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Are you an introvert? Do you prefer quieter, less stimulating environments and tend to be more inward-looking and reflective? Are you often labeled as "shy" or even as "antisocial", but in reality, you just prefer the company of a few friends over exhausting large gatherings?
Carl Jung, the psychologist who coined the term “introvert”, believed that most people fall somewhere on a spectrum with both introverted and extroverted tendencies to varying degrees. The key difference is where we draw our energy from and how we process the world around us. Jung asserted that introverts recharge by turning to their own minds, while extroverts seek out other people to fulfill their energy needs.
Making friends as an adult can be hard for anyone, but it's even more difficult for a solitude-loving introvert. In this guide, I'll share five of the primary reasons why you may struggle to make friends as an introvert and nine practical tips and strategies to help you overcome social anxiety, build confidence and create authentic, healthy (i.e., not toxic) friendships while staying true to your nature.
5 Reasons It May Be Difficult for You To Make Friends as an Introvert
#1. You are selective about whom you surround yourself
Naturally, introverts value their personal space and tend to be very selective regarding with whom they share it. Unlike extroverts, you likely prefer to befriend mostly people with whom you share common interests. You are also probably more interested in investing your time in building the strongest bonds and most meaningful connections possible than focusing on quantity of social relationships. Unlike extroverts, who tend to see most people they meet as potential friends, you may only be interested in befriending a very small percentage of people you encounter in your daily life.
In her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, Laurie Helgoe compares extroverts to hotels because they are capable of accommodating a large number of interactions that come and go. On the flip side, she likens introverts to luxury suites where bookings are limited and only a select few are granted access.
#2. You hate small talk
Do you dread and avoid situations where you might be cornered into talking to a complete stranger for even a few minutes? Would this experience feel awkward and emotionally exhausting to you? For many introverts, small talk is kryptonite because they prefer deep and meaningful discussions over surface-level chitchat. This characteristic stems from their preference for introspection and thoughtfulness, which naturally favors long-term connections that allow for a more profound exchange of ideas, emotions, and experiences.
#3. You get nervous and worry about others' opinions
Common automatic, negative thoughts running through the head of an introvert in a social situation might include, “What if this new person isn't interested in the same things I am and we have nothing to talk about?”, “What if they find me boring?” or "What if I say the wrong thing"?
From time to time, everyone experiences thoughts and concerns about their social skills when meeting someone new. However, if you are an introvert, you might be more susceptible to having excessive negative thoughts, leading to heightened social anxiety. Since the most natural reaction to anxiety is avoidance, you may struggle with making friends simply because you abstain from social events and social interactions that may trigger uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.
#4. You need alone time to recharge
While extroverts gain self confidence and thrive off of constant social interaction, introverts need to balance social time with solitude to recharge their energy levels. For you, time alone is as essential to your mental health as is sleeping or eating to your physical body. Not having enough solo time can cause mental frustration, resentment and fatigue to set in.
Being aware of and seeking out your best balance of social and solo time is incredibly important, however, requiring a large amount of alone time simply means there is less time available to devote to actively seeking out and cultivating new friendships.
#5. You prefer fewer, deeper relationships
Introverts often place a high value on cultivating deep, meaningful relationships rather than pursuing a multitude of shallow connections. You are likely more interested in the quality than the quantity of your friendships, taking the time to truly understand and appreciate the individuality of those you choose to let into your personal space. This characteristic stems from your preference for introspection and thoughtfulness, which naturally favors long-term connections that allow for a more profound exchange of ideas, emotions, and experiences.
While you may not have as many acquaintances or attend as many social events as extroverts, you likely value the individual connections you do make more deeply and invest more effort into maintaining each of them.
Of course, although this tendency to cultivate deeper relationships, is the furthest thing from a personality "flaw", it, nevertheless, it is a contributing factor to the reason that most introverts have fewer friends than most extroverts.
9 Effective Strategies For How To Make Friends as an Introvert
You might be thinking, "Well then, with all of these things stacked against me, how on Earth am I supposed to make new friends as an introvert?"
Despite having unique challenges with social interactions, with a little effort, introverts can and do find new friends and, as previously mentioned, often build very deep and lasting relationships.
The key to making friends as an introvert is not to mimic extroverted behavior, but to find ways to connect with others that align with your introverted nature. Understanding your own energy patterns, preferences, and strengths can guide you toward successful new friendships.
Ok, so let's delve into how you can make new friends as an introvert.
#1. Start with your current interests
Whereas your extroverted friends might be telling you to "break out of your shell" or "try new hobbies", don't feel pressured into doing so or to go too far out of your comfort zone. Unlike extroverts, your goal is to find fewer, deeper friendships, so lean into your interests and seek out small group activities with like-minded individuals who share similar interests.
Do you love reading? Join a book club or attend a local literature event.
Love hiking? Join a nature conservation group or sign up for a guided hike.
