Five years is a long time. Think about all that has changed in your life over the last five years. It’s kind of amazing for most people.
But here’s one thing that new research shows likely hasn’t changed for you over the last five years…you haven’t made any new friends. At least if you live in the United States.
The research shows that the vast majority of Americans have not made even one new friend in the last five years. The study was also specific about what qualifies as actual friendship. For instance, you can spend hundreds and hundreds of hours with a co-worker and still not develop a friendship. The study called those “relationships in a closed system wherein members have little influence on who else is included in the group.”
The study suggests that you must move that relationship out of the workplace in order for it to have a chance to become a true friendship. They said on average it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before we consider them a casual friend, 90 hours to become real friends and over 200 hours to become close friends. All of those hours are outside of the workplace environment.
The average adult American has 16 friends. Three friends for life, five people they like enough to hang out with one-on-one and eight people they like but don’t spend time with one-on-one or seek out.
So what about you? When did you last make a new friend? Not somebody at work, not the barista at the coffee shop you stop at each morning. When was the last time you made a new real friend? I’ve asked this question of 20 people in the two hours before I wrote this post and not one, not even one, could remember making a new friend in the last 5 years.
Neither can I.
The study provided several reasons why people have so much trouble making friends but it seems to me it’s harder the older you get. You’re not exposed to as many new acquaintances unless you make that happen. Most people don’t really make that happen.
We tend to stay close to the 16 friends we have and seldom reach out to new groups or try new activities where we might meet new people. We prefer the company of people who think like us and act like us. People like me would call that “cocooning in your comfort zone.”
The thing is you don’t grow much when you are in your comfort zone. If you aren’t growing and learning and experiencing new things then nothing ever changes in your life. You become kind of stuck.
If that sounds like you then make a commitment right now to make a new friend by the end of this year. Not a new acquaintance. Not a new lunch buddy at work. A true new friend.
Don’t expect someone to be your friend on their own. You be the one who gets the ball rolling. You be the one that risks that kind of weird and uncomfortable conversation. You be the one who makes a friend by being a friend.
Five years is too long to go without a new friend. Whether you have more or less than the average of 16 friends adding one more could open you up to a whole new world.
I’m sure it’s going to seem awkward to me at first but I’m going to do my best to start conversations with a few people who I could know better. Who knows, they just might be a friend in waiting.