Someone we call a “friend” is very special to us. They are a rare person who we let into our private and deep inner world.
I’ve always been an outgoing introvert — though I value my alone time, I also enjoy talking to people and have no problem calling up a friend to catch up (many introverts would prefer to text instead).
I can’t remember ever being in a situation where I didn’t have friends around me. But, my whole life, I’ve found myself questioning the reason behind being friends with certain people.
I’ve never been like the stereotypical extrovert, who can usually have a whole group of people around them without questioning how deep their connections are to them. They seem quite content on simply having a group of people they can socialize with.
But most introverts don’t work like this; we can’t have “friends” who we have shallow conversations with, and we can’t be around just anyone — we have to be 100% comfortable around them.
In essence, we tend to value quality over quantity, which is why many of us struggle to be part of a big group of friends.
My fellow introverted friends feel the same way I do — we cannot automatically form a friendship with someone based on a connection with another friend or a similar interest. Sure, they might become an acquaintance, but not necessarily a friend.
How Introverts Define a ‘Friend’
To introverts, the word “friend” is honorable. Someone we call a “friend” is very special to us. They are someone we let into our private and deep inner world.
On the other hand, the extroverts I know seem to call everyone a friend. They can meet someone once and call them a friend. They always talk about “my friend” who did this and “my friend” who works at such-and-such place. As an introvert, I’m always wondering: Wow, are they all really your friends?
Extroverts can usually have casual friends, close friends, friends from work, friends from school, friends from that show they did 10 years ago — the more, the merrier.
As an introvert, however, I make friends in the opposite way.
I can spend months analyzing particular people I’ve met, wondering if I’d consider them to be a potential close friend. Would they want to sit and have a deep conversation with me? Would I want to sit and have a meaningful conversation with them? Are they someone I can trust and who has my back? And would they mind if I hung out on my own sometimes?
Only Certain People Will Make the Cut
Because we “quiet ones” may spend so much time analyzing if someone has friend potential, only a few people will actually make the cut.
This may make it seem like we’re unfriendly or don’t want to make the effort with other people. That’s not true; we just have our friend-making prerequisites and prefer having a small circle of close friends.
As a result, we’ll know these inner-circle friends inside and out, the same way they’ll know us. For instance, if I had a list of 10 important facts about myself, I’d expect that anyone I call a friend would know them all. They’ll also be able to tell how I’m feeling in most moments — they’ll be able to tell when I’m sad vs. happy vs. so-so.
Since introverts tend to like our close, tight-knit friend group, we’re also super comfortable around each other — we can be ourselves.
But for years, I spent a lot of my life faking it: I’d put on a smile, fake a laugh, fake interest in a conversation about the latest TV show, and so on. I’d be nice to new people I’d meet and hide the fact that I felt completely worn out and would rather be home alone.
Putting me in a room full of outgoing people, where I feel obligated to socialize and make small talk, is like someone blasting loud music into my ears — it makes me agitated, anxious, and miserable. It’s not unusual for me to tune out.
Instead, with my inner-circle friends, there’s an innate level of trust there that encourages us to have deep, honest, and meaningful conversations.
I’ve spent the last few years working through some very difficult times and these friends have been the ones I cling to when I’m struggling — and vice-versa. We’ll lean on each other and support each other through good times and bad.
Join the introvert revolution. One email, every Friday. The best introvert articles. Subscribe here.
Growing Up, I Felt Pressured By Society to Be ‘Social’ and ‘Popular’
As we grow up, many of us are told that being social equals being popular and that being popular equals success. So we try to live up to society’s expectations: We form big groups of friends and exhaust ourselves with endless social engagements in big groups of people (some of whom we barely know).
For me, alcohol became a social elixir to help me “fake it till I make it” — only, all the faking it made me realize I was tired of faking it. I didn’t want to be at a party with a bunch of acquaintances, smiling through small talk, as I took another desperate sip of my gin and tonic, my brain begging me to leave so I could curl up in bed, utterly exhausted from fake socializing.
And it’s not like introverts don’t like parties; we can do them sometimes, when we’re in the right mood, or when we have a really good reason to attend. We’d just prefer a small gathering with our inner-circle friends … or one friend … or no friends (but a book or our favorite TV show instead).
Now, I Happily Accept My Inner Circle of Friends
As I get older, I feel I cross this fine line of not wanting to alienate people in my life, but also not wanting to spend lots of time or energy on anyone who I can’t see becoming a close friend. I feel my barometer for choosing friends has been perfected over the years — I know what kind of person will “get” me.