11 Tips to Make Friends As an Introverted Adult

I watch friendships form every day. I see the new kids slink through the halls and into the classrooms on their first day, both wanting to be invisible and also yearning for recognition and acceptance. Their first interactions with the other kids are often uncomfortable, but within the span of a week, most of the new students no longer stand out as different.

It’s easy to make friends in childhood. School provides both the structure and freedom needed for relationships to develop. Classes and lunch schedules allow for repeated exposure to the same people so that familiarity easily builds. The down time in the halls and the lunch room provides an easy opening for exploration and banter, often centered on the shared experience of school.

It’s not as easy to make friends as an adult.

Especially as an introverted one.

Introverts can easily underestimate the importance of friendships. After all, we don’t feel the same intense pull towards others that our more extroverted brethren experience. Our social groups are smaller, our interactions fewer. The need for time alone is often more pressing than the need for connection.

And yet, we need friends just as much as the gregarious. Loneliness and a lack of human connection has been associated with both lower mental and physical well-being. We introverted ones may treat friendships as a nicety, but they are really a necessity.

Introverts tend to be adept at maintaining already established friendships, especially with people that are understanding of their periodic need for hibernation. But when life circumstances remove those familiar relationships, introverts can stall in the quest to create – and build – new friendships.

So how can introverts make friends in adulthood?

Adult life doesn’t easily provide the nutrient-rich agar that friendships feed off of. We may encounter others sporadically or only with a task-oriented goal in mind. There are no teachers or counselors to intervene on our behalf, requesting that others extend a hand.

By the time we’re old enough to rent a car, we have become quite comfortable with the room within our own minds and, as independent beings, have the opportunity to curl up and stay there. This natural introversion can come across as cold or uncaring, leading to further isolation.

But with just a few tweaks and adjustments, even the most introverted can find and nurture new friendships.

 

Accept that you will be uncomfortable sometimes.

Like most introverts, I am comfortable in my own home. My own room. My own head.

But that’s not where potential friends reside. In order to meet people, you will have to leave your comfort zone. You will be in environments that may feel overwhelming. You will be asked to stretch beyond your unusual routine. Learn to distinguish between ordinary discomfort and your intuition telling you that something is amiss. Refuse to pander to the former and what was once unsettling will become easier to navigate.

 

1 – Seek out one-to-one or (very) small group interactions.

Play to your strengths. You likely find large groups of people draining and even isolating. While an extrovert may throw a party to meet new people, you’ll be better served by inviting an acquaintance to coffee.

Recognize the numerical tipping point where you go from. “I like this” to “This is too much” and strive to keep your social interactions within that limit. When you do find yourself in a big group, try to find or create a smaller, more intimate gathering within (or just beyond) the masses.

 

2 – Say yes.

I know your book is calling. I know that you crave the solitude of your bed after a crazy day. It’s easy to make excuses to those invites that find there way to you. To beg off those intrusions on your peace.

Make a promise to yourself to say “Yes” to a certain number of invitations every month. The gathering may not exactly be your cup of tea (again, you will be uncomfortable sometimes), but you’re opening the door to allowing someone in. And you never know, they just might become a friend.

 

3 – Plan for buffer zones.

If Maslow had written a hierarchy of needs for the introvert, alone time would certainly be on the lower rungs. In order to both maintain your sanity and to ensure that you’re at your best in social situations, plan for some down time both before and after any taxing interactions.

You may be surprised how minimal these need to be in order to be effective. Try wearing headphones to block out others on your daily commute or diving into a book for five minutes in the parking lot before you exit your car.

 

4 – Strive for repeated and frequent exposure.

Familiarity breeds friendships. You cannot make a friend in just one encounter. If you meet someone and they pique your interest, look for a way to see them again soon. If you’re trying to meet others, seek out environments where you encounter the same (manageable-sized) group on a frequent basis.

Repetition is especially important in the beginning of a friendship. You may need to have more contact than you usually prefer in the early stages in order to get the relationship off the ground.

 

5 – Practice extending invites.

I’m good about saying “Yes” to invites, but not as good at initiating them. And since I have a lot of introverted friends, we can easily go quite a long time without contact.

Look for opportunities to extend an invitation. Instead of falling to your default position of doing things alone, see if somebody wants to join. It may feel awkward at first to ask, but often that effort is needed to create the frequency of contact needed for friendship.

 

6 – Use technology wisely.

On the one hand, the internet and texting technology has been a boon for introverts. After all, we can now “talk” to others without ever leaving our home. On the other hand, it can easily provide an excuse to not have meaningful connections with others as we hide behind our screens.

Use technology as an assist, not an excuse. Send an invite through text. Find potential friends through an online interest group. And then put the phone down and talk to the person. In person.

 

7 – Find your niche.

If you find small talk awkward and annoying, you may find it easier to meet potential friends that already share an interest of yours.

Introverts often have passions and hobbies that are largely solo activities – writing, model-building, gaming, etc. Since you may not meet others simply by engaging in your interests, it will take some extra effort to find others that share your enthusiasm.

 

8 – Look outside your familiars.

When we’re in school, our friends largely mirror us. They tend to be of a similar age, background and social class. As adults, we are not limited by the factors that guide childhood friendships.

We find it easier to identify with and bond with those that are superficially like us, but sometimes the best friendships can be formed with apparent opposites.

 

9 – Identify and manage any social anxiety.

Introversion and social anxiety are no the same thing (the former deals with how you recharge your energy and the latter comes from a fear of “what ifs”), but they can go hand-in-hand.

Recognize if you have any signs of social anxiety that are making it more difficult for you to make friends. Anxiety can be managed and inaction often serves to only allow it to grow.

 

10 – Communicate your needs.

Your budding friends may not recognize you as an introvert or may be unfamiliar with the needs of the more introspective set. Be upfront with your need for alone time and be clear that it has nothing to do with your like – or dislike – of another.

People are going to respond much more favorably to an explanation of a need for solitude than to constant brush-offs or unanswered texts. Additionally, if you sometimes need a nudge to get you out of the house, let that be known as well.

 

11 – Maintain your intention.

As an introvert, you need your time alone. Yet you also need meaningful human connection. Once you determine how much you require of each in order to be happy and healthy, make maintaining that balance a priority.

 

 

 

Related –  An Open Letter to Extroverts: What the Introverts in Your Life Want You to Know

 

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How to Survive “Transplant Shock” After Divorce

It was a gift, a full and beautiful French hydrangea, with it’s startling blue pom-poms of flowers perched above the simple white wrapping over the pot. I placed it on a counter, where it was out of the reach of the dogs, and for several weeks, I tended to it carefully with the enclosed fertilizer packet and a carefully metered watering schedule. In return, I was awarded with stunning and tenacious blooms for many days.

Then, so slowly that it was hard to notice at first, the plant began to languish. New buds were no longer forming and the ones that held tight were beginning to turn to parchment with age. The leaves, once a deep, leathery green, began to yellow, their pallor hinting at ill health.

At this point, I was a complete neophyte when it came to plant care. So, I turned to the wisdom held on the shelves of my public library combined with the practical advice delivered by a seasoned gardener who was volunteering at the library that day. I learned that the gifted shrub would only survive for a brief period in its small pot but that, luckily, it was suited to the climate found in Atlanta. I was instructed to purchase some planting soil, pick a suitable spot in my yard, and transfer the plant to its new home where, I was assured, it would thrive.

I followed the instructions as I understood them, holding visions of a huge hydrangea soon becoming the stunning focal point of my tired front yard.

Instead, I found myself pulling its skeletal remains from the earth a mere four weeks after planting. In my ignorance and haste, I had failed to adequately protect my charge against transplant shock, and it succumbed to the stress.

Years later, I again thought of that little plant. I, too, had gone from being in full-flower, content in my small world, to suddenly being ripped out and forced into a new – and harsher – environment. In the interim, I had become a competent gardener, successfully transplanting many plants. Now, it was necessary for me to apply that knowledge to myself so that I could survive the transplant shock after divorce.

 

Timing Matters

With plants, it’s best to move them during their more dormant season and when they will not face the additional stress of extreme weather conditions. When it comes to divorce, we may not have the option to make the move at a time when the rest of life is relatively inert, so we have to be mindful of the additional pressures the timing may entail. As much as possible, try to push the pause button on the non-essential demands for the short term, so that you can direct your energies to getting settled in your new space.

 

Be Mindful About Placement

One of the many mistakes I made with my first hydrangea was siting it where it received afternoon sun, a death sentence for this shrub in the south. I almost made a similar mistake with myself, placing myself in an environment – alone in a rental – where I would receive too little social connection. Instead, I resided with a dear friend, where I had the connection and sanctuary I needed. Don’t worry about what others say you’re “supposed” to do or the mental image you’ve held for this life stage, place yourself where you will thrive.

 

Add a Little Bit of the Old

When I moved my little shrub that day, I carefully brushed away as much of the old soil as I could, thinking that it was stale and barren and needed to be replaced with completely new earth. Except that new soil was a huge blow to the struggling roots, with nothing familiar to comfort them, they simply froze from the shock. We’re not that different. When everything is new, we have nothing to rely on as we begin our exploration. Keep some things constant as you move from your old life to the new.

 

Provide Plenty of Water

It turns out that stressed plants need more water. They’ve not yet acclimated to their site, so they’re not yet completely efficient and the growth of new roots requires plenty of moisture. We also have a tendency to need more of the things that sustain us during a period of translate shock. We require more attention, more sleep and more support.

 

Don’t Try to Grow Too Fast

I fell for the advertising. While purchasing the planting soil for my little shrub, I picked up a gardening magazine from the checkout line. A two-page advertisement showed a glorious hedge of hydrangeas with the tagline, “Brought to you by Miracle Grow.” So, of course, I added the fertilizer to my cart and liberally applied to over the next two weeks. It was a huge mistake. I was forcing the plant to put out new stems and leaves while the rootball beneath the soil was still too small to support the new growth. We can easily fall into the same trap after divorce. The deep work, the root work, that we need to