What I learnt about making friends as an adult woman

What I learnt about making friends as an adult woman

The first thing I learned about Nimotalai was that she was cool and “I was going to love her [forever]” before we even met in person. Our paths crossed two years ago, when I started working my first job after university; we met during her time working as a lawyer in the international development sector and our connection was almost instantaneous.

We bonded over everything from food, music, office gossip, fashion and occasionally even matched outfits (which was totally unplanned). Our friendship eventually evolved from just within the office to spending time outside work and showing up for each other’s side hustles. That’s the last close friend I would say I made easily and organically as an adult, which I found is my preferred way of making new close friends. 

Popular culture and social media would have us believe that women are their worst enemies, but I’ve found that the closest and most meaningful friendships in my life are those of women.  This is how I wound up contemplating the dreaded task of trying to make new friends as an adult, right after my closest girlfriend moved to another city.

Since the 1950s sociologists have discovered that the three conditions crucial to making close friends are proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages you to let your guard down. Adulting as we know it makes those three conditions very limiting especially for many of us that spend 75% of time at work trying to earn our living. Now the reason I dread making new close friends is because of how difficult it was for me to make friends when I moved to a new city with my family. It didn’t help that for the next 3 years right after we moved, I was studying abroad and only came home for summer breaks so most of my energy and effort were in sustaining my friendships from college and with my friends in the city I grew up in. 

It always seemed even much harder to make friends with other women especially. So I gave up and focused on my friendships with my sisters, my friends from university and any of my friends that I made in my childhood or teenage years. 

Knowing this, I decided to do some research and find out if this was a normal occurrence for other millennial women. So I posed the same question in a Twitter poll and 40% of respondents agreed that it was difficult while 38% felt it depended on the situation. Despite my initial findings, I still wanted to know engage with a wider pool of people, so I posted the same question on Instagram and ran some more polls on a whole different set of people. 

During my research, I soon found that both men and women agreed that it was more difficult for women to make friends in their adult years and that men had it more easy. These were the most interesting finds:

  • 81% of respondents agreed that making friends is more difficult for women. And interestingly, out the responses 14% of them were men that agreed.
  • As for men, only 8 men agreed alongside 40 women that it was easier for men to make friends. It seems fair to conclude that many women have the same perception that men have it easier when it comes to making friends. 
  • Out of the 25 people that disagreed with men finding it easier to make friends as adults only 9 of them were men. (I found this particularly interesting so I might dig a little deeper another time)
  • Lack of trust and pride were sighted as the most common reasons people find it difficult to make friends.
  • Some women spoke up about the “unspoken competition” that always seems to exist amongst women making it difficult to find genuine friendships with other women. 

The general consensus seemed to be that making friends as adults is complicated for everyone. As we get older, we are only going to become more set in our ways and ostensibly selective with who we decide to let into our space or lives, and this applies to romantic relationships as well as friendships. It may end in disappointment and tears; or it could end in laughter and smiles; but you’ll never know till you put yourself out there. 

Be the type of friend you want to have. But also know when a friendship is bad for you or no longer serves you (this saves you a lot of stress). Friends especially female friends (yes, I’m biased) make life so much sweeter so don’t miss out on experiencing the wholesome love of girlfriends. You deserve it. 

After speaking to all these women, I must say that making friends does not seem as daunting as it used to because they were able to share how they usually make friends, what works and what didn’t. So to all my women wondering how to venture into the friendship making land here are some tips to help you get you started. 

Get to know your friends’ friends. Chances are if your friend gets along well with their friend then they just might be a good fit for you. For Funke, 28, it’s her rule of thumb, “ I don’t make new friends without reference, that is, they must at least be cordial with someone I know”.

Making friends at work is always a good place to start. However, if you work from home or are self-employed or just unemployed, then there are other social gatherings like events, workshops, weddings, virtual groups, interest based clubs, gyms and more. “When I first moved to Lagos, I didn’t have any friends of my own. It wasn’t until I started going to places (I’m an artist so for me it was exhibitions and workshops) that I enjoyed myself that I met people with common interests that I could really talk to and have a good time with. It’s that way I’ve a good portion of the people that I consider my real friends (in Lagos) today.” – Yinka, 26.

Social media might be your safest bet. Women like Adesola, 30, meet new people on social media all the time. “Sometimes I make friends on social media, via twitter or Instagram, when I interact with their posts or ask them direct questions.” 

Friendships don’t have as many rules as romantic relationships so try to be open-minded on how you start it. You are allowed to make the first move. You can smile and just say hello (this does not make you creepy, trust me). Being kind goes a long way too and you have nothing to lose from being kind. Don’t believe me? Well Miss I.K, 19, says “As an adult, I usually make friends by making the first move, I always smile a lot and walk up to people, I try to be funny at times. Though it doesn’t always work that way, helping people do something at a place where you find them is also an easy way, even answering questions that weren’t directed at me. And I can say 80% of the time it goes well for me on the first day of meeting.

Being a good listener is something I have found that always helps me. It’s how I am able to find common interests that lead to conversations and sometimes great friendships. Throwing compliments (genuine ones only) is another great tip to get people to warm up to you. However, it only works when it is genuine and not forced.

Be your most authentic self. You attract the type of people that will accept you as you are. Sometimes you may just be an unapproachable person with a resting bitch face which is completely fine, which might scare well meaning normal people away. Or you’ll be lucky to find people like me that find pretty women with resting bitch faces interesting and like talking to them.


If you’re wondering what some of these women shared with me about their experiences, then feel free to read more below:

When it comes to making friends, my toxic trait is having this fear of rejection so I’d rather not take the jump of getting to know someone on my own instead I wait for a mutual friend to do the work.” – Nsikan, 27, UAE


Structured settings make it easy and events like parties and social setups are difficult to make male friends cos they all just want to fuck 🤦🏽‍♀️. However, making female friends at social settings is becoming easier and I’d say thanks to all the awareness in the world now” – Ife, 23, Lagos

Making friends is really easy for me. I have found that people respond to warmth. Everyone is always in need of a little warmth or a little kindness. So a compliment here, a smile there, a kind word, a funny word and people warm up in response.” – Anastasia, 39, Abuja

The thing that usually makes it difficult for me to make friends is that I hardly put myself out there or make myself available to actually build new friendships. I’m a cool whatsapp or social media friend though (I just don’t remember to message often).” – Karashika, 27, Abuja

Now that I’m older I find the commitment that it takes to make a “real friend”, I don’t have it anymore. A lot of the energy I have goes towards maintaining the friendships I already have and even then it’s a conscious effort. Another reason is that I’ve been burned in the past- I take friendships as seriously as any relationship. Because a friendship is a relationship (in the literal sense). You invest all this time and energy into someone, getting to know them and letting them into your life only for them to be an asshole. So those bad experiences (luckily only a few) have made me extra careful about who I invest time with.” – Yinka, 26, Lagos

So I’m personally a very shy person so I don’t usually like approaching people but in a work setting it’s easier. Or if I’m in an intimate setting where I know a good percentage of people, that makes it easier as well.” – Aduke, 24, Lagos

What makes it hard for me as an adult is patience. I am definitely not the most patient person in the world and I take friendship very seriously. I am the ride or die kind of person. Also, I think as I get older I’m more stuck in my ways and basically like what I like.” – Suddenly Sane, 25, Lagos

I don’t feel it’s difficult, I guess it’s generally based on personality, I’m a very friendly person and I approach so many people, most of my female friendships were actually initiated by me.” – Miss I.K., 19, Abuja

Image credits: Girlfriends

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