So, you’ve made a new friend. Or maybe you’d like to find some new people to hang out with?
I get it. Military life (heck, adult life in general!) can be lonely. But not every person you meet is destined to be your next bosom buddy. Before you take the plunge and commit to even a close acquaintanceship, ask some of these very important questions first.
Pro Tip: don’t interrogate your potential friends. Just mix some of these questions into casual conversation!
Figure out who you’re looking for
Finding friends as an adult is not unlike finding a romantic partner. You need to know who you’re looking for before you start your search. Think about what’s important to you in a potential friend.
It’s also important to understand that not all friends will be universal friends. It’s 100% okay to have exercise friends and parent friends and couple friends and religious connection friends…you get the picture.
Before you start considering friends, ask yourself:
- What kind of friend do I need in my life right now?
- What types of activities do I envision doing with a friend?
- What are important non-negotiable character traits in my friends?
- How can I also provide support for my potential new friend(s)?
I specifically want to point out the character traits question because there could be a really cool person out there that meets other friendship qualities but they have act in a way that doesn’t jive with your overall ideal friend. Figure out where or what your line in the sand is in terms of behavior and characteristics. It’s different for everyone!
You’ve met a new person
Congrats! You met another adult human that you think might be fun to hang out with and maybe, just maybe, turn into a friend.
Well, it’s time to figure out your common interests. Remember, finding friends as a grown up is kind of like dating (minus the romance).
Chances are you, you met this new person while doing a shared activity or at an event to which you both have personal connections. Start with that and go from there!
You could ask:
- I had such a great time doing/at (activity or even where you met)! I’d love to do (that activity) again. Do you know when the next (activity) is?
- I’m so glad to have met you! Want to grab coffee or tea to chat sometime?
- I know we both love (event/activity where you met). I’d love to find other ways to connect! I’m into (three things you enjoy doing or want to do with a friend). Would you want to join me sometime?
These are “soft ask” questions–easy ways to build a connection without a lot of pressure.
As you learn more about your friend, try to find out about:
- family: spouse, children, pets, parents, siblings
- location: in relation to your location without sharing super specific details
- other interests: how else do they spend their time?
- preferences: coffee, tea, beer, wine, chocolate, movies, music, etc. … All the things!
After a few casual meet-ups based around or loosely related to your initial shared interest, you’ll likely know a lot more about your new person!
Your connection is growing
You’ve gone on a few get-to-know-you type and now you (spoiler alert) know more about your potential friend-to-be. It’s time for a deep dive!
Again, do not interrogate your possible friend. Instead, try to work these questions into casual conversation. Choose questions that are relevant to your situation. For example, not everyone cares about religion or politics or running. But if you do, and these are central elements to a successful friendship with you, include them!
- Oh man! DC (or local/state-level politics) is a (mess/success/improving/awful). I’m looking forward to advocating for (cause close to your heart). Want to join me?
- I’m going to the (local event/rally/restaurant/park) on (day or date). Want to join me?
- There’s a great (worship service/public speaker/art opening/festival) on (date). I’d love some company!
- Have you listened to (favorite podcast/musician)? I’m obsessed! Want to listen to my fave (episode/song) and tell me what you think?
- What is your favorite place you’ve traveled? What did you like about it?
- Tell me about your craziest (moment/college story/deployment adventure/running route/travel moment)!
- I’d love to get (our families/spouses/kids/larger friend groups) together. What’s a good time to (grab dinner/hang out/meet up/have a play date)?
- I host a (game night/fire pit/couples dinner/Bachelorette viewing party) every week. I’d love to have you join!
This stage of a budding friendship is all about finding more connections and fostering mutual activities. All of this builds trust!
Consider whether you want to continue
Not every person you meet is destined to be your next buddy and that’s okay. At this point, you’ve gotten together enough times to know more about your possible pal beyond that initial point of contact.
Right now, you need to think about:
- Do we have enough common interests and activities?
- How could I envision including this person in my life long-term?
- Does this person seem to mesh with my family (spouse, kids, pets, parents, siblings)?
- Do we share a similar worldview?
- Do we share a similar sense of humor?
- What do we agree about? What are our differences?
- After we are done spending time together, I feel _____________.
- When I think about spending time with this person, I feel _______________.
If your answers to the last two questions are remotely negative, that could be a sign that this person is not a positive influence in your life at this time. And that’s okay! You could keep this individual as a casual acquaintance, someone you see occasionally, say “hello” and then move along with your day.
Or all of your answers could line up and reflect a totally positive experience. At this point, keep spending time together and use the questions or invitations to seek out further connections.
Congrats! You might have just found your next best friend!
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!