A Practical Guide to Cultivating Friendships as an Introvert
If you have a hard time making friends as an introvert, you’ve come to the right place.
Because I know how you feel.
I know you crave connection, yet fear rejection. You want to feel togetherness, but recoils at the thought of a large gathering. And you want to be understood, but you don’t want to have to explain yourself too much.
You just want friends who get you.
Friends who get that if you already have your comfy pants on at 5 p.m., you’re not going out. Friends who get that you often need a break from being social because you need to catch your breath, but you would still appreciate them checking in. And friends who get your quirks—one of them being that you sometimes fall silent as you drift off into deep thought or daydream.
Is that too much to ask?
Okay, that was my rant as a fellow introvert adult. And you guessed it, I don’t have a ton of friends.
While I’m not dissatisfied with the number of friends I have in my life, I do want to build more meaningful connections with people. Because I know that meaningful social connection is key to a healthy, long, and purposeful life.
And as you scroll down the page, you’ll see how I’m tackling this goal of mine—the strategies I’ve tried (and continues to try) to cultivate fulfilling friendships as an introvert.
But first, let’s look at what makes us introverts.
How to Tell If You’re an Introvert
The term “introvert” was first coined by psychologist Carl Jung in the early 1900’s. According to Jung’s theory of personality, an introvert is a person who derives energy from their own thoughts and feelings—their inner world so to speak. On the other side of the spectrum, an extrovert is someone who directs their attention to, and at the same time, draws energy from, the outside world.
Introversion and extraversion are not black and white categories though, but rather a continuum. Some people lean closer towards extraversion while others veer towards introversion, and still others—called ambiverts—possess a balance of extraversion and introversion.
So how can you tell if you’re one of the 25-40% of the population who is closer towards the introversion side of the scale?
Here are some signs to look for:
- You like to reflect and daydream, sometimes even in the company of others.
- You feel drained after a social event, even if it didn’t involve dancing all night.
- You’re better at writing your thoughts and feelings than voicing them.
- You prefer one-on-one interactions, or small, intimate gatherings over large parties.
- You’d rather not attend a networking event, no matter how good the food sounds.
- You don’t like to engage in small talk. You want to talk about “deep things” and have conversations that make you think hard.
- You notice subtle details and you’re good at deciphering someone else’s feelings.
- You feel comfortable not talking and you like to think before you speak.
- You like to do your own thing. Hanging out with you could mean just chilling in the same room while doing what you each like to do best.
If you kept nodding your head as you read the above, consider yourself an introvert.
Being an introvert is not a bad thing. In fact, we’re pretty awesome! An introvert has many admirable qualities such as being a good listener and a compassionate leader.
But then why do we, as introverts, struggle to make friends?
Why Do Introverts Struggle to Make Friends
Is it hard for introverts to make friends? It sure feels that way for me sometimes.
There are several reasons why introverts have a harder time making new friends.
For one thing, introverts—like myself—don’t often waltz from one social scene to another. We introverts get stimulated easily, and this can deplete our energy quickly, resulting in fatigue and overwhelm. For this reason, introverts tend to shy away from noisy, overly-social situations.
Introverts also like to keep to a small group of people with whom we feel we have a deeper connection. I know for myself, I don’t want to spend time with just anybody—I want to be in the presence of someone whom I could click with almost instantly.
And as introverts, we’re sensitive to subtle cues in social situations—someone’s body language, tone, or a passing remark—sometimes a little too sensitive for our own good.
Do they like me?
What did they mean by that?
Did I say something wrong?
These thoughts, combined with the fear of rejection, often hold us introverts back from fully expressing ourselves until we feel more comfortable in a social situation.
I often say that introverts are real gems waiting to be discovered. We want people to discover our shine, but we just don’t want to scream “LOOK AT ME!”
Although as introverts, we may struggle a bit in the meeting new people department, that’s not to say that we can’t find ways to forge more meaningful friendships in our lives. And if that’s what you would like to do, here are some things to try.
Making Friends as an Introvert: 5 Things I Learned Through Trial and Error
1. Discover the People You Already Know
Oftentimes, an amazing friend is already in your life. You just don’t know it yet.
They’re flying under your “friendship radar” because they may be an introvert like you—a gem waiting to be discovered.
In the past couple of years, I’ve gotten closer to at least two people whom I didn’t think I would ever be close friends with.
