We’ve all been there. We meet someone new, we get along, we laugh at the same jokes and seem into the same stuff. We’re pretty sure this new person would be a great friend…but we’re not sure how to seal that particular deal. After all, we’re not in school anymore. “Can I sit here?” only cements friendships in K-12 cafeterias.
For whatever reason, it is much more difficult for adults to forge and cement platonic relationships (and keep up with them, which is another article for another time) than they do romantic relationships. We are choosier about our friendships, the bonding of which only becomes more complicated after we form romantic partnerships. Suddenly it isn’t just about whether we like the person, it’s about whether our partner likes that person…and like’s that person’s partner!
So what do you do? How do you create a safe space in which to bond and learn how to relate to each other? The easiest way to do this is to think of an activity to share that will take your attention at least partially away from each other. For example, inviting your new friend(s) over to watch the game on Sunday is a great way to spend time together. A simple, casual invitation like “we just got the NFL Sunday Ticket on Direct TV, you should come over and get your game on!” will go over much better than “we should all go out for dinner.”
Why is dinner a bad idea? At dinner, there is very little to distract you from each other. If the conversation lags even slightly, the evening could very quickly become a disaster. The pressure to perform well is immense.
Distractions Create Safe Spaces
One of the reason inviting your friend over to watch the game, going out to a movie, even hitting a Bingo Hall works so well in improving friendships is that the distraction from each other creates a sense of safety. You can let your guard down a little bit and focus on the task at hand instead of totally on each other.
Another reason that distractions are a great way to bond–and are more likely to help you build lasting friendships–is that these distractions help you learn more about each other in subtle ways. For example, is this new person competitive? Are they judgmental? Do they tend to keep things positive? Are they good at diffusing tension? How does this person treat his or her partner? How does this person treat other people in general? These are all things you learn by watching how that person behaves during your shared activity.
Best Activities for Bonding With New Friends
When you meet a new friend, particularly someone with whom you feel a strong connection right away, it’s easy to jump right into BFF-mode. Try to resist this urge. Like romantic partnerships, it is better to go slowly and get to know each other before you start labeling each other or the type of friendship you are going to have. This is another reason why shared activities are great ice-breakers. Here are a few of the best activities for bonding with new friends.
Get together at a sports bar to watch a game and then graduate to inviting this new friend over to your home to take advantage of the sports package you just purchased. Then, if your friendship is still doing well and you find out that you both enjoy playing sports as much as watching them, invite the person out for a pickup game of whatever sport you both enjoy.
This is a more passive version of the sports technique. Your attention is entirely focused away from each other for two hours, but after the movie is over you have a topic to talk about and bond over. If this goes well, you can start having movie nights at each others’ homes or start getting together to watch your favorite shows (if there are shows you both love)
You bring a game–preferably something that can be played quickly–and your new friend brings a game. Or you can find a pub that supplies games and choose one from their library. The game gives you a central focus but also leaves room for conversations about other things. Games like Dixit and Apples to Apples (or if everybody is over 21, Cards Against Humanity) are great ways to learn more about each other through the game.
There are a lot of ways that you can bond with friends, but these are the three that provide the least pressure. You’ll be amazed at how strong your friendships become when you can enjoy activities together.
Image License: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay