Introverts tend to curate a handful of close friends, not collect a tribe. We love to go deeper, not wider, with our people circle and there might come a time when a lack of kindred spirits leaves a real gap.
Because we gravitate toward solo activities, love our quiet time, and think that a good book beats a party any day, Introverts have to make conscious decisions when it comes to forming and maintaining friendships.
What was your childhood friendscape like? Are there already patterns with the way you make and maintain your friendships? Can you already see areas for improvement in the way you approach the people around you? Keep these in mind as you explore these five tips to help you make friends for the long haul.
#1: Get out of your zone
First things first: no matter where you are in the physical world, for Introverts, getting out of your own head is the first challenge. This doesn’t come without effort. Sometimes, our head is the last comfortable space we have.
Our instinct is to sit behind the laptop and type our way into new acquaintances. All very well, but you cannot stay there. Genuine friendships, the kind you are looking for, are made in person. So use the tools at hand to make inquiries, arrange meetups, and proffer introductions – then stand up and walk out the door.
Eye contact, body language, the tone of voice, even simple manners, are demonstrated when people get together and unconsciously cement relationships. Embody what you want to attract. When you are friendly, authentic, honest, and enthusiastic, you encourage the other person to demonstrate the same. And put away that phone. You do want someone who is more fascinating than the weather report, don’t you?
#2: Take the lead
The usual advice is to meet other people by taking a class in something you enjoy. My advice? You can compound your success rate by leading the class.
Don’t sit in the back row. Stand up front and do the talking. Start a new club, be the tour guide, volunteer to docent or mentor, even host a small dinner party. Keep it small and intimate enough for you to have meaningful chats. When you offer a group something you have a passion for, it brings forward people who already have something in common with you and a subject more exciting than any boring ice breaker could offer.
You are putting your best self on display. Let people see you shine as you show them something you love and present yourself as an approachable, friendly, and conversationally inclined person. You will quickly find those who enjoy listening as much as talking, those with a sense of humor, and others who may not be looking for anything deeper just now. But they know your name. And they have your number.
Either way, you had a good time.
#3: Look under the obvious stones
You already have a long list of acquaintances built over your lifetime. Some friendships that have been sitting on the back burner could be brought forward and encouraged to simmer. Look up your old friends from the high school sports team, the college sorority, that first awkward job, or the church choir you used to attend. It’s possible they are in the vicinity and would love to meet up for coffee to renew an old acquaintance.
Did you lose track of each other when you went on to different colleges? Do you both have children now? Do you recall that one person in your old science class who could have something to contribute to your current work project? It is a truism that we live in an ever-smaller world. Old sparks could ignite new friendships after years of personal growth. At the very least, you’ll have a moment of shared nostalgia.
And maybe a few laughs.
#4: Test the spirits
Perhaps you’ve discovered a couple of kindred souls and you’d love to get to know them better. You could keep on doing what you do best, investing slowly over time and getting to know them on ever-deepening levels. Organic friendship is the most authentic. But don’t forget, in your haste to secure a friend for the long haul, that people are, well, people.
They are not us.
For long-term friendships to succeed, you are looking for someone who believes in the same things you do, or at least has compatible or complementary interests. You can only find this out after investing untold hours of interaction. Do you see this person as interested in meeting you halfway in this endeavor?
It does occasionally turn out to be a poor fit. Your values don’t mesh, or your lifestyles. They turn out to be more extraverted than you’re willing to party with. Perhaps you find yourself with some negative feelings around this person and need to check your gut. Do they inspire subtle nods of guilt, shame, or fear, or is it your nerves talking? Do they respect your quiet moments, make space for your alone time, and appreciate your introverted habits?
If not, it’s probably time to cut your losses and look for friendships elsewhere.
#5: Be real, be yourself
Introverts know all about having to manage energy levels when it comes to interacting with other people. Be prepared to prioritize your friendships if you want to keep them for life. Save some energy reserves for them.
Don’t let trivial issues defeat your best laid plans and lose those good friends you just made. As we all know, simple misunderstandings could sabotage a great relationship. Introverts can’t avoid conflict, hide behind props, or fall into silence hoping that the other person understands. Sometimes we have to spend our energy or even temporarily bankrupt it in order to maintain the relationships we hold dear.
Avoid giving out mixed signals at the beginning so you won’t have any surprises to navigate later. If you met this person at an extraverted place like a local club, they are going to assume you enjoyed it and have some good questions for you when, months later, you declare you don’t. If you put yourself out on social media as the life of the party but would rather never attend a real party ever, can you blame a person for feeling slightly betrayed when you finally admit it?
Embrace and appreciate the real you so that others can, too.