Beyond Choosing Friends: Choosing Friendships

April 10, 2023

Audrey Palmeri

How can we create meaningful friendships? Oftentimes we focus on the who of friendships- who we are currently friends with and who we want to be friends with. Although thinking in this manner is natural, we need to shift our focus to the what of friendship to actually answer the question at hand. Lydia Denworth wrote in her book Friendship, “yes, you can choose your friends, but you must also more generally choose friendship- embrace it, invest in it, work at it.”1 In order to make better friends, we must choose friendship. And in order to do so, we need to remember two important things. 

#1 Friendships won’t just happen. They require effort!

When we were younger, friendships could easily form organically.2,3 Because of this, we tend to think of forming friendships in adolescence, adulthood, and later in life as something that will also naturally occur. However, friendships in these stages require real effort, and yet many people think they will form friendships if they are meant to. A research study found that people who believe friendships were based on luck tended to be lonelier in five years than people who believed friendships were based on effort.4,5,6

In order to choose friendship at these stages, we have to put ourselves out there, create plans, and initiate. But we also have to do so with an open mindset and without narrowing our focus to specific individuals. As a first step, try to remind yourself that we have to put in the effort both to form and strengthen friendships. Ultimately, this will help shift the way you think about friendships, which will likely make initiating conversations easier in the future.

If there are people you want to get to know better, reach out to them to meet up for coffee or ask them to study. Feel free to tell them to bring other friends along so you can get to know more people. And if this feels too overwhelming, at least seek out new environments where people will share interests with you so that your interests can help facilitate the conversation.

#2: Assume that people will like you.

Oftentimes we are afraid to approach and interact with new people because we fear that they will not like us. However, this tends not to be true. The liking gap describes the tendency to underestimate how much new people will like us. Research has shown that strangers actually perceive interactions with other strangers very positively. This hinders our confidence in approaching new people, but by remembering the research surrounding the liking gap, it becomes a little less intimidating.

We need to start assuming that people will like us. It will help us feel more comfortable approaching and talking to new people, which will ultimately increase our chances of making friends. So next time you find yourself nervous about going up to someone because they won’t like you, remind yourself that they will most likely like you and that small interaction could lead to something bigger.

Recognizing these two main points can help us choose friendship. While there is not one “best” way to make friends, if we are able to keep these things in mind, we will ultimately become more comfortable seeking out conversations and initiating interactions with strangers over time. On this journey, give yourself credit for every step of progress you make toward choosing friendship, as that is truly a victory in itself.


Key References

  1. Denworth, L. (2020). Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. (pp. 248). W. W. Norton & Company.
  2. Franco, M. G. (2020, February 8). The Secret to Making Friends As An Adult. Dr. Marisa G. Franco.
  3. Franco, M. (2022). Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—And Keep—Friends. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
  4. Franco, M. G. (2020, February 8). The Secret to Making Friends As An Adult. Dr. Marisa G. Franco.
  5. Fields, J. (Host). (2022, October 20). Dr. Marisa G. Franco | How to Make Adult Friends (and Why They Matter).
  6. Newall, N. E., Chipperfield, J. G., Clifton, R. A., Perry, R. P., Swift, A. U., & Ruthig, J. C. (2009). Causal beliefs, social participation, and loneliness among older adults: A longitudinal study. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(2–3), 273–290.


Audrey Palmeri received her B.S. in Psychology and Economics from Union College in 2022 and currently works as a research manager at the Well-Being and Measurement Lab with Dr. Louis Tay. Her research interests are widespread and include topics such as attachment, well-being, relationships, emotions, personality, development across the lifespan, risk, and game theory.


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