In both instances, the other person and I didn’t click right away for various reasons. Perhaps it was the wrong place and the wrong time for that spark of friendship to ignite. But when by chance we gave one another more opportunities to learn about each other, we found out that we get each other on so many levels and grew closer and closer.
Your next great friend may be a classmate you know but never got to spend much time with in school. Or a coworker whom you’ve only greeted a few times in the office hallway. Or the person you met once or twice at a friend’s dinner party.
Spend some time to discover the people you already know. You just might find a good friend or two.
2. Remember Your Smile is Your Best Introduction
One time, I opened up to a friend about my anxiety over an upcoming networking event I had to attend.
“It’s going to be so awkward!” I said. “What do I say? Do I just suddenly walk up to a group and introduce myself? WHAT DO I DO?”
I was sweating at this point just thinking about the scene I was going to find myself in.
And this was the advice my friend gave me:
I was taken aback.
“That’s it?” I asked, not able to hide the incredulous look on my face.
“Your smile is your best introduction,” she said, with conviction.
Seeing how certain she was in her answer, I decided to give it a try.
And you know what, she was right. That evening, I walked into the event, smiled at anyone and everyone who came within my view, and as if by magic, more and more people came up to me to initiate a conversation. I also surprised myself by striking up conversations with others, something I didn’t think I could do with that much ease.
Turns out, there’s actually some science behind my friend’s sage advice.
According to a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia, seeing a smiling face triggers a particular part of your brain that’s responsible for sensory rewards. So when someone sees you smile, not only do you seem more approachable, trustworthy, and competent to them, they actually feel rewarded.
Blows your mind, doesn’t it?
So if you want to make new friends but you’re not sure how to break the ice, just smile.
3. Join a Hobby Group
Do you have a hobby that you’re passionate about?
Why not join a local or online hobby group? There’s no better place to meet like-minded people!
I know the worst part of meeting and getting to know new people is that you often have to keep digging in order to find something in common. This is both draining and awkward.
But when you meet someone in a hobby group, you already share a common passion. You can connect instantly on a topic that interests both of you, and before you know it, a friendship blossoms.
Perhaps it’s a book club, a board game group, or an amateur sports league. Maybe it’s a circle of knitting enthusiasts, a gathering of foodies, or a gang of web sleuths. No matter how obscure you think your hobby may be, there’s a group out there—if not locally, then for sure in the vast world of the good ol’ Internet.
For me, it’s writing, holistic health, good food, personal development, and cats. If you like any of these things, let’s chat!
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Story, Thoughts, and Feelings
As introverts, we’re great listeners, but when it comes to telling our stories, sharing our thoughts, and expressing our feelings, we tend to hold ourselves back.
To others, we introverts may seem aloof and unapproachable. But you and I know that this can’t be farther from the truth. God knows how many times I’ve been told that I seem a little distant and cold to strangers. But once people get to know me, they see that I’m actually full of warmth and humour.
I blame my predicament on a condition called BRF (“Bitchy Resting Face”), and the fact that when I’m face to face with somebody, I don’t open up—at least not until I feel safe enough. And that could take a long time.
But I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to express myself more and more—starting with this blog and with the people I meet. Because I realize that in order to establish a real connection with people, I have to be willing to let them see the real me—even if it means they might judge me, reject me, or hurt me for being who I am.
I keep reminding myself that if they do not accept or cherish me, then they’re not meant to be in my life anyway. But if they do, then I will be rewarded with a sincere, close, and meaningful friendship.
So if you want to bring yourself closer to people, I encourage you to express yourself.
Louder. More often. And without reservation.
5. Make the Effort to Reach Out First
Do you always let others take the initiative when it comes to building social connections? Do you always wait for an invitation instead of being the one who asks: “Hey, do you want to go for a coffee?”
If so, you could be missing out on a lot of opportunities to get to know some great people and turn brief encounters into lasting friendships. What if the other person is also an introvert who’s waiting to be invited? If neither of you makes the first move and sows that seed of friendship, how would it ever blossom?
I used to always wait to be invited. I was either too shy or too lazy to reach out first.
But I’m done waiting.
I don’t want to miss another chance to get to know someone who might turn out to be an awesome new friend just because I dragged my feet or that I was too worried that they might say no.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that when you make the effort to reach out for good things, you will receive good things. Not always, but more often than if you don’t even try.
That’s it for my tips on how to make friends as an introvert grown-up. Now I want to hear from you!
What’s the hardest part about making new friends for you? Or do you have any tips on making friends that you want to share with me?
Send me a message through the contact page or leave a comment below!
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