Why Introverts Don’t Consider Everyone Their Friend

an introvert doesn't consider everyone her friend

To introverts, a “friend” is very special. They are someone who we have let into our private and deep inner world. 

I’ve always been an outgoing introvert. Although I value my alone time, I also enjoy socializing. I have no problem calling a friend to catch up (many introverts would prefer to text instead).

In fact, I can’t remember a season of my life when I didn’t have friends around me. Yet, at the same time, I’ve found myself questioning the reason behind being friends with certain people.

Unlike others, who seem content with simply having a group of friends to socialize with, I’ve always questioned how deep my connections go. Over the years, I’ve come to see that a lot of introverts work this way. We don’t want to be friends with someone unless we can have personal and meaningful conversations with that person. We can’t be friends with just anyone, because we want to feel 100% comfortable around the people in our life.

In other words, we introverts value quality over quantity, which is why we may struggle to be a part of a big friend group.

My fellow introverted friends say they feel the same way that I feel: 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.

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How Introverts Define ‘Friend’

To introverts, the word “friend” is honorable. Someone we call a friend is very special to us. They are someone who we have let into our private and deep inner world. 

On the other hand, there are people who call almost anyone a friend. They can meet someone once and call them a friend. They 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 all of them really your friends?

Extroverts 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 a different 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 to have my back? And would they mind if I hung out on my own sometimes? 

Only Certain People Make the Cut

Because we “quiet ones” may spend so much time analyzing someone’s friend potential, only a few people will actually make the cut. 

This may make it seem like we’re unfriendly or that we don’t want to make the effort. 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.

Because introverts tend to like our close, tight-knit friend group, we’re also super comfortable around each other. We can be ourselves. 

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 and hide the fact that I felt completely worn out and would rather be at home alone.

Putting me in a room full of outgoing people, where I feel obligated to make small talk, is like 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 a level of trust that encourages us to have deep, honest, and meaningful conversations.

I’ve spent the last few years working through some difficult times, and these friends have been the ones I cling to when I’m struggling, and vice-versa. We lean on each other and support each other through good times and the bad.

Growing Up, I Felt Pressured to Be Social and Popular

As we grow up, many of us are told that being social equals with 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.

For me, alcohol became a social elixir to help me “fake it till I make it” — except all the faking 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.

It’s not necessarily true that introverts hate parties. We can do them sometimes, when we’re in the right mood, or when we have a good reason to attend one. We’d just prefer a small gathering with our inner-circle friends … or one friend … or no friends (and a book or our favorite TV show instead).

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

Now I Happily Accept My Small Circle of Friends 

As I have gotten older, I have crossed this fine line of not wanting to alienate people in my life, but also not wanting to spend lots of time or energy on someone 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. Now I happily accept that I will probably always have a small circle of friends, and that’s perfect for me as an introvert. 

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