Introverts tend to value quality over quantity when it comes to friendships. If we introverts can’t share our innermost thoughts, dreams, and secrets with someone, we’ll likely never consider them a friend — a nice acquaintance, sure, but not a true friend. Because of this desired quality and depth, we’re usually content having just one or two friends, although some introverts thrive having a larger number.
However, it’s often difficult to develop high-quality friendships. Many introverts don’t feel comfortable reaching out to new people, and even when we do, we don’t often meet people we “click” with.
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 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 introvert has figured out by now, life is usually not 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 — we just may need to step out of our comfort zones to do so.
Here are seven tips for introverts to make and develop high-quality, lasting friendships.
(Note: many people use the word introvert differently. Here’s our preferred 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 the “resting bitch face” problem. Even if you looked mad at the world two seconds prior, a smile communicates your 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 like a nice person and be approachable. This 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. 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 the pressure to be charming, vivacious, and outgoing. However, that is just not the way may of us were made to roll, so when we try to charm, it doesn’t go well. Words get jumbled, nervous laughter starts bubbling up, and things just get kind of weird.
There’s no rule that says you need to be a charmer in order to make connections. Be confident in who you are, in your values and interests, in the things you stand for and appreciate. It’s perfectly acceptable to be quiet in a social setting, to be the wallflower you want to be. When you want to reach out to someone, do so. If someone approaches, pop that smile on your face. The more comfortable you are with not trying to become the life of the party, the more likely you are to enjoy yourself.
3. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable.
For someone who tends to keep to herself 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 often needs to start with you. Showing someone your willingness to be open and honest gives them permission to follow your lead and be vulnerable in return.
When meeting new people, vulnerability might look something 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, vulnerability might look like this:
- “I get really anxious when I’m in class.”
- “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 introverts. My plan of attack in any social setting, from school, to camps, to parties, has always been to find the fellow introverts. They’re not going to pressure you to become some vivacious human, and I’m convinced few things bring people together like sharing a dislike of a social situation. Look for the people quietly hanging out 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.
6. Hold out for true connection.
This is something that tends to come naturally for a lot of introverts, but it never hurts to be reminded. There is nothing quite like the moment of two souls meeting. Hold out for a friend who instantly makes you feel safe, who you feel you could say anything to without receiving judgement, who generally makes you happy.
Though it takes introverts a while to open up themselves — 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 Skype 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.
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
- The Introvert’s Complete Guide to Making Friends Who ‘Get’ You
- 5 Things to Know About Being Friends With an INFJ
- 17 Signs That You Have an Introvert Hangover
- Why Meaningful Relationships Are Few and Far Between for the INFJ
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