggs in one basket has 2 major drawbacks.
- You risk suffocating your S.O. They need you to be able to ‘talk out your troubles’ with others, so they aren’t your only outlet. When you become their one and only true friend, life can get overwhelming fast for both of you.
- See step #18 – If you ever break up with your S.O. you might have to start your friend circle from scratch once more.
To prevent this, seek out a wider circle of friends. What are some meetups you could go to related to your interests, for example?
21. Do you get angry quickly?
Anger can be used as a defense mechanism when you feel uncomfortable or insecure in social situations. Anger can even have a self-soothing effect on us. Unfortunately, reacting this way can be off-putting because people may think that you’re angry with them or that you’re an unhappy person.
Being angry intimidates people, and it will prevent them from trying to get to know you or being open to your overtures of friendship.
Try letting yourself feel the emotions of fear and uncertainty in social situations, and don’t try to push it away with angry or defensive thoughts. Rather than lashing out, make it a habit to take a few breaths when your anger hits. Always wait before you act on anger. This can help you respond more rationally and avoid damaging your social life.
22. Are you quiet and don’t get noticed in group conversations?
Sometimes it’s just easier to defer and listen than to jump in and make a statement that you may not be 100% confident in. Groups can be intimidating. If this is you, remember it’s better to say something than nothing at all.
People need to get to know you and see that you’re friendly and interesting. Say something, even if you think it’s stupid. It probably isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s not really important what you say, but that you show you want to participate in the conversation and that you’re interested in what others say.
Here are some tips on how to be more talkative.
23. Do you prefer to be by yourself?
You have a book/game/cat, who needs more? If this is your mantra, you aren’t alone, but hmm, you actually are. The question is, do you want to be? If not, then you have to push yourself to do stuff that’s not as easy for you, but has real, long term benefits.
Have a look at this article on how to socialize as an introvert
24. Do you prefer animals over humans?
True fact, animals are all around sweeter, fuzzier, and more accepting than any human ever. That being said, they don’t hold up their end of a conversation super-well, they can’t afford their half of dinner, and they don’t have any work stories.
While animals are the best non-judgemental friends, they can’t replace the real thing. If you love animals and need to warm up to people, why not volunteer at an animal shelter or get a job at a pet store where you’ll find your fellow animal-people.
25. Do you feel too different from others?
I grew up in a small town where everyone was into sports while I liked intellectual conversations. I eventually learned that there will always be people like you, you just need to find them. Seek out interest groups related to what you’re into. If you live in a small town and your social life is suffering because of that, consider moving somewhere else.
However, I later realized that I used “I have different interests” as an excuse not to approach people. In reality, my main problem was that I had poor social skills. I didn’t know how to get to know people and figure out what they were like. Once I became better at that, I realized there were more people like me than I thought.
26. Don’t know what to say when you meet people?
Sometimes, it can feel impossible to know what to say. However, we need to be able to make conversation for people to get to know us and feel comfortable around us. Remember, friends are the people who enjoy our company and conversations.
27. Do you have a mental health challenge or a physical disability that makes it hard for you to meet people and do stuff?
It could be agoraphobia (fear of going outside), severe social anxiety, or physical limitations that require help even to leave your house.
You know what your challenge is, and you’re doing your best to overcome and adapt to it. In case you’re stuck, here are some things you can do:
- Seek counseling or therapy from qualified medical professionals.
- Check out your local municipal groups or charities that can make mobility easier like Wheel-Trans or even Uber or Lyft.
- Find interest groups for people in your situation on either Facebook (search for groups) or meetup.com
- See if there are therapists in your area that run social anxiety groups. Google “[your city] social anxiety therapist” or check with your insurance company.
- Bunyan, N. (2007). Women better at friendships, says survey. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
- Stosny, S. (1995). Treating attachment abuse: A compassionate approach. Springer Publishing Company.