Can a Classic Introvert Really Expand His or Her Inner Circle? Many people are feeling stuck and lonely as they ask the question : How to make friends as an introvert. I understand it can feel impossible but this article will give you some practical tips to help you move forward and connect with others.
If you consider yourself an introvert just like me, you’d understand how making friends can be one of the most difficult things to do in your life. For me, most of the friends I have today are friendships I formed in school, at work, and friends of my siblings. I rarely have any friends outside of this circle. While I do have a lot of acquaintances, the people I call my genuine friends are quite a few.
But, in a time of a pandemic, introverts like me are finding themselves becoming lonelier. Yes, while we love solitude and time alone, we have been suffering from massive social disconnection that has finally taken a toll on a group of people like us – people who prefer to stay at home rather than leave the house to socialize.
Even us, who have long preferred to enjoy our time in the company of a few friends and our comfort zones at home, we, too, feel the need to reach out and connect to other people.
But with a lifetime of embracing solitude and enjoying our time alone, how do we exactly make friends? How to make friends as an introvert? When you’re no longer in school and you’re nowhere near your workplace, how do you exactly form social connections to relieve loneliness?
In this article, we’ll talk about introversion, the myths about social interaction and connection, as well as how to use your introversion to make new friends and connections without social pressures.
Are You an Introvert?
The words introvert and extrovert are casually used to mean someone shy and someone friendly, respectively. But there’s more to introversion than the usual perception of shyness.
How do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Let’s take a deeper look at the concept.
The words “introvert” and “extrovert” were first coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung in 1910. Jung is credited for creating analytical psychology, and the terms originate from his theory of personality types.
According to Jung, there are two different attitude types, which are: introverts, who receive stimulation from within, and extroverts, who receive stimulation from the environment.
Using these definitions, introversion and extroversion are based on personality types and how they react to stimuli in their environment.
Jung defined an introvert as a person whose interests were derived from his thoughts and feelings, while an extrovert derived his interests in the outside world, which includes other people.
An introvert is typically reserved, withdrawn, distant, contemplative, and avoids social situations as much as he or she can. This personality type would rather stay home, read a book, create something, or spend time daydreaming than going out and going to a party, get-together, or a bar.
An introvert’s preference for time alone and solitude does not exactly encourage social interaction, which explains why an introvert may have very few friends.
If you’re unsure whether you’re an introvert or not, here are some traits that introverts tend to have:
- Deep thinkers
- Enjoy solitude
- Energized by being alone
- Learn well through observation
- Have a few close and intimate friends rather than having a big circle of friends
According to the American Psychological Association, introverts tend to their inner self. They typically prefer to work alone, are withdrawn, reserved, and quiet.
They prefer to spend time in less stimulating activities, such as reading, writing, and even meditating.
If you have most of these traits, then there’s a high likelihood that you are an introvert. But, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as a pure introvert.
According to Carl Jung, there is no such thing as a pure introvert and a pure extrovert. Introversion and extroversion exist in a spectrum, which means there’s a little bit of introversion and extroversion in all of us.
Most people relate more to being an introvert while others relate more to being an extrovert. And because of this, there is no person who wants solitude 100% all the time, and there is no one person who likes interaction 100% all the time.
This means that introverts are not inherently shy. Shyness has more to do with a fear of negative evaluation or judgment, whereas introversion simply means a person enjoys more time alone, or with a group of small people.
Why Is It Challenging for Introverts to Make Friends?
If you’re an introvert, I know first-hand how hard it can be to make friends. We rarely go to a party or social gathering on our own. That’s like one of the most terrifying things we would ever do.
When we do attend a party, we always make sure we go with a friend or meet a friend at the event. And we tend to cling to this friend the entire time.
The result? Well, we don’t exactly make new connections. We get introduced, we make acquaintances, but it never really goes beyond that.
Here are some reasons why introverts like us find it a challenge to make new friends:
1. We Wait to Be Invited
We rarely reach out to other people. We think, if they want to be friends with us, they’d be the ones to invite us. And if they don’t invite us, then they probably don’t want to spend time with us.
But what if the other person is thinking the same way? Then you both missed an opportunity for a potentially great friendship.
2. We Don’t Share Anything About Ourselves
One of the many positive traits of introverts is that we’re really good listeners. We have a tendency to focus and concentrate on one thing and when we have one-on-one conversations, we have a great ability to actively listen to other people when they’re talking.
