I’m learning that silences in conversation aren’t necessarily a bad thing and that not every silence has to be filled.
Making friends has always been difficult for me, ever since I first went to school. I’m shy and quiet, I have social anxiety, and I’m an introvert. Ever since I was young, I’ve had to rely on other people talking to me first and befriending me. I would tag along with some groups of people, who wouldn’t really consider me a friend, just so I wouldn’t feel left out. Over the years, I had two or three close friendships, but as we got older, we all headed in different directions and discovered that we had little in common anymore. Perhaps you can relate?
I panicked when I realized that I’m in my 20s and I don’t have any real friends left. Making friends when you’re an adult is difficult, but if you consider the fact that I’m an introvert who works from home, sometimes it feels impossible. I know that I could join a club, or do some volunteering, or even reach out to some old friends to see if they’d like to meet up, but the idea of those things is completely overwhelming. Here are some reasons why I struggle to form close friendships as an introvert — and how I’m trying to change that.
Why I Struggle to Form Close Friendships as an Introvert
1. I’m not good at small talk.
Small talk isn’t for everyone. Some people love it while I think it’s safe to say the majority of introverts don’t. I sit somewhere in the middle. It’s not that I hate small talk — I find it hard to sustain it. After the initial, “How are you?” and comments about the weather, I hit a brick wall. I don’t know where to go from there.
I rack my brain for things to say, anything that might sound mildly interesting or enthusiastic, but I often come up short. I feel the awkward silences stretch for what feels like an eternity, and then I look for an escape. The escape might be a literal escape — a door or an elevator. Or it might be my phone, which I’ll pick up and pretend to have an intense amount of interest in. But really, I don’t care about my phone. (I’m just trying to hide behind it.) Even though the phone is generally not an introvert’s friend, it is in this case.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
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2. I find it hard to follow through with plans.
I never like being the person who cancels plans. If somebody goes to the effort of organizing something, I like to keep my word and show up. But sometimes anxiety gets the better of me.
A few days before meeting up, I get that overwhelming sense of dread. In my head, I rehearse things that I should say and questions that I should ask before I realize that I’m making things worse. I’m taking the fun out of everything. But still, it’s a habit that I can’t kick. My fear of silences and running out of things to say sometimes drives me to cancel plans. It just seems easier than explaining the truth.
3. I don’t leave the house much.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I struggle to make friends is because I’m a homebody. I work from home during the week, and on the occasions that I do go out, it’s with my partner and my family. Although my partner understands my struggle to make friends, he’s an extrovert who participates in sports, socializes regularly, and has a handful of loyal friends, so he is miles apart from my reality.
I don’t go to social outings, parties, or clubs; I usually keep myself to myself. The idea of socializing with lots of people leaves me feeling drained and extremely anxious. Honestly, it’s not my thing. I’ve accepted that. The truth is, I love spending time at home because it’s my safe space. It’s the place where I usually feel most calm and at peace, and it gives me time to recharge my batteries in my very own “introvert zen zone.” But too much of anything can be a bad thing. And in my case, I do spend a bit too much time in the comfort of my own home.
4. I’m not spontaneous — I need to plan in advance.
As much as I would love to become more spontaneous, I’m not that kind of person. If I get an invitation to go somewhere, I like to know a few days in advance, at the very least, so I can start preparing for it: travel arrangements, what time to be there, what time I’ll be leaving, whether I’ll be eating, and how many people will be there. These are the details I’ll agonize over for days until I convince myself that it’s just not worth the stress. I’m a big overthinker and a massive worrier, so for that reason, I just can’t be down for last-minute plans.
I can’t change who I am and I will never pretend to be someone I’m not. I am, and always will be, an introvert — but that doesn’t mean that I’ll never be able to form close friendships. Here are some things I am doing in order to expand my friend circle and meet more people who “get” me.
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How I’m Trying to Make More Friends as an Introvert
1. I’m trying to take more risks, like starting conversations with strangers.
I rarely take risks because I prefer to stay in my introverted comfort bubble — it feels safe and welcoming. The problem with this tendency is that I end up shutting myself away from the world and inadvertently pushing people away. If I’m not willing to take chances, I’ll never be able to make meaningful relationships, which will make me feel even more isolated. It’s not easy to step out of my comfort zone and meet new people, but I have to at least try.
The first step I’m taking is engaging in conversations with strangers online and via Bumble BFF, a dating app that has a making-a-BFF section. When I feel comfortable, I ask them if they’d like to meet for coffee, and we see where it goes from there. I’d rather experience some nervousness than feel regret for the rest of my life.
2. I’m accepting the (uncomfortable) silences.
I’m learning that silences aren’t necessarily a bad thing and not every silence has to be filled. This is something I need to keep reminding myself of. If there’s a short pause in a conversation, I’m learning to not take it personally. I allow the silence to wash over me and use that time to be alone with my thoughts. Conversations can be exhausting for an introvert, so it’s completely fine to sit in silence for a while. It also gives us time to think, which is one of our introvert superpowers.
3. I’m becoming (a little) spontaneous.
I’m not saying that I’ll ever book last-minute plane tickets with a group of friends, but being more spontaneous is great for my confidence. I hate turning down invitations because of my social anxiety; it makes me feel left out and disappointed. I am learning to accept that not everything has to be meticulously planned out. So, going forward, I’m saying yes to last-minute plans and offers to meet up instead of shying away from every spontaneous social opportunity.
4. I’m letting other people in more.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to let someone get close to me — physically and emotionally. It takes me a long time to fully open up to people and show genuine emotion and affection. I’m not the biggest hug-giver and I don’t like making myself vulnerable in front of people I don’t know very well.
But I’m well aware that this needs to change if I want to make close friendships. I am learning to let go of the fear, embarrassment, and anxiety that lives inside my head and simply let people in for a change and give them a chance to get to know the real me.