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I’m an introvert, so I’ve never been into networking events, loud parties, bars, or other extrovert social stuff. And when I did try going to meetups, I never really connected with people there.
Over the years, I’ve been able to build up a rich social life despite not being overly social. In this guide, I’ll show you how introverts make friends.
1. Polish up on your social skills
If you don’t do something often, you can get rusty. This definitely applies to meeting new people and getting to know them. A few things to remember to help you feel more confident and less nervous:
- Be curious – ask questions when you meet people, not for the sake of asking questions, but to get to know them.
- Be warm – treat others with kindness and warmth, like they are already your friend. When you do, they’re more likely to be friendly back.
- Open up – in between your genuine questions, share things about yourself that relate to what you’re talking about. It needn’t be overly personal, just relevant.[1,2]
Read our guide on how to be more outgoing.
2. Learn how to deal with nervousness around new people
Meeting new people can set off a boat-load of physical responses that can make getting to know someone feel like you’re storming Normandy beach. Especially if you’re an introvert with social anxiety. To help deal with your nerves, here are a few tips.
- Socially savvy people have one thing in common: they don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. They say what they think, and if it comes off as silly/dumb, they own it.
- If you worry about saying the wrong thing, ask yourself, how would you react if someone else said it? Most likely, you would barely notice.
- Rather than focusing on what others think of you, practice focusing your full attention on the conversation you’re having. Studies show that this shift of focus makes us less self-conscious.
Read our guide on how to deal with nervousness.
3. Go to recurring events (and avoid one-off meetups)
The way to get to know someone better is to have ample opportunity to talk to them and exchange stories and ideas. Recurring events give you the chance to meet people often and form a bond.
A powerful way to make friends as an introvert in college is to seek out groups in your school that interest you. If you’re an adult, look for recurring events on sites like Meetup.com. One-off events are more about the experience than meeting people.
Volunteering is a chance to do something you care about that likely aligns with you personally – be it a value or belief. The people you meet where you volunteer also feel the same way about the cause as you do. That’s the basis for a great relationship!
Think about the organizations that need volunteers and see which one appeals to you. Is it helping kids? Try Big Brothers or Big Sisters in your city. Is it the environment? Try searching “Environmental Volunteer “Your city” and see what comes up. You’ll meet others who care about the same things as you, and that’s a great way to start a friendship.
5. Accept invitations even when you don’t feel like it
Sometimes you’ve got to psych yourself up for a social event even if you don’t feel like it. This is true for most people, even the super-outgoing. A good rule of thumb for invitation acceptance is to say yes to 2 out of 3 invites. Why 2 and not 3 or 1?
Well first, if someone invites you somewhere and you decline, you likely won’t get a second invite. People don’t like to be rejected, and it will feel personal to them, regardless of whether you meant it that way.
Secondly, the more social invitations you get, the better you will become at handling those situations. Also, you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn. Take the opportunity and see what happens.
6. Take the initiative
Taking the initiative means you decided to go for it. You put yourself out there and took a chance. In practical terms, it’s when:
- You choose to go somewhere you might not know many people.
- You introduced yourself and learned something new about a stranger.
- You had a great conversation with someone and asked for their number so you can keep in touch.
- You joined a group you’re interested in and met people along the way.
- You started a group, posted it on meetup.com and invited the people you know who would be interested in joining and told them to bring their friends too.
- You said yes to an invitation that you weren’t sure you were up for, but you were willing to try.
7. Join events where you are likely to meet with other introverts
Here are a few recurring groups you might join and where to find them in your city:
On Meet-up.com, there are 360 chess groups worldwide and over 100,000 people who meet there. Here’s the chess link, drill down for your city.
Books explore so many things that bring people together – ideas, feelings, historical events, popular culture, storytelling, the list goes on. Book clubs are great places to meet other like-minded literary types. Simply type in “Book Club” in your search engine and a bunch of local clubs will pop up. There are also online clubs, which is a little less personal, but in our digital world, friendships don’t always have to be in person. Try Bustle’s recommended online book clubs here.
Pottery is one of those fantastic hobbies that is both personal, physical and artistic. When you create something, it puts you in a more open frame of mind, which is a great time to meet new people. There are tonnes of classes offered in communities everywhere. Do a little research online and see where you might want to grow this hobby.
Painting or drawing, in general, has lots of chances for socializing, and you don’t necessarily have to be an incredible artist to participate. Meetup.com has groups that specialize in life drawing, illustrators, nature drawings, etc., as well as Beer & Draw and Colouring (the de-stressing kind).
