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Riding! Cracking the code on making friends in adulthood

My twelve-year-old daughter started high school this year and I noticed a shift had happened in her friendship circle. This led to us having an interesting conversation about making friends. It got me thinking about our stages of life and how each one differs when it comes to making, or not making friends.

For me personally, it felt like the older I got the harder it got to find, make and keep friends… until I found riding. But I’ll come back to that later. 

Because I’m curious, the conversation with my daughter set me on a path of investigation. I wanted to find out if finding it harder to make friends as I got older was just my experience, or if it was a real thing that happens to everyone. 

I’m not uncool or weird. Phew!

I’ll get straight to the good news: I’m not uncool or weird. Phew! Friendship Expert (yes… there is such a thing… who knew) Dr Marisa Franco told me so! 

With her PhD of Psychology, Dr Franco has dedicated her career to studying and researching friendship. She says, “sociologists have identified the ingredients that need to be in place for us to make friends organically…as we become adults, we have less and less environments where those ingredients are at play.”

Franco’s research found that friendships don’t happen on their own. Effort, interaction, and vulnerability are the ingredients needed. Also, to make friends we need to be intentional about forming connections. This includes making the effort to show up to events and ditching the “no-matter-what-I-do-I-won’t-make-friends” negative self-talk.

Don’t be an overt or covert avoider

There is a great book called How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety written by Ellen Hendriksen. She talks about how people can create avoidances for themselves when it comes to making friends. Specifically, overt avoidance and covert avoidance. She says, “Overt avoidance means failing to show up at events and clubs, and covert avoidance means failing to engage with people when you get there”. 

Even when we manage to get ourselves along to a social situation, I think many of us wait for someone else to make the first move. Covert avoidance seeps in and we don’t introduce ourselves or engage in conversation.

The “liking gap”

I get it. Making conversation with a stranger can be tough. It can be hard to find the words that create common ground or avoid awkward silence. And I understand that many people leave a social situation judging themselves for silly things they said or did. But did you know there is also research that says generally, in a social interaction, people like us much more than we think they do. Those researchy people call it “the liking gap”. It’s our own self-judgement that gives us the wrong impression of how we think we are perceived. Either the other person actually really liked us, or the other person actually didn’t make any judgement at all, because like you, they were too busy judging themselves!

One more study, then I’m done, I promise. This one is a really good one, so I have to share it…

The “mere exposure effect”

In psychology world there is a thing called the “mere exposure effect”. In basic terms it means we have an automatic tendency to form preference for things because they are familiar. I’m pretty sure this can be a bad thing sometimes (hello relationship that lasted two years when it should have been done in two months!). But when it comes to making friends, the “mere exposure effect” is a good thing. 

People like us more, simply because they are exposed to our face a few times. The study I mentioned showed this by placing strangers in a college class, for a varying number of classes. The strangers didn’t interact with the students. When the students were asked, they reported liking the stranger who was showing up a lot in their class much more than the one who showed up less. In fact, the frequent stranger’s likeability rated 20% higher than the infrequent stranger. This means that if we show up regularly, people will come to like us more and more over time.

So, the message is… to make friends, not only do we need to show up, but we need to show up and engage, and we need to show up regularly

This sounds like a lot of work, right? On the surface it is. But what if I told you I have cracked the code to making this much easier than the average person would experience? I probably gave it away in the title if this article. And I suppose there is the obvious fact that this is a motorcycle publication… Of course, I am going to say that the secret to making friends as an adult is riding a motorcycle!

I’ve cracked the code!

Think about it…

Franco says the ingredients to making friends is “effort, interaction and vulnerability” but as adults, we have less environments in which to have those ingredients in play. 

When I joined East Coast Female Riders (ECFR), it took effort to show up to the rides. 

I had to take considered steps to interact with the other riders. 

And putting yourself on a motorcycle is the very definition of vulnerable

ECFR friends

Finding a group of women to ride with has created some of the best friendships I have known in my life. Compared to my other experiences, it’s been the easiest environment in which to make friends. It has created an abundant number of opportunities to connect, and those opportunities just keep on coming.

I have had the privileged of observing lots of women who ride come together over the last few years. I have watched beautiful friendships form right before my eyes. I have seen a community emerge that didn’t exist before. I have seen ladies arrive for the first time with crippling social anxiety, and then, when they realise how accepted they are, become the most vocal, active participants. They found their tribe. Then they step into the role of telling everyone about the group, or taking particular care of newcomers because they want everyone to experience the joy that riding and making new friends bought to their life. 

We’re all friends, you just haven’t met us yet

There is an unspoken bond that exists between riders. A layer a glue that is already there, long before they meet. Making friends with people who ride automatically removes the uncertainty of what to talk about. There is never awkward silence when you are connected by a love of bikes. You can always start a conversation by asking “what do you ride?” because what person doesn’t love to talk about their bike? Ask a rider to tell you their “story of riding” and you will never be short on conversation. Have a willingness to share your story in return and I promise you will be received with such positivity you will want to return time and time again. 

According to what I just learned about making friends as an adult, well… within the world of riding motorcycles, here are all the ingredients you need to start growing a friendship circle. A friendship circle that will keep growing. A friendship circle that will keep giving for the rest of your life. There you go… the friendship code is cracked!

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Loren
Lorenhttp://www.girlmoto.com.au
Loren is our Girl Moto founder and editor. Several years into her leadership role with East Coast Female Rides (ECFR), Loren felt a desire to bring a female-focussed publication to life. One that would serve to unite Girl Moto's around the world. With a background in business finance, marketing and copywriting, Loren actually creates Girl Moto content as an excuse to call riding motorcycles "work". When not being Girl Moto, you will find Loren enjoying downtime with her family, riding with her ECFR tribe or feeding her obsession for travel and good food, with a healthy side-serve of beach vibes, whenever possible.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. It’s an interesting thing to see it broken down like that. I’ve always struggled particularly with women, which seems insane since I am one! But I have three brothers and work in a male dominated environment, there’s not ever been a lot of opportunities for readily making new friendships, especially female ones. Bikes may be my salvation once again!!

    • I can totally identify Gill. As someone who grew up with 5 brothers, no sisters and a boy as a best friend, it took me a long time to connect with women. Riding totally changed that for me. I hope it does you too xx

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