I’m an introvert who used to hate making new friends and/or talking to strangers. My biggest annoyance was small talk. I didn’t like small talk – it was time wasting.
Rather, I found it more interesting to dive in immediately into a discussion about the meaning of life and how far along have we gotten to finding it; or, where our generation was headed compared to the generation before us… I could go on, but well, you get what I mean.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t make many friends. Save for a few, most people found me boring and never invited me to any fun social outings.
Well, who could blame them? I was the friend discussing math problems during a bowling outing. Yawn.
My friendless situation was most painfully felt when I was 18 years old, standing outside my A Levels college. I had received straight A’s and was there to collect my results.
I was in the Top 5. I should have been happy, but I was sad.
While others celebrated their victory with friends, I stood alone. Other than my family, I could not share my joy with anyone. I heard them plan celebrations together, celebrations I would not be invited to.
I’m embarrassed to admit this but I cried about it. Then I promised myself to never end up this way again.
I told myself, ‘Lu Wee, in the future you must have people to invite to your celebrations.’
So at 18, I made a commitment to myself to learn to make friends.
I’m happy to report that now, eight years later, I do have people to invite to my celebrations now.
It was not an easy thing to learn to do – I read many books, learned how to speak better and practised with people for many hundreds of hours – but it was worth it.
If you have ever struggled with making friends as an introvert, perhaps you will find these suggestions useful.
Here’s how I think introverts can make friends.
1. Be OK with small talk and learn how to small talk
Don’t run away from people who start talking to you about something mundane. Asking a question like ‘how are you?’ is just a way that people break the ice. Be patient and stay in the conversation.
However, it is not useful to only end the small talk with one answer. For example:
If someone asks, ‘How are you?’ You should answer, ‘Great!’ then ask them, ‘How about you?’
They will probably tell you that they’re doing fine too.
What to say next?
If it’s your first time meeting them, you can ask them questions like:
‘How do you know the host?’ (if you meet at a dinner together)
‘How did you know about this event?’ (if you meet at a conference)
Then, you can ask them questions like:
‘What’s your favourite food here so far?’ (dinner)
‘Which sessions did you enjoy most?’ (conference)
And so on. If the other person is a good conversationalist, it’s likely that she’ll ask you similar questions and soon enough, you would be on friendly terms!
Listening is one of the most attractive qualities in a person. Why?
99% of people are more interested in talking than listening. When you are good at listening, you immediately stand out.
But good listening is much more than closing your mouth, sitting still and nodding your head (anyone can do that!). It’s about putting all your attention and focus on the other person without thinking about anything else.
More than that, when the person is done talking, you ask questions related to what has been said.
A friend talks to you about her dogs. Even though you have zero interest in dogs, you listen.
‘My dogs really like beef! They jump on me whenever I bring beef flavoured treats home!’
You can reply:
‘Oh really! They must be really excited! Do they eat everything at once?’
The temptation here is to say nothing when someone talks to you about something you’re not really interested in. But that will not allow you to carry on a meaningful conversation with anyone because it is highly likely that you won’t be interested in 50% of the things another person says.
If you are unwilling to put in effort to be interested, then you will not get the rewards of friendship.
3. Join activities that are ‘time-wasting’
For introverts, most activities that don’t involve deep thinking or the building of a skill feel wasteful. The key here is to understand that though activities like reading together is fun, it’s probably not going to bond you as easily as playing pool together.
Humans are very social animals and find it easier to see someone as a friend after being involved in fun activities with them. So, the next time someone invites you to a ‘time-wasting’ activity, say yes.
Know that it is completely OK to go back a bit earlier if your energy runs out before everyone else’s does. Just let your friends know.
4. Organise get-togethers
While joining activities set up by other people is fun, it is also really fun to organise your own activities. Gather a group of friends who might be interested in something fun – like going to the beach, playing futsal – and get together.
One of the best ways people bond is through food so make sure you include food in your activities!
5. Follow up with people
The most common mistake people make when they meet new people is that they don’t follow up with them. After meeting with someone at a dinner or conference, they just let it end there.
If you do this, then no matter how much fun you had together, they will likely forget about you.
Whenever you meet someone you think is interesting and who you might want to get to know better, make sure you get their contact.
Then, send them a follow up email or text a day after you meet. Then another follow up every month for a year. This way, you will be in their radar the next time something fun pops up that they think will interest you.
Also, this helps to keep the flame alive.
I hope you’ve found this list useful. There are undeniably many more ways to make friends as an introvert that I’ve not listed here. The key is to be open to new ways of communicating and bonding with other people that do not at first feel comfortable. With practice, making friends will become second nature.
What are some ways that you have found useful to make friends as an introvert?