Mental Models: How To Rewire Your Brain To Easily Make Friends As An Adult

(Feeling lonely? Research says it’s a red flag)

As we get older, some things in life become more difficult.

Losing weight is one of them. Drinking all night and showing up for work the next morning is another.

The hardest of them all seems to be making new friends once we are all grown up.

When we were kids, it was easy. You just pick up and befriend other kids as you go through the childhood.

Somewhere along the line something changes.

Contrary to popular belief, the inability to make friends as adults, in most cases, is not a result of our poor social skills.

The number one reason why most of us struggle to make new friends is the belief that holds us back from doing so.

In other words, it’s the perception of ourselves and those around us that makes it extremely difficult for us to make new friends. In some cases that perception makes it impossible and as a result, social isolation will inevitably creep in before we know it.

According to the researchers at Brigham Young University, social isolation increases your risk of death by an astounding 30%, and some estimates have it as high as 60%.

In other words, not having friends can literally kill you.

The mental models we have created are manifesting through our reality — and the following shift need to happen if we want to make new friends as adults.

Shift #1: Question your attitude

“Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ― George Bernard Shaw

The most obvious model is that we are who we are and that we can’t/won’t change because of anyone.

If you like me, good for you; If you don’t — your loss.

I am an advocate of social selection and I firmly believe that no matter how much you try, not everyone is going to like you.

However, the attitude ‘’this is who I am, take it or leave it’’ could be detrimental to our well-being — especially if this is how we welcome new people into our lives.

While you shouldn’t change because of anyone else, you should at least be willing to evaluate your beliefs and ask yourself this:

1. Is this belief empowering and serving me? If yes… How so?

2. If not…How can I change it?

Change is possible, and more often than not it’s necessary.

Shift #2: Forget about expectations

“Act without expectation.” ― Lao Tzu

The expectation is the grandmother of most screwups.

As we get older, we start expecting certain things from ourselves and those around us.

While having expectations in life could be a sign of maturity, it can easily backfire on us if they are not handled properly.

Setting the expectation has its time and place.

If you are running a company or a team, it’s crucial to have it. Otherwise, you are doomed to fail.

In the context of social interaction, to bring the particular relationship to a higher level, making clear expectations is a must.

However, there is a caveat.

The less you expect from others, the happier you’ll be. Expecting too much or too soon is a recipe for a disappointment — regardless of the nature of a relationship.

So, what is an alternative?

Replace expectations with anticipation.

The difference between these two mental models is that one relies on the entitlement while the latter is founded on the feeling of excitement about what’s to come in the near future.

Shift #3: Give the benefit of a doubt

“Do not judge others by your own standards, for everyone is making their way home, in the way they know best.” ― Leon Brown

Human beings are walking judging creatures.

Most of the times, we do it subconsciously without realizing it.

While character evaluation is a skill that can help you make lasting social connections, beware of the character judgment trap that can occur in the process.

If you want to make friends as an adult, it’s crucial to give others the benefit of the doubt — especially right after you meet them.

Gather as much relevant information as you can from the interaction before evaluating the person and deciding whether or not the social connection is mutually beneficial.

About five years ago, while I was working as a nightlife photographer in one of the nightclubs, I met a guy who worked as a bouncer.

We clicked instantly because I knew he was one of the primary ‘’stakeholders’’ I should befriend if I want to make my job easier.

As with any other bouncer I met before, I judged him too soon, and I have categorized him too early. To me, he was just a person I should have on my side in case things in the club go south.

Our interaction was usually a small talk followed by a handshake; until one day I saw him in a library in a self-help section.

Much to my surprise, he was finishing his studies in Belgrade with a goal of getting a PhD in psychology and moving abroad.

The only reason why he worked as a bouncer is that he had to pay the bills, and standing at 6 foot 4 inches tall, he certainly could.

That day I learned a valuable lesson I try to practice to this day:

Regardless of the potential of a particular relationship, give people the benefit of the doubt before labeling and ultimately judging them.


A change will not happen overnight, or in this case, after reading this article.

The first step is always the awareness that precedes the change we wish to experience.

However, the self-sabotage every human is prone to can now be addressed by acknowledging the mental models you’ve created for yourself — the models that prevent you from expanding your horizons and allowing yourself to meet and greet new people in your life.

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Multimedia Artist. Modern-day Teacher. Lifelong Learner.

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Alex Karadzin

Alex Karadzin

Multimedia Artist. Modern-day Teacher. Lifelong Learner.

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