When you are a kid, gaining a best friend forever can happen in a single playdate. But when you grow up to be an adult, making and maintaining friendship gets harder. Suddenly, you need to compete with young babies, significant others, and fully-booked work schedules to find quality time and earn the title of “friend.”
But how much quality time do you need before that stranger becomes your pal? Get ready to block off a good chunk of time if you want to earn the elusive title of best friend.
A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships recently calculated that, on average, it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before you consider them a casual friend, 90 hours before you become real friends, and about 200 hours to become close friends.
Just being around (and talking to) someone a lot doesn’t equate to friendship
To determine this, the study’s author Jeffrey Hall, a communications professor at the University of Kansas, recruited adults in desperate need of friends in two experiments — people who had just moved to a new city in the past six months and college freshmen — and asked them to rate and track the degree of closeness and time spent together with a new person. “Results suggest that the chance of transitioning from casual friend to friend is greater than 50% after around 80-100 hr together,” the study concluded.
You do not have to be chatty to gain a friend, but you do need to invest in quality time. The study found that the portion of time spent talking together, or the fact that you spent time at school or work with them, were factors unrelated to friendship closeness. Just spending time in proximity together is not enough to become friends with someone, otherwise we would all be best buddies with the coworkers who see us more than our families.
Relationships with our coworkers count as “closed systems wherein members have little influence on who else is included in the group,” the research found. But these are not relationships of choice.
“On one hand it is really easy to spend a lot of time with people as they are routinely in the same place at the same time as you,” Hall told Ladders. “However, my study shows you can have co-workers you spend hundreds and hundreds of hours with and still not develop a friendship.”
You do not need to become besties with your coworkers to develop meaningful relationships with them. But for those of us hoping to make the leap from “girl who I eat lunch at work with” to “friend I can count on in a crisis,” Hall suggests that you need to take the relationship out of the workplace for it to become a friendship.
The participants who did activities outside of work with someone, such as being invited to their home, were more likely to develop deeper relationships with them.
“If those relationships stay at work, they are unlikely to become friends,” Hall told Ladders. “To make close-system relationships into friendships, you have to move the relationship outside of the institutional system.”