You can also use your interests as conversation starters when meeting new people, making it easier to begin to form connections and build new friendships.
#2. But…don't be afraid to try new things
That said, being an introvert doesn't mean you can't try out or learn any new things. When you feel ready, choose to do something slightly outside your usual routine, just at the edge of your comfort zone. This experience will allow you to expand your social reach and potentially meet people whom you wouldn't have otherwise.
Keep in mind that trying something new doesn't mean changing who you are as a person. Rather, it’s about exploring different opportunities. Start small. Is there some activity you've always been interested in checking out? Perhaps a pottery class, a cooking workshop, or a local community event? Another good option is volunteering for a cause you are passionate about.
#3. Stay true to yourself
Often, introverts tend to worry about not being liked or viewed as friendly enough. You may even be convinced that your personality traits, such as your reserved nature,are a turn-off for potential friends. This mindset might lead you to try to mold yourself into someone you think others will like, refraining from stating your true likes and dislikes to make others happy. This is not only draining for you and unfair to others, but will also cause you to waste time with people who are not a good friendship match for you.
To find true friendship, you must focus unapologetically on being yourself in order to attract people who will accept you for who you are.
#4. Be patient (and don’t use extroverts as role models)
All things worth doing take time, and this includes making friends as an introvert. Whereas it is critically important for our well-being that we all have at least one good friend, don't feel pressured to model extroverts’ tendencies to prioritize social life and build a large social circle. Doing this will result in you feeling chronically, physically drained and unhappy with the people you surround yourself with.
It’s perfectly okay to start small and gradually expand (but only if you want to!) your friendships over time. Take time to go deep and slowly learn about your newfound friends, their interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Give them time to get to know you as well. This slow and steady approach is more likely to lead to lasting friendships that are built on a foundation of understanding and mutual respect.
#5. Reconnect with old friends
Reconnecting with an old friend with whom we've lost touch is often easier than making entirely new friends because there is a sense of familiarity and comfort already established within the relationship.
This one is easy. Simply reach out to former friends that you haven't spoken to in a while and see if they would like to catch up!
#6. Ask current friends and family members for introductions
Whether you are introverted or extroverted, shared connections are often just what you need to get you started with meeting new people. If you have a family member or already existing friends who are outgoing and have large social circles, ask them if they can introduce you to someone they think you would get along with.
This can take the pressure off of having to approach strangers on your own and also provides a mutual connection and starting point for both parties. This is particularly helpful for introverts interested in making friends with other introverts.
#7. Communicate your needs and make time for your friends
As mentioned already, people with introverted personalities tend to require a lot of time alone to recharge and feel their best. Naturally, this can often lead to you unintentionally neglecting your friendships.
To maintain your friendships and show your friends that they are a priority in your life, make sure to both communicate your needs to your friends and to schedule regular "quality time" hangouts with them (even if it's just once a month or every few weeks). A true friend will understand and respect your need for self-care as a way to protect your well being.
#8. Embrace rejection (it happens to all of us)
Everyone (yes, even extroverts) fears rejection, yet it’s unavoidable. This is just how life is. We are all unique individuals with different personalities and interests. It would be impossible for everyone to like and want to be friends with everyone else. (As already mentioned, you're probably pretty selective yourself!) Keep this in mind and try not to let initial rejection or lack of connection discourage you from trying to make friends.
Also, keep in mind that the more chances you take, the greater the likelihood you'll succeed. Building true friendship requires effort and takes time. When you meet a potential new friend whom you genuinely want to spend more time with, show interest by reaching out, making concrete plans, and expressing your desire to stay in touch. If you are rejected, do your best to simply brush it off as a simple lack of chemistry.
#9. Join a social club
Among the great reasons for joining a social club, is the fact that they can provide excellent opportunities for introverts to make friends. Many social clubs offer small group, structured activities, the perfect combination for someone wishing to avoid the pressures and awkwardness of extended open ended conversations and larger group, unstructured mingling or networking.
For example, at The Trybe Women's Social Club*, we intentionally plan several activities a year that are designed to allow casual and comfortable conversation to flow while we're keeping our hands and minds (to some extent) preoccupied.
Being an introvert isn't a limitation and there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with choosing to have a small circle of friends. If you're content with your friendships, there is no need to make changes. However, if you would like to add a few more close friends, it's important to be aware of the reasons for why you may struggle with making new friends as well as the strategies for how to overcome this.
About the Author
Angela Caveney, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Neuropsychologist and Founder of The Trybe. Her absolute favorite thing to do is to help women find their people and thrive throughout midlife. She can be reached directly at email@example.com
(*Note. If The Trybe Women's Social Club is not in your location, reach out to Angela Caveney to start a conversation about creating a club where you live. Even if you don't know a single person in your new city, don't worry! This is a great way to start to meet new people fast. We'll provide the framework to get you started.)