Then there’s Groupon, which has coupons for all sorts of group events. One I found was “Design a Sign and Socialize” or a “Social Painting Workshop.”
Eventbright.com has cool clubs like Films on Walls, Art House films, Star Wars anthologies. It also automatically sorts based on your location, so you get events in your neighborhood right away.
There’s a cool article from The Guardian that gives a how-to on starting your own mobile film club. If you have a few friends who love films, this is a great way to create a network of people who share the same passion.
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts groups can be found online at Meetup.com or Eventbright.com, but some other places you might look at are at your local craft store. For example, in the U.S. and Canada, there’s Michael’s art supply store. They have different craft classes from painting to framing to knitting for both adults and kids.
Photography workshops are great for us introverts as you can focus on the task of taking photos and then occasionally engage in conversation with others about their images or gear. If you don’t own a camera, having your phone to take pictures with is enough for some meetups.
There are so many kinds of writing you can choose from poetry groups, short stories, mysteries, romance, journaling, film, theatre…if there is a medium for it, you can write it.
Meetup.com has lots of options, as do your local communities and cities.
I was part of a philosophy group for a year and still have close friends from that time. A common misconception is that you need to be well-read on philosophy to fit in when, in reality, you most often don’t, or you’ll be provided with a short text to read beforehand. Go to Meetup.com or search “Find a philosophy group,” and you’ll get your local philosophy chapters and their meeting times and places.
You’ll find loads of introvert-specific groups on Meetup.com. This is ideal if your not comfortable going out on your own to a new group. You’ll notice that people there are understanding and might be there for the same reason as you.
Also, check out our guide on how to be more social as an introvert.
8. Know how to start a conversation with someone you’ve just met
Here’s where the choice to go to a recurring group meeting makes it easier to meet people. Say you’re at a photography club meeting. You can lean over and ask, “What kind of camera is that?” or engage in an interesting discussion about the kind of aperture that is best for live-action shots.
It can be when you’re at lunch with new people, or you’re waiting to go into class, start a conversation about what’s going on around you. Natural observations about your environment are perfect openers because they’re not too direct or personal. Things like, “Where did you get your lunch from?” or “Have you tried the new coffee maker? It’s pretty good.”
There’s a bunch of great ideas for starting conversations in this article.
9. Test Bumble BFF. (It worked surprisingly well for me)
If you are self-employed or live alone, try out Bumble BFF. I met two of my best friends there. If you fill out your profile with lots of details: your interests and goals, it will connect you with like-minded people. Also, include a photo that shows you as friendly and open. This is the opposite of a dating site: you’re not looking to be seductive, just natural and approachable.
Have a look at this article for a few more ideas.
10. See socializing as nothing more than practicing for the future and be OK with messing up
A few years ago, I moved from Sweden to the U.S. I started seeing my social interaction in Sweden as mere practice for meeting people in the U.S. Ironically, this made it easier for me to make friends in Sweden. Why? It took the pressure off, and I didn’t worry about messing up. I was more relaxed. That made me more likable.
See socializing as nothing more than practice and be OK with it going wrong. It takes the pressure off your interactions.
11. Instead of trying hard to make friends, focus on enjoying your time at the event
Making friends is not an Olympic sport. In fact, the harder you work at it, the worse it turns out. Trying too hard translates to needy, and no one wants to feel high-pressure stakes when talking to someone they just met. Try to enjoy the moment of the event for what it is, a chance to meet a few cool people with whom you may or may not have much in common.
Friendships are born out of people having a good time together. So focus on what you’re doing together and let friendship be a byproduct of that experience.
12. Join internet forums and communities
Look at all these subreddits, for example, or these online communities. You can also search for local groups on Facebook related to your interests, like “Hiking Atlanta.” By looking for local groups, you’re more likely to meet up again one day.
It’s better to be part of a small, intimate community than a large one. In a small group, you will be a valuable part of the team and likely needed to keep the group going. You will get to know the other members pretty well, just based on the amount of interaction you have online. In a larger community, it will take longer to get to know people because you may not end up seeing them very often.
If you would like more detail on online friendship building, click here.
13. If you have a dog, go daily to the same dog park
Having a friend who’s a dog owner, I can tell you that dogs are an endless source of funny stories and conversations. Go to the dog park daily, around the same time, and you’ll meet other dog owners, a couple of times a week. And that means – you will generally like each other. That’s a big statement, but here’s why: dog owners understand loyalty, unconditional love, sh$t happens when you least expect it, and life is not always a cakewalk, but it is funny. You’re dog/pet is an extension of yourself. You may not have the same life view ultimately, but starting a conversation about your dog or your neighbor’s dog is pretty easy.