But being a good listener is not enough for a successful conversation. You would also need to share something personal about yourself and be vulnerable so the other person can relate to you. If they’re the only ones talking, they won’t really have a good sense of who you are. And this doesn’t create a deep connection needed in a great friendship.
3. We Choose the Wrong People
You may want to be friends with someone outgoing and adventurous because you assume that opposites attract. But what happens when this person asks you to go out every night, or do a risky adventure over the weekend but all you want to do is stay home and watch a movie?
Not all people are right for you and that’s okay. Do not take everything personally, some people are just not a good fit for you.
Why It’s So Exhausting for Introverts to Socialize
Introverts always feel exhausted at social gatherings. This explains why most introverts leave parties early, stay in one area of a room or venue, and stick to a small group of people to socialize with.
But why? What does science say about introverts and why does socializing make them feel so tired?
- Different Responses to Stimulus
Well, one study reveals that introverts do not get satisfaction or are not stimulated by people. For many years, introversion and extroversion have been known to be exclusively based on personality types, but one study wanted to know whether the cause of these personality types comes from the brain.
The researchers studied a group of people who varied in age and recorded their electrical brain activity using an EEG.
These people were shown different pictures of objects and people. The researchers evaluated the brain’s p300 activity, which is activated when a person experiences a sudden change in the environment.
The study revealed that those who were stimulated by pictures of flowers turned out to be introverted, while those who were stimulated by pictures of faces were extroverts.
The researchers concluded that introverts are more stimulated by objects while extroverts are stimulated more by people.
This can explain why an introvert would rather work on a project at home or at work than attend a party or go out with friends.
Another scientific explanation why introverts feel exhausted from socializing is due to the body’s dopamine system.
Colin DeYoung, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota wanted to understand why socializing quickly exhausts introverts. He believed this is because of the dopamine system innate in introverts.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the body to give us the feeling of pleasure. We have a rush of dopamine when we receive positive reinforcement or reward when we do something. Dopamine is released when we eat a delicious meal or when we buy something for ourselves or when we get a massage, and just about any activity that makes us feel good.
This neurotransmitter is also known as the “feel-good hormone” because it does make us feel good, and it’s actually quite addicting. In fact, many recreational drugs stimulate the release of dopamine in the body, giving the user pleasure and feelings of euphoria.
DeYoung explains that extroverts have a more active dopamine system than introverts. This means they release more dopamine in the body when they engage in pleasurable activities that give them rewards, such as getting the number of an attractive stranger at a party, or being praised in a social setting, or going on lots of adventures.
For introverts, we don’t release the same level of dopamine in the body, which means socializing, going out, and social interactions do not give us the very same pleasurable sensations as compared to extroverts.
And because extroverts get excited at the possibilities of pleasure from rewards gained from social interaction, they tend to do it more. For introverts, because these activities do not give the same amount of pleasure, they tend to do it less.
If we are forced to socialize and make friends when we don’t want to, it leaves us feeling tired and exhausted since all we want to do is go home and read a book.
Do you remember during preschool when you were forced to be friends with everyone or attend a birthday party when you just wanted to play with your toys at home? Didn’t you feel irritated and annoyed that you were forced to go?
The feeling is the same way as adults when we are forced to attend a networking event or party and are pressured to interact with as many people as we can. It’s exhausting and even physically painful to be there.
Debunking the Introvert Myth: We Are Not Antisocial
There’s a common misconception that introverts hate people. Because we are often quiet, reserved, and withdrawn, many people believe that we don’t like being around people. But the truth is, we actually do like people, but only when we’re comfortable with them, such as our with our close family and friends.
When we’re around them, we’re actually talkative, friendly, and we are deeply invested in our relationships. While we may not have a large group of friends, we do have a small circle consisting of deep relationships.
In a 2015 study, researchers suggested that the key to happiness for introverts is high-quality relationships. This shows that introverts actually do not hate people, but they are only themselves with the right kind of people around them.
But because introverts are not usually seen as reaching out to people, they are usually criticized for their seeming lack of social skills and their awkwardness in social settings.
