Picture this: You’re on the bus after a tiring day at school or work, thinking about dinner and whether your cat missed you. A Friendly Acquaintance, who you don’t mind but don’t know that well, comes on. What do you do?
A) Wave enthusiastically, yell their name, and generally make sure that they know you want to talk to them.
B) Smile at them, then resume daydreaming. You’d be okay with talking to them, but you’re not going out of your way.
C) Look out the window or take out a book or do something to avoid eye contact. Possibly you’ll get off at the next stop if the situation calls for it.
D) This situation would never happen, because you avoid taking the bus for this reason.
If you answered A, I wish you the best in your endeavors to make introverts everywhere uncomfortable. (But seriously, keep doing what you’re doing if it works for you!)
Anyone who relates to B, C, or D and sometimes struggles to make friends, this is for you. Introverts can often feel awkward when talking with new people, which can impede on the ability to make friends. Add to that the fact that introverts value their alone time, especially after they’ve had a long day in the office/classroom, and you’ve got a conundrum.
But having no friends is no good. You may be an “extreme introvert” who functions contently most of the time without support from others, but I doubt you’ll remain happy for the rest of your life like that. Loneliness creeps in, and it sucks.
Before you decide you’ll have to suck it up and try meeting people at the pub (eek), here are my introvert-friendly ways to make friends:
1) Join stuff that will force you to talk to people.
When given the option of talking to strangers or not talking to strangers, I often pick the latter. If you’re like me, don’t give yourself the option. Enroll yourself in classes that will probably involve group work, join a club like ballroom dancing, and sign up for meetup.com to find fun groups. I’m not saying you’ll make friends everywhere, but you’ll get used to getting out there.
2) Have fascinating things to talk about.
Getting into that rut of “I’m so boring; my interests are so boring; boo me” is too easy. You’ve got to find something that excites you and do something with it. Then when you get the inevitable “How was your weekend?” question, you’ll have something substantial to say.
Introverts are known to not like small talk, but often small talk gets the conversation started. Just because it starts small, doesn’t mean you can’t make it bigger—that’s how friendships start. It may feel strange to describe the book you read on the weekend to a stranger, but one day you’ll meet someone who gets it.
3) Show an interest in others by asking questions and giving compliments.
Ask a classmate for advice, or what other courses they’re taking, or if they know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. Er, often it’s best to ask relevant questions, but weird works too.
In the same fashion, it’s cool to compliment someone on an idea they came up with or their outfit. It’s creepy to compliment them on their Facebook profile picture when you’re not friends on the site.
4) Find other introverts.
Introvert friends are fun because they can understand your initial awkwardness and your need for alone time. Just start following one around; they’ll get it. Patience may be needed to get past the you-seem-cool-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-say stage. Once they’re your buddy, send them here!
5) Don’t make excuses.
Hey, you know that excuse you use that goes like, “I’m too tired right now to put in any effort”? Yeah, you can’t get away with that always. Put the effort into making a few awesome friends—you may lose some “me time” now, but you’ll reap the benefits later.
What tips do you have for introverts looking to make friends? Share them in the comments below!