How many hours does it take to make a new friend?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

You know how it is: you leave home, move out of university res and into the city for that exciting new job and we lose touch with our friends. It’s ok though, it should be easy enough to make new friends, right?

Not everyone finds it easy to make new friends though, so we’ve uncovered a scientifically proven strategy to help you make close friends. 

A recent study by Professor Jeffrey Hall at the University of Kansas in the USA revealed the exact amount of time it takes to make a good friend, and what exactly you should be talking about to ensure a meaningful friendship.

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Professor Hall is a recognised expert on flirting and relationships, with a published a book called The Five Flirting Styles. He’s also been interviewed about his research by Time, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and more, so he can be trusted to guide you here.

According to his research, it takes 50 hours of conversation and time together before an acquaintance becomes a casual friend. 
You’ll need to nearly double that to 90 hours before they become a friend; but if you’re looking for BFF status you’ll have to be ready to invest over 200 hours.

Hall’s studies covered two groups of people: adults who'd recently moved to a new place, and college first-years. He found that hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk is what created friendships.

This might sound like most days at work, so if you’re not making friends at the office, what’s going on? 

Some of Hall’s study subjects reported spending hundreds of hours with work colleagues, but still only listed these people as acquaintances and said they had no relationship outside of work. This is the key then: the exact content of people's conversations matters a lot, as well as the type of activities shared.

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The study revealed that too much small talk can actually drive people apart over time, and real friendships only grew substantively with more meaningful conversations. It seems that revealing details about your life can help strengthen the bond between friends, but avoid any sort of monologue: both participants need to share in back and forth conversation to generate mutual kinship. 

And exchanges on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram don’t count: other studies by Professor Hall have indicated that social media use was rarely considered true social interaction. Study subjects revealed that meaningful social media interactions were usually talk-focused, one-on-one exchanges with close friends. 

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In short, if your aim is to make friends, you need to invest the time, share information about yourself and ask questions like “What are your hobbies?” and “What’s been going on in your life?”.

Check in and catch up with those important to you and they will soon become close friends. 

Don’t go overboard though: according to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford, there are “cognitive limits to the number of people that we can accommodate” as friends. 

He says BFF’s are limited to no more than five people, most of us would call about 15 people good friends, and then we would only classify around 50 people as friends. 

He also found that 150 is the rough limit on the number of meaningful relationships our brains seem able to manage.

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