If you’re an introvert, there’s a high probability that you were told by teachers and adults to be more friendly when you were a child, especially when you were in preschool. Making friends, spending time with their kids to play, joining sports, and playing outside are seen as positive traits in a child, whereas a child who would spend his or her time playing by himself or doing activities alone is seen as negative.
Schools and institutions are designed to celebrate and encourage extroversion, rather than accepting that some people are simply naturally introverts, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.
Solitude and alone time are necessary for creativity. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers are introverts, with their time alone credited for making some of the world’s greatest inventions and solutions.
Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most famous scientists once said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life encourage the creative mind.” He was a famous scientist who credited his creativity and success to keeping to himself.
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men and considered to be one of the greatest investors of all time, is also an introvert, who says that time alone has given him the focus he needed to be a financial expert.
Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer and designer of the world’s first commercially successful personal computer, has stated that the reason he was able to create the first Apple computer was that he stayed at home while growing up.
While introverts love spending time alone and solitude fuels creativity, they do seek out social connections, but not in the same way as extroverts. As mentioned earlier, we crave social connection, but intimate, small settings, where we can have one-on-one or small interactions that are deep and meaningful.
Introverts and Loneliness: Why We Want to Make New Friends
Introverts are well-known to keep to themselves, spend time alone, and enjoy their own company. This is why most people think introverts never get lonely. We daydream a lot, think about our thoughts and feelings, and have a very healthy inner world.
But what most people don’t know is that we crave social interaction as well, just not in the same way extroverts do. This brings us to the misconception that introverts never get lonely because we do. We are even lonelier than most people.
Loneliness is defined as social pain, an unpleasant emotion to isolation, which motivates people to seek social connections.
While as introverts we may veer away from large social gatherings, we do seek intimate and meaningful interactions from people we are close to. But during times of social isolation and distancing, such as during the COVID 19 pandemic, introverts have suffered even more.
In a report conducted by www.16personalities.com, they revealed that during the pandemic, half of the introverts they interviewed reported increased levels of loneliness, with only ⅓ among extroverts.
Furthermore, data reveal that 31% of introverts reported being unhappy, with only 12% among extroverts. And in fact, 70% of introverts reported that they could not think of a fun way they could keep in touch with close friends, and communicated with family and friends less frequently.
And because we hate having to talk to people verbally, we rarely reach out to people and call them or meet them in person. We would rather communicate through writing or through chat and email, but these means of communication have not been found to ease feelings of loneliness.
While we do love spending time alone, we don’t want that all the time. We want to have a balance of alone time and social interactions, and because lockdowns and social distancing measures are in place, we are even finding it harder to reach out, which contributes to our increased levels of loneliness.
How to Make Friends As an Introvert
It’s not easy for introverts to make friends and that’s probably why you’re here. You may be lonely because you may want to enjoy some social interaction after isolating or you simply want to have some genuine social connections.
While it may be hard for you, don’t worry, there are a few things that you can do that are not so challenging and even easy for some people like us. Whenever I feel a tad bit lonelier than usual, I usually do some of these things, and in a few days, I would start feeling a little less lonely and a tad more optimistic.
So here are some tips on how to make friends as an introvert:
Leave the House
Sophia Dembling, who is the author of the book, “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” suggests leaving the house.
I know, this may seem like common sense and something that you dread to do. With the internet today, it can be easy to connect, and introverts prefer to communicate online. In fact, 67% of introverts say they feel more comfortable talking with someone online rather than in person.
But, if you’re lonely, in-person communication is more effective at relieving loneliness than chatting online or over the phone.
So if you want authentic social interactions that can help lower your feelings of loneliness, you need to get out of the house. Visit your sister, friend, or go to a coffee shop. Go to the park, the beach, just get out of the house.
Join a Class
Join a cooking class, book club, yoga class, or any group and activity that interests you. The good thing about these classes and groups is that you already have a shared interest with the people who are attending.
With at least one common interest, there won’t be much of a challenge to think about a topic to talk about.
Doing something you enjoy can also remove the awkwardness that exists in new friendships. When you’re enjoying yourself doing an activity you love, you won’t feel the social pressure as much, as compared to being at a party.
Bring an Extrovert to a Party
If you’ve been invited to a party and you don’t want to go alone, bring a “surrogate.” Researchers in Japan conducted a study and discovered that after 7 months, shy students who used a “surrogate” when entering university had as many friends as not-shy students. This surrogate is any friend you may have, or a family member, who is not so shy, or in other words, someone who is an extrovert.
An outgoing friend can help break the ice between new acquaintances, as well as help you approach people you want to introduce yourself to.
Reach Out to Old Friends
If the thought of making new friends scares you, then why not reach out to friends you already know?
You don’t necessarily need to head to a bar you’ve never been to before, a coffee shop you’ve never gone to, or a networking event. It’s more than likely that your old friends or acquaintances are already in your life, but you just need to get to know them better so you can have more meaningful and intimate friendships.
Making friends takes time. It won’t happen overnight. Instant friends are rare, so if you want to create genuine friendships, you need to practice socializing.
If you’ve never been the type to make the first move, now is the time. If you’re at a bookstore, approach someone and ask about a book they recommend, or if you’re at a party, be the first to ask a question.
If you want your ability to socialize to improve, you need to practice, just like any other skill. The more you practice, the more you get better at it, and the easier it becomes for you.
Be willing to be the first to say hello and introduce yourself. The goal is not to make friends right away, but to get more comfortable in social settings which can give you the opportunity to create genuine friendships in the near future.
Nothing is more exhausting than pretending to be someone you’re not. You might want to fake being outgoing to attract people, but when they become your friends and you’d have to keep up the facade, it can get exhausting.
Be brave and show people who you really are. Healthy vulnerability is one way you can do this. Use statements such as: “Am I the only one who’s nervous around here?” Or “I get really anxious when someone calls me, I’d much rather text.”
Showing your real and vulnerable side makes you more relatable and it doesn’t create any false expectations in the newly formed friendship.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. Questions like, “What did you do over the weekend?,” or “What’s new in your life?”
Remember that one of your best traits is listening and one of the ways someone will feel that another person is interested in them is if they ask questions about their lives. Get the other person talking as most people love talking about themselves.
Asking open-ended questions encourages people to open up to you, trust you, and eventually feel close to you. But don’t forget to share some of your personal information and opinions from time to time as well.
Have a Welcoming Body Language
Non-verbal cues are just as important as what you have to say. Let others know that you welcome their presence.
Keep your head up, sit straight, don’t slouch, and most of all, uncross your arms. Crossed arms are a classic, “Don’t Disturb” me stance, so put your arms on the side, or grab a glass of wine, and have a welcoming body language.
Extend your body as this shows confidence. This means chest out, chin up, and direct your feet towards the person when you’re talking to him or her.
As mentioned earlier, genuine friendships take time. They don’t happen overnight, and if they do, it’s very rare. When you’ve made a friend, make an effort to reach out and make plans. You can invite this person to go to a newly opened restaurant of your interest, or join a class.
You can also create a friendship routine where you agree to meet at least once a week, such as doing brunch every Sunday morning.
As introverts, routines make us less anxious because it removes the unpredictability of things and events. By making a regularly scheduled time to hang out, it takes the pressure off having to come up with something new every time.
Introverts are not antisocial as most people think they are. As introverts, we may seem withdrawn and reserved, quiet, and prefer to work or spend time on our own. But that does not mean we hate social interaction.
In fact, we crave social connection just as much as other people but we choose to spend time with a small inner circle who gets us, who understands us, and who’s been with us long enough to make us feel comfortable. When we do get comfortable with someone, we can be talkative, fun, cheerful, and even outgoing.
We prefer more one-on-one interactions rather than group settings, and we rarely make the first move when it comes to meeting new friends.
But while we love solitude, we can sometimes feel lonelier than extroverts. And to relieve ourselves of this loneliness, we must make new friends, or make deeper friendships out of acquaintances.
It may be hard and challenging for us as we are not equipped to have the same social skills as extroverts, and we are not stimulated by the rewards of a social setting. We do operate in our own way which is much easier and simpler for us.
By engaging in a common interest such as joining a class or event that interests us, or bringing an outgoing friend to a party, or creating a friendship routine that deepens our relationships, we can expand our inner circle to include new friends that make our lives even more meaningful.
These tips on how to make friends as an introvert are designed for the reserved personality in mind. You don’t have to pressure yourself into making friends right away. Remember that genuine friendships take time.
Simply practice going out there, introducing yourself, and taking the time to get to know people in a non-threatening, non-challenging, and comfortable way that works best for you.