Introverts want to connect deeply with their friends, but these relationships can be hard to find.
When it comes to friendships, introverts value quality over quantity. If we can’t share our innermost thoughts, dreams, and secrets with someone, we’ll never consider them a true friend — a nice acquaintance, sure, but not part of our inner circle. Because of this desired quality and depth, introverts are usually content with just one or two good friends, although of course, there are always exceptions.
However, it’s difficult to develop these high-quality friendships. Age may play a role; it’s simply harder to make new friends once people couple up in their 30s, and we lose access to a large pool of our peers: school. At work, colleagues we befriend may move on or get reassigned, usually making these relationships only temporary.
Why It’s Hard for Introverts to Make Friends
For introverts, who love spending time alone, making new friends can be even harder. Many introverts simply don’t feel comfortable striking up conversations with strangers or reaching out to acquaintances. Even when we do, we don’t often meet people we “click” with, because introverts are unique people.
Yet all humans, including introverts, are made to function in relationship. Friendship has been shown to increase physical and mental health, along with overall happiness, whereas a lack of friendship and isolation have the opposite effect.
Despite the popular belief that introverts don’t like people, we need human connection just like anyone else. We just have different desires when it comes to our relationships. A fellow introvert once explained her ideal living situation to me as having other people in the house — just not in the same room all the time, and I see this as a basic summary of what introverts desire in friendship.
As any “quiet one” has figured out by now, life is not usually conducive to the introvert’s ideal. We live in a loud world, and simply sitting in silence together does not create a lasting friendship. Yet introverts are just as capable of making human connection — but we may need to step out of our comfort zones to do so.
So, here are seven tips to help you develop more high-quality, lasting friendships.
(Note: Many people use the word introvert differently. Here’s our definition.)
How Introverts Can Make High-Quality Friends
1. When you don’t have the energy to reach out, draw others to you.
Never underestimate the power of a smile. This has become a learned trait of mine — I make eye contact and a smile follows. It’s become automatic, and in doing so, I come off as being open to being approached. This also overcomes my “resting bitch face” problem. Even if I looked mad at the world two seconds prior, a smile communicates my willingness to engage.
Before the start of my graduate school program, we were required to attend an overnight camp to bond with our cohort. Talk about an introvert’s nightmare! I was terrified and didn’t have the emotional energy to be the one reaching out, so I did my best to simply look open and approachable. The technique paid off, as I met one of my future best friends after she decided I looked like someone she wanted to be friends with.
So, to quote Buddy the Elf, make smiling “your favorite,” and it will pay off.
2. Stop trying to charm people.
I’ve found that a lot of the awkwardness introverts experience in social settings is because they feel pressure to be charming, bubbly, and outgoing. However, this is just not how introverts were made to roll, so when we try to charm, it doesn’t go well. Words get jumbled, nervous laughter bubbles up, and things just get kind of weird.
There’s no rule that says you need to charm in order to make connections. Be confident in who you are, in your values and interests, in the things you stand for and enjoy. It’s perfectly acceptable to be quiet in a social setting, to be the wallflower you want to be.
(Check out this article for more confidence tips for introverts.)
When you do want to reach out to someone, do so. If someone approaches you, pop that smile on your face. The more comfortable you are with not trying to be the life of the party, the more you will enjoy yourself — and this attitude in itself will help draw people to you.
3. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable.
For someone who keeps to myself and strives to be perfect in every possible way, being vulnerable is an immense challenge and a skill I’ve had to hone over time. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: You too? I thought I was the only one.” This moment will not happen unless you have the courage to open up.
The deeper you’re willing to go in your friendships, the more meaningful they will be. Healthy vulnerability is a cycle, and it starts with you. Showing someone your willingness to be open and honest gives them permission to follow your lead and be vulnerable in return.
This doesn’t mean you have to spill your deepest, darkest secrets. As private people, that’s the last thing introverts want to do. Rather, when meeting new people, healthy vulnerability might look like this:
- “I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of big parties.”
- “Ice breakers are the worst.”
- “I really wish I knew more people here.”
When you’re starting to build a relationship, healthy vulnerability might look like:
- “I get really anxious when I’m in a meeting.”
- “I really appreciate the way you support me.”
- “I’m really struggling with ____. Can I vent to you about it for a second?”
- “I like you.”
4. Look for the other introverts.
The vast majority of my friends are fellow introverts. My plan of attack in any social setting, from school, to camps, to parties, has always been to find the other introverts. They won’t pressure you to become some vivacious human, and I’m convinced few things bring people together like sharing a dislike of an awkward social situation. Look for the people quietly hanging along the edges, and recognize that you may have to make the first move — they are introverts, after all!
5. Figure out their “love language” and share yours.
Although geared toward romantic relationships, the Five Love Languages can help you deepen your friendships too. There is a simple test online here. There are five types, including: quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. People tend to give love the way they want to receive it, but if the person they are trying to show their love to has a different language, the desired effect will not be received. Knowing your own love language and those of the people around you will help you connect better and more effectively show you care.
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6. Hold out for true connection.
This is something that comes naturally to a lot of introverts, but it never hurts to be reminded. There’s nothing quite like the moment when two like-minded souls meet. Hold out for a friend who instantly makes you feel safe, who you feel you could say anything to without receiving judgement, who makes you happy.
Though it takes introverts a while to open up — because we are so aware of our internal lives — we often have a quick sense of whether we will click with someone or not. It can be easy to feel the weight of needing to make a connection with someone and lose our patience. But hold out for the one-in-a-million friend; they’re worth more than a thousand people you don’t fully connect with.
7. Be intentional.
Checking in with friends gets more important as we age. It also gets harder. There is the cliché that adult friendship is saying “we should get together” but never actually doing so, and unfortunately, it’s usually true.
However, a little goes a long way. A simple text check-in, a random phone or Zoom call, and planned-in-advance events all help maintain friendship even when space and time separate you. It takes being intentional and making the choice to prioritize people even when it can be exhausting. But when you do, you will find your relationships deepen even when time and space separate you from your friends.
What works for you when it comes to making high-quality friends? Let me know in the comments below.