14. Take community college classes
Community college classes have lots of things going for them:
- They are local.
- They last a few months at least, long enough to get to know people.
- You’re all in this together. You’ll have lots to talk about relative to the course – the workload, the assignments/tests, the professor.
- You may be taking this course to complete a degree or learn more about a new hobby. Likely this is a similar reason to your course mates. A good reason to bond!
15. Join a co-living house
When I moved to New York, I didn’t know anyone and decided that as an introvert, an excellent way to meet people would be to join a co-living house. You can choose a shared room or a private room. Private is a bit more expensive but allows you alone time when you need it. Keeping in mind, this type of rental is already much cheaper than a roommate situation or a single apartment.
In a co-living arrangement, you will meet all sorts of people (artists, techies, students, etc..), and you’ll get to know one another because you can’t help but run into each other. My house had fifteen people in it, and after two years, I moved into a new apartment with two friends I met at the house.
16. Make sure to look approachable and when you go to events
There are a few things you can do when you are going to an event that will help you look more approachable:
- If you tend to tense your face, make sure to relax your forehead and jaw. When tense, we scowl, and that creates a furrow in between our eyebrows, which makes us look angry. The same goes for your lips and teeth. Loosen your jaw, so it’s slightly open, and you will look more available for conversation.
- Smile with your mouth and your eyes. When we have a genuine smile, the corners of our eyes crinkle, and it relaxes our face. Crow’s feet are a sign to others that you are enjoying what they are saying and being around them.
Read more here on how to become more approachable.
17. Ask something slightly personal to get past the small talk and bond.
Small talk is useful to signal that you’re friendly and open to interaction. But you don’t want to get stuck in it. Now’s the time to ask a few more personal questions about what they like about their job or the courses they are studying at university/college. You’re not looking for facts anymore. You want their thoughts and feelings.
Go where the conversation is flowing. The best thing to be here is curious. As your partner is sharing things about themselves, allow yourself to open up and reciprocate. Tell them a relevant story or piece about your life that is similar to what they shared. That way, the conversation feels balanced, and you are getting to know each other equally.[1,2]
18. Know that introversion is common and many feel just like you do
Statistics vary, but scientists estimate that 25%-40% of the population is introverted. That’s a lot of people who understand getting out there and making friends is not always easy. There are also some good forums for connecting with our introvert brethren. Reddit.com/r/introverts has over 10,000 members who talk about the benefits and challenges of introversion and give some great advice about things you may be dealing with now.
There are lots of cool things about introversion, not the least of which is we are very self-aware. The self-aware are often the best conversationalists as they definitely know their subject!
19. Strategies I don’t think are useful for making friends as an introvert
- Drinking. It works great to be more social, but in the extreme, it can make you feel that you have to drink to be able to socialize, which can be destructive in the long-term. It’s best to keep in mind that alcohol acts as a depressant. It may start out releasing inhibitions, but the crash is not far off if you don’t give yourself a limit.
- Becoming a regular at a bar. Even if you don’t go there to drink, the people you meet are there to drink, and you’ll likely be sucked into drinking to socialize with them.
- Go to “make new friend” meetups. At general meetups, all sorts of people join, and you have to be lucky to meet like-minded people. Meetups about specific interests are better because you’re more likely to find people like you.
- Going to one-time events. If you only go to a game once, you won’t have the time needed to form close connections with people.
- Sprecher, S., & Treger, S. (2015). The benefits of turn‐taking reciprocal self‐disclosure in get‐acquainted interactions. Personal Relationships, 22(3), 460-475.
- Derlega, V. J., Wilson, M., & Chaikin, A. L. (1976). Friendship and disclosure reciprocity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 34(4), 578.
- Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2009). Reciprocity of liking. In Encyclopedia of human relationships (pp. 1333-1336). SAGE Publications, Inc.
- Brown, M. A., & Stopa, L. (2007). The spotlight effect and the illusion of transparency in social anxiety. Journal of anxiety disorders, 21(6), 804-819.
- Schmidt, N. B., Richey, J. A., Buckner, J. D., & Timpano, K. R. (2009). Attention training for generalized social anxiety disorder. Journal of abnormal psychology, 118(1), 5.
- Moreland, Richard L.; Beach, Scott R. (May 1992). “Exposure effects in the classroom: The development of affinity among students”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 28 (3): 255–276.
- Surakka, V., & Hietanen, J. K. (1998). Facial and emotional reactions to Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 29(1), 23-33.