Finding “your people” is hard, period. But it can be even harder when you’re a solitude-loving introvert. You may want more friends, but as an adult, where do you go to meet new people? And how do you start a conversation with someone you barely know? Plus, most nights, you’d rather stay home and relax than go out and socialize. Hanging out with people you don’t know well can be draining.
Also, as an introvert, you don’t want to be friends with just anyone—at least I don’t. I’m selective about who I let into my inner circle, because I only have so much social energy to give. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Laurie Helgoe, in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, compares extroverts to hotels and introverts to luxury suites. Extroverts can accommodate a large number of interactions that come and go, while for introverts, bookings are limited.
So, because of your limited social energy, the chatty extrovert who parties every weekend probably won’t become your BFF. You’re looking for a friend who understands you and respects your introversion. You want someone you truly “click” with.
So what’s an introvert to do? Here are 8 ideas that may help you find your tribe:
1. Think about the people you already know. You don’t have to head to the nearest party or networking event to make new friends. Chances are there are already people in your life that you’d like to get to know better. Ask yourself, which of your acquaintances seem interesting? Make it a point to talk to these people more.
2. It’s okay to make the first move. Many introverts (myself included) are guilty of waiting for other people to come to them. We worry about rejection. What if I ask her to get coffee after class and she says no? Or, even worse, what if she gets to know me better and she doesn’t like who I am? If you’re an introvert who has experienced significant rejection (many of us have), you may feel so discouraged that you don’t even want to try anymore.
I learned a hard lesson about friendship when I started college. I had lived in the same suburb my whole life until that point, so I had many friends that I’d known since childhood. But when I moved away for college, I left all those friends behind. I quickly became achingly lonely. I looked around and wondered how everyone else had become friends with each other so quickly. It was then that I realized I wasn’t making an effort to get to know anyone. I had wrongly assumed that making friends would just happen.
3. Peel off the mask. Sensitive introverts, especially INFJ and INFP personality types, may feel like they have to appeal to everyone. We mistakenly think that the key to having friends is to make everyone like us. But this is like walking up an escalator moving downwards—it’s a lot of work but it won’t get you to where you want to be.
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It’s also exhausting. Molly Owens, in an article called The INFJ’s Guide to Finding Friends Who Understand You, explains:
“Too often you show only those parts of yourself that you think the other person wants to see, so that person will like you. Keeping up this facade is exhausting. Chances are, it will make you question why you are in a friendship in the first place, when it is clearly burning up all your energy.”
So, when you’ve found people you want to connect with, be brave and show them who you really are. Say what you really think and feel, even if you think the other person will disagree (of course, you can use your sensitivity to others to do this tactfully). When you peel off the mask, you make yourself vulnerable—and this is how true connection and intimacy are created.
4. Ask questions. Introverts have a super power: listening. When you meet someone new, you’ll have to talk about yourself a little. But don’t make the conversation all about you. Ask the other person questions about themselves. What are they doing this weekend? What’s new in their life? If they could have any career they want, what would it be? Use your powerful listening skills to learn about your new friend and make them feel like their thoughts and opinions matter.
5. Notice how you feel. Do you feel energized after hanging out with your new friend? Or are you so exhausted that you want to hide in your bedroom for days? As an introvert, it’s normal to feel tired after spending time with someone new (after all, peeling off the mask takes precious energy). But overall, your new friend should make you feel good.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Adam S. McHugh, in his book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, explains:
“Because introverts are typically good listeners and, at least, have the appearance of calmness, we are attractive to emotionally needy people. Introverts, gratified that other people are initiating with them, can easily get caught in these exhausting and unsatisfying relationships.”
If someone takes advantage of your listening skills or is simply a drain to be around, give yourself permission to back away from them. You don’t need another source of exhaustion in your life.
6. Remember that the awkwardness will go away with time. Introverts tend to keep their best stuff inside—their quirky, fun personalities—and only let their true selves out once they feel comfortable with someone. If being with your new friend is somewhat awkward at first, don’t beat yourself up. The more you hang out with them, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Keep at it.
7. Plan a regularly scheduled meet-up. Ask your new friend (and maybe a few others) to hang out once a week. Have brunch every Saturday morning or get a drink after work every Thursday. Having a standing friend date means you don’t have to exert energy to plan something. Plus, routine tends to make introverts feel comfortable because then they know what to expect.
8. Go slowly. Owens writes, “Genuine friendships take a long time to develop. If you bow to convention and start collecting groupies, you will end up with a bunch of shallow, unsatisfying relationships that collapse because they never had a solid foundation.”
Finally, remember that introverts prefer quality over quantity—especially when it comes to relationships. Making one solid friend who “gets” you is worth more than an entourage of shallow connections.
Read this: 12 Ways to Own Your Introversion