Introverts are looking for friends who understand them, who can go deep, and who run at their speed.
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 where do you meet them? And how do you start a conversation with a random stranger? Plus, most nights, introverts would rather stay home and relax than go out and socialize. Even when they enjoy themselves, for introverts, people are draining.
It’s not that introverts hate people. Rather, we have limited social energy due to the way our brains our wired. 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 we’re looking for friends who truly “get” us. The ultra-chatty extrovert who parties every weekend probably won’t be an introvert’s BFF. We’re looking for people who understand our introversion, who can go deep, who run at our speed.
If you’re an introvert who struggles to make the meaningful friendships you crave (and who doesn’t?), here are nine tips.
How Introverts Can Make Friends Who ‘Get’ Them
1. Think about the people you already know.
Want to add some new faces to your inner circle? You don’t necessarily have to head to the nearest party or networking event. Chances are there are already people in your life who you’d like to get to know better. Someone interesting, someone like-minded. So start by taking inventory of your acquaintances — that new person at work, a friendly neighbor, someone in your writers group whose work you admire. Identify one or two of these people to reach out to.
Which brings me to the next step…
2. Go ahead, make the first move.
Many introverts (me!) wait for others to come to them. Having survived our share of awkward interactions, we may worry about rejection. “What if I ask her to get coffee and she says no?” Or worse, “What if he gets to know me better and doesn’t like who I am?” The process of making new friends can fill anyone with self-doubt, even the most confident among us. And if you’re an introvert who has experienced significant rejection (as many of us have), you may feel like simply giving up.
In college, I learned a hard lesson about waiting for other people to come to me. Back home, I felt comfortable with my childhood friends, who I’d known for most of my life. When I went away to college, I quickly found myself in a sea of strange faces — alone and lonely. I looked around and wondered how everyone else had become friends with each other so quickly. They were all reading from some Friendship Instruction Manual that I didn’t have.
Upon reflection, I realized I often don’t even think to make the first move. It just doesn’t come naturally to me as an introvert; observation and contemplation are my sweet spots, and I’m generally content just doing my own thing.
However, I learned that making friends doesn’t usually “just happen” — unless an extrovert adopts me, but our goal here is to make like-minded friends. If I wanted new friends in my life, I would have to take action, even if it meant occasionally stepping out of my comfort zone.
3. Peel off the mask.
When meeting new people, you may feel like you have to appeal to everyone and get every new person you meet to like you. This is especially true of sensitive and empathetic introverts, who read others well. But this is where things can go wrong; it’s like walking up an escalator moving downwards — a lot of work that won’t get you where you want to be. It’s also draining. Molly Owens of Truity 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 find people you want to connect with, be brave and show them who you really are. Give them glimpses of your inner introvert world. This is called healthy vulnerability, and it may look like:
- “I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of big parties.”
- “Small talk is the worst.”
- “I get really anxious when I’m on video calls.”
- “I really appreciate the way you support me.”
- “I’m really struggling with ____. Can I vent to you about it for a second?”
- “Can I be honest? I’m feeling really awkward right now.”
- “I like you.”
When you peel off the mask, you make yourself vulnerable — and this is how true intimacy is created.
4. Ask questions.
Inevitably, when we meet new people, we have to do what every introvert dreads: talk about ourselves. Often, this is enough to stop a blossoming friendship in its tracks.
But the conversation doesn’t have to be all about you. Introverts have a superpower: listening. So get the other person talking by asking them questions:
- “What’s new in your life?”
- “What’s something you’ve learned recently?”
- “If you could have any career you wanted, what would it be? Why?”
Listening takes the spotlight off you, and most non-introverts love to talk about their favorite subject: themselves.
5. Notice how you feel.
How a friendship makes you feel is the most important factor — not how alike you two are on the surface, or what others think. Sometimes introverts have to be intentional about checking in with their feelings, as they can get lost in all the other activity going on in their busy minds. So ask yourself:
- Do I feel better after spending time with this person? (Or am I so exhausted that I want to lock my bedroom door and recharge for days?)
- Can I be myself around this person?
- Can I trust this person? (Or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?)
- Does this person treat me with respect? Do they support me?
As an introvert, it’s normal to feel tired after spending time with people (after all, peeling off the mask takes energy). But overall, your friends should make you feel good.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Adam S. McHugh in Introverts in the Church 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 is a total drain to be around, give yourself permission to step back. The last thing you need in your life is another source of exhaustion. Plus, when you step back from people and situations that aren’t right for you, you free up more time and energy for those that are.
6. Gauge their level of interest.
If you’ve ever wondered if someone likes you, you’re not alone. Introverts (lots of people, really) say they have a hard time figuring out if someone is, well, into them — and isn’t just being polite. Here are some signs the other person enjoys your company and may be interested in a friendship:
- Do they ask personal questions about you, as if they’d like to get to know you better?
- At some point, does conversation move beyond small talk?
- Do they give you their full attention? (Or are they constantly distracted by their phone?)
- Do they exchange contact information with you and seem interested in making specific plans to get together?
If you say no to these questions, this person probably isn’t a great friendship candidate. Try not to take it personally (I know, easier said than done); there are a lot of reasons someone may not be right for you — that have nothing to do with you!
7. The awkwardness will go away with time.
We all do it to some extent, but introverts even more so: We keep our best stuff inside — our quirky, fun, unique personalities — and only let it out once we feel truly comfortable around someone. If being with new friends is awkward at first, don’t beat yourself up. The more you hang out with them, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
8. Get into a friendship routine.
Lots of introverts love routine. So ask friends to hang out once a week at a regularly scheduled time. Have brunch every Saturday morning or get coffee in the same park every Tuesday after work. When we know what to expect, we feel more comfortable, and we expend less energy. Plus, it takes the pressure off having to come up with something new and exciting to do each time you get together.
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9. Go slow.
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.”
So go slow, and be kind to yourself. It takes time and effort to create meaningful, lasting relationships. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.
What are your tips for making friends? Let me know in the comments below.
You might like:
- How Introverts Can Make More High-Quality Friendships
- Why Is Socializing Exhausting for Introverts? Here’s the Science
- These Are the 19 Most Stressful Experiences an Introvert Can Have
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