Being an introvert is powerful when you tap into your strengths but there are days when it can feel like a let-down. I don’t know about you but there are times when I don’t want to operate as an introvert. I just want to get out of my head and make friends as easily as I do eating a bag of crisps.
A couple of years ago, I realized that making friends isn’t something that comes easily to me which I found both surprising but disappointing. I craved having new friends and with time, I realized that people weren’t going to walk to my doorstep and ask whether we can be friends, I had to be proactive about it.
As I learn how introverts make friends, I’ve had to acknowledge that it’s a process and not a one-day affair. You’ll have to be patient and set realistic expectations. The upside is you’ll meet all kinds of new and interesting people and it can be a very fun affair where you discover more about yourself and have many new experiences.
These are the tips that I am gathering along the way.
How to make friends as an introvert
1. Start small
In an interview on Marie Forleo TV, Susan Cain, author of Quiet, says she started public speaking in small, safe, supportive environments to get good at public speaking and with time, she became desensitized to the fear of public speaking.
When you’re making friends as an introvert, practice the same wisdom. Look for events or gatherings that are small, safe and supportive and if you want, gradually, you can progress to larger, more demanding gatherings.
2. Stop being picky
Not long ago, I realized that I am unconsciously picky about who I hang out with. I had criteria, and in retrospect, I could see that I had snubbed people who didn’t fit these criteria. Life has made me eat humble pie in the friend-making department and I have had to open my mind to accept that most people I meet will not fit my friendship criteria, which is a good thing. This way I open up to being friends with a wider variety of personalities.
I am learning how to have friendships that are not deep, and to not have any expectations of those friendships apart from the basics like respect. The beauty of this is I am also expecting less perfection from myself which feels like undoing a tight belt on a full stomach and finally being comfortable.
3. Focus on the few and not the many
In her book, Quiet, Susan Cain calls this the power of one and the rule of thumb for networking events
Instead of attending a networking event and trying to interact with everyone, focus on interacting with a one person who you will have a solid conversation with which will probably get you further with your friendship goals rather than if you had many quick and shallow conversations where you didn’t have enough time to establish a connection or common ground with any of the people that you interacted with at the event.
4. Lower your expectations
You’re not going to always become friends with the people that you want to which is fine. It’s like falling in love. You don’t fall in love with every one that falls in love with you and neither will everyone that you develop feelings for feel the same way which sucks but it’s normal.
Friendship is pretty much the same way. There are people that you will be attracted to, who you will try to become friends with but they won’t feel the same way and may not reciprocate your actions. Don’t let it discourage you from continuing to try and make friends. Consider it normal and swiftly move on. No need to wallow.
5. It’s okay to take the first step
At social gatherings, introverts tend to find a comfortable space where they can watch what’s going on and let people come to them if they want to talk. You can be bold and approach people.
A great way to follow through is to remind yourself that you only have to do this with one or very few people after which you can comfortably retreat to your corner or go home.
6. Plan when you can but learn to be spontaneous
Sounds like an oxymoron right? Well, introverts function better when they’re able to plan ahead. An introverted teacher would most likely need to plan their lessons before each class. If not, the lessons would be disjointed and after the lessons would probably feel like they could do better.
An extroverted teacher, on the other hand, would probably be able to teach off the cuff with lesson ideas coming to them as they taught.
The trick is to not let planning prevent you from taking part in more spontaneous events. It’s just supposed to be a tool. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to function without planning.
Toastmasters is one of the perfect avenues for learning to plan but also be spontaneous. They provide a warm and welcoming environment for anyone wanting to work on their public speaking. Each session has a section where speakers who prepared their speeches in advance are given time to present their speeches and then there’s a section where attendees of the meeting are randomly selected, given a topic and asked to talk about it without prior preparation.
This a good introvert making friends tool that you can use at social gatherings and even work meetings.
7. Join a group that shares one of your passions
For an introvert, being part of a group that is involved in a hobby that you’re knowledgeable or skilled at is the best way to make friends. You’ll have a lot to discuss on this topic and you’ll probably feel comfortable and in your element which will make it easier to attract people towards you and for you to reach out to people.
8. Game night
Socializing through games is one of the best ways for an introvert make friends. The beauty of games is you can be comfortable being spontaneous. Even if it’s not something that you had prepared for, you can still have a good time.
If you hear of gatherings where people are going to play games, don’t hesitate to join. Introverts need to let their hair down and just have fun without second-guessing themselves and games are the best way to do this.
Since introverts are good planners, you can even set up a once a month games night at your place where you ask a couple of people to come with a friend and you can even invite people that you’re not yet friends with but you’re interested in getting to know.
9. Follow up
I recently attended a wedding where I was part of the bridal team and was happy to meet pretty cool people in the bridal team that I got along with. Normally, that would have been it. I would go home, muse on how nice it was to meet such people, maybe maintain communication with one person from the event for a while until it fizzled out.
But now, wanting to make friends, I need to be committed and reach out to those people and make an effort to build relationships with them and I need to start soon before I lose the drive to.
10. Pace yourself
At the end of the day, you are an introvert and you do need your me-time. With time, you’ll build more stamina for socializing but introverts tend to perform optimally when they make time for themselves to regroup and re-energize.
Hanging out with new friends daily or attending social gatherings every day in a bid to make new friends will burn you out. It’s not a race and you don’t have to meet a quota by a set deadline. Push yourself to step out of your comfort zone but work within your personality type.
This is not only good for you and your well-being but even your friendships benefit from you being your best self.
One Day at a Time, Dear Intro
I had gotten to the point where I had thrown in the towel on the whole introvert making friends business. I was done. If I couldn’t make friends then I couldn’t make friends. That’s just who I was.
I think it was a feeling of inadequacy and being tired of feeling that I wasn’t good at making friends or maintain them but as I’m being honest with myself, those are just underlying issues to other hang-ups that I should look into.
You will probably come across your own bumps in the road as you make friends but remember that it’s SO worth it. Just take it one day at a time.