Group of adult men sitting in the bar drinking beer and talking.

It’s a common lament: making friends in adulthood is hard. After college, it can seem quite difficult to form the kind of tight relationships you enjoyed as a youth and develop not just a network of causal acquaintances, but a circle of real friends.

Researchers have found that there are three keys for overcoming these difficulties and creating close friendships: 1) proximity (being geographically/physically close), 2) repeated and unplanned interactions (getting together without planning to get together), and 3) a setting that encourages vulnerability.

There’s one practice that satisfies all three requirements, and arguably represents the best way of cultivating satisfying friendships in adulthood: starting a discussion group.

3 Advantages for Friendships in Forming a Discussion Group

A discussion group may take the form of a book club, a Bible study, an entrepreneurial mastermind, or an organized bull session built around any other theme. Regardless, such groups not only offer edification to your mind, but three great advantages when it comes to making and keeping friends:

1. Sidesteps the planning go-round. You know how it goes when it comes to trying to get together with someone else: Whenever you see them, one of you says, “We should hang out sometime.” But then neither of you follow up. Or one person follows up and suggests a time, but the other person isn’t available then, and suggests another time, but the first person can’t make it then, and on and on the planning go-round turns. This effect is multiplied when trying to coordinate for a group of people.

A discussion group is scheduled for a regular reoccurring date and time. Its participants know that time, and can plan the rest of their schedule around it. Once it’s set up, you never have to do the planning back and forth again.

2. Ensures consistent hang-out. With busy careers, active kids, and older family members seemingly taking up the bulk of your time and energy in adulthood, it can quickly and without notice become months and months between seeing your friends. When you do realize it, it’s sort of a bummer; hanging with the crew is fun! Because discussion groups have a set, reoccurring date/time, you’re assured of seeing your friends on a regular basis. Regardless of how often you’re able to get together outside the group, you’ll at least be able to see them then.

3. Encourages deeper conversation. Everyone has acquaintances they see at church or the gym or work. You make friendly chit-chat when you run into each other, but conversation never progresses into more meaningful topics. Because the explicit purpose of a discussion group is discussion, people feel more comfortable going beyond normal pleasantries and trivialities and opening up. The structure of the group invites deeper dives into meatier topics and the sharing of more personal thoughts and feelings.

How to Start a Discussion Group

Choose a theme. As mentioned above, the theme for a discussion group could literally be anything (that’s conducive to conversation): religion, business, books, etc.   

Choose a schedule. Aim to meet once a month at least and every week at most. Personally, I think every other week may be the sweet spot as far as fitting into people’s schedules and keeping it feeling fresh. Kate and I are part of all-gals and all-guys scripture