The Scientific Formula For Making Friends (Seriously)

The Scientific Formula For Making Friends (Seriously)

Let's say your company has hired a new employee -- we'll call them Lee -- and they are rad as shit. They bring in doughnuts every morning (from the good place, not the chain your boss deigns to DoorDash for the quarterly meeting), make dumb faces behind your insufferable coworker when he's whining about people using his square of the office fridge, and spend their weekends performing motorcycle stunts for charity. Just someone you could really see yourself platonically growing old with. You're determined to make Lee your best friend, but how? Well ...

There's a Formula For Making Friends

Here's hoping you work in accounting, because making friends is largely a numbers game. Scientists have calculated the number of hours of quality time it takes to progress through each stage of friendship, and it's so precise that you can pretty much set your watch by it. Want to level up an acquaintance to a casual friend? It's going to take between 40 and 60 hours of shooting the shit. Double that for a true friendship, the "increasingly elaborate insults toward your freshly minted ex" kind. If you're hoping for matching rocking chairs for you and Lee in a retirement home somewhere, you're looking at over 200 hours of time before they won't side-eye you a little weirdly for suggesting it. Fortunately, calculating your friend level mathematically isn't weird at all.

Unfortunately, you've gotta act fast. Most friendships develop within three to nine weeks of meeting, and if you get bogged down in work and let four months go by without asking Lee where their stunt-riding arena is so you can check them out sometime, your odds of matching rocking chairs starts dropping dramatically. It's not a hard and fast rule -- it's usually just because the two people don't have time for new friends or have ruled each other out as potential matches. As long as Lee isn't slowly backing out of the room every time you ask about their non-vehicular interests, you're good to go. Besides, you work together -- you'll slam those 200 hours down in about five weeks, right? About that ...

What You Do Matters

Clicking away in a shared cubicle isn't going to cut it in terms of turning someone into a friend. When scientists trapped pairs of men in a small room for 10 days and paired other men together for work but separated them during sleep and leisure time, they weren't arrested for some reason, but they also found that the men who were stuck in a hole Buffalo Bill-style bonded more than the work husbands, even after comparable amounts of time together.

This means you're gonna have to get Lee out for drinks sometime. Ideally, you'll want to get together for some kind of "joint activity," which we've been told doesn't have to -- but certainly can -- be taken literally, whether of the skeletal or herbal variety. It could be as simple as playing pool after those drinks or as elaborate as begging them to teach you how to pop wheelies, but this is believed to be the "turning point" where some rando starts becoming a bud. Pace yourself: you're gonna have to balance it with those 200 hours, so don't go busting out the friendship bracelet kits after only a few hangouts, but once you're both actively choosing -- that is, "electing" -- to spend time together, you're well on your way.

What You Talk About Matters

Here we go. The nitty gritty, the true stuff of friendship: laughing, crying, complaining about that jerk at the building's coffee kiosk who always pauses a beat and sighs dramatically whenever you ask for a sleeve but never explains why that's such an apparently unreasonable request. You're gonna have to do it all, otherwise you're gonna stall out at mere "friend" level and you'll never get the furtively slid maple bacon ring of true besties.

When it comes to developing friendships, scientists have found that small talk (e.g. talking about the weather or the big game last night, unless that's one of your favored joint activities) was far less effective than what they call "striving behaviors." Those aren't necessarily the big emotional bonding moments where you bare your soul and wonder aloud if your childhood attraction to Kermit the Frog is the reason you can't find a good man. It can be as simple as talking about your respective days, what's happened since you last saw each other, and even just joking around. What's important is that it feeds your need for belonging, which is really all a friendship is: the comfort of someone who can ramp a school bus thinking you're cool.

Those big talks will come, though. Remember those hostage victims? At around the 160-hour mark -- that is, right around the point where a "friend" becomes a "close friend," or day six or seven for them -- they started exhibiting "patterns of self-disclosure approximating best friendship," meaning the point where you and the other person trapped in a well with you start wondering if anyone is ever going to find you and admitting your darkest secrets to each other. That's best friendship: being trapped in the well of life with someone who can hopefully ride a motorcycle. The bad news is ...

It's Really Hard to Make New Friends

No one ever said this wasn't going to be a big commitment. When was the last time you did anything for 200 hours outside of work? Americans spend about three times as much time commuting as they do socializing, and that's not even getting into our TV time. Seriously: We spend about 120 minutes a day doing each, compared to 41 minutes of rolling with the homies. That's almost 300 days before you and Lee can bust out the matching t-shirts.

Even then, that's assuming that you have no other relationships in your life that require a chunk of those 41 minutes to maintain, which would be a bigger problem than we can help you with. More than likely, you have one to five members of your "support clique" of romantic partners or close family members, a "sympathy group" of good friends about three times bigger, and a whole constellation of casual friends and acquaintances to maintain. You can dole out a single minute to each of them every day, let somebody fall by the wayside, or drop them all so you can focus solely on your cool new doughnut friend. We're not here to tell you how to live your life.

Top image: Ivan Kruk/Shutterstock

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