Not once in our 12 years of grade school, four years of college, and decades of work are we taught how to make friends. Developing relationships seems to be a skill that the school system expects everyone to have innately. Yet, time and again, as adults leave universities and move for work, we find ourselves lacking the social structure we so desperately need to remain sane. Without the forced interactions of the schoolyard, most adults languish without strong social connections.
Fortunately, science has looked into this very adult problem. Here are seven qualities scientists say make people better able to create and preserve a satisfying social life in adulthood.
1. Be Confident
Many people assume that just because they are competent in a certain field, they will be rewarded. However, as much as we may want a true meritocracy, capability is not the only factor in success. The book “The Confidence Code” explains that belief in oneself is just as crucial to achievement as skill. This is equally true in social encounters as it is in the workplace; displaying confidence in any situation usually leads to better outcomes. However, there is one caveat: Researchers have found that real confidence arises from attempted action, which is somewhat like a catch-22 for most people. Fortunately, there are a handful of other ways to build confidence, including the following socialization-boosters.
2. Be Healthier
It is well-documented that having friends tends to make people healthier mentally and physically, but the opposite is true, too: Healthier people tend to have more friends. Though the stigma may be lamentable in most cases, overweight and otherwise sickly individuals tend to have fewer total friends. Meanwhile vivacious, energetic people tend to attract others like magnets. Being healthy and fit — eating the right nutrients and vitamins and exercising appropriately — often breeds confidence, which in turn makes a person stronger socially.
3. Be Approachable
Few people want to be friends with a messy, smelly person. Thus, a person who is eager for a strong social life should strive to be as inoffensive as possible, even exceeding expectations when it comes to appearance. According to the New York Times, there are profound links between a person’s state of dress and his or her emotional state, and generally, snappier dressers tend to be more confident and gracious. Strangers especially sort people into categories based on appearance alone.
Additionally, a study concluded that smokers more often than not exist on the fringes of social groups as more and more people find the habit unpleasant, which means any eager socialite with a nicotine habit should switch to less-offensive and cleaner e-cigarettes or kick the habit altogether.
4. Be Passionate
Most often, social circles center on a shared interest: dancing, singing, game-playing, etc. Thus, people who chase their interests to their limits often find other passionate people who are eager to geek out. Even seemingly non-social activities, like reading or writing, have thriving communities eager to meet and socialize, whether it is about their common interest or not.
5. Be Open
Everyone has personal opinions, emotions, and dogmas, and it is incredibly important that people share those intimate thoughts to establish trust and firm friendships. Like with interests, many people form strong bonds through their thoughts and feelings. However, it is actually the act of sharing that improves one’s ability to socialize, according to one study. Research showed that friends who supported one another’s ideologies in one form or another were much more likely to remain friends over long periods of time.
6. Be Exciting
People rarely make new friends by sitting at home. Routines may be comfortable, but they are rarely fodder for healthy social lives, especially among those who are already struggling to engage people socially. One researcher found that flexibility is a major marker of social success — which means a person who understands when to go out and try new things and when to relax as normal is more likely to build a strong social life.
7. Be Inclusive
Once a person has established a social circle, it can be tempting to shield the newfound group from outside influence. As a result, many people become exclusive, thwarting newcomers from enjoying a satisfying social experience in the same way. However, limiting access to one’s friend group can have an atrophying effect, stifling fun and killing excitement. Outsiders can add new flavor to a group, so it is important to be inclusive even after one’s strong social bonds are formed.
Subscribe to Jebiga for a dose of the best in gear, design, rides, tech and adventure.