Forming new, adult friendships is difficult. Maybe you see a cool new coworker every day but aren’t sure how to cross the bridge from acquaintances to true friends: How long will it take? What should I do?
You’re not alone in wondering this. In fact, communications scientists like Jeffrey Hall of the University of Kansas investigate it for a living.
His new study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, set out to determine how much time it takes to evolve from an acquaintance to a casual friend, a casual friend to a friend, and a friend to a good/best friend.
According to his findings from two separate surveys, a casual friendship can be struck up after spending about 50 hours together, causal friends can become friends after 80 to 100 hours, and strong, close friendships usually require about 200 hours to emerge.
What you do during that time together matters too, and sorry to break it to all the introverts out there, but small talk and simply being in proximity to someone doesn’t do the trick.
Forming real bonds with new people was associated with making time to hang out outside of work or school and engaging in meaningful or joking conversations early in the relationship (within about 3 months).
“One interpretation of the role of hanging out in friendship development is when potential friends agree to shift contexts and try out a relationship in a new context, such as in someone’s home or for the sake of just being with another person, friends are agreeing to trying out a new type of relationship,” Professor Hall writes.
The first survey was an online questionnaire given to 355 adults who had recently moved, asking them to answer questions about their relationship with a new individual. An analysis of the data revealed that being coworkers or classmates with a new person was predictive of becoming friends, yet time spent with them only at work or school was not. Time spent hanging out, watching TV or movies, or gaming together, however, was associated with more closeness.
Survey two asked 112 freshmen or transfer students starting at a Midwest university about a non-romantic, non-roommate relationship three weeks after term started, then again at weeks six and nine. Unlike study one, this evaluation actually asked participants about what they talked about when spending time with their buddy.
Overall time spent talking did not necessarily predict friendship closeness, but Hall found that pairs who engaged in serious two-way conversations, playful or joking banter, and/or affectionate and supportive exchanges were more likely to become close between rounds of the survey.
Given these results, Professor Hall shared with Psychology Today some straightforward advice on how to make friends.
“You have to invest,” he said. “It’s clear that many adults don’t feel they have a lot of time, but these relationships are not going to develop just by wanting them. You have to prioritize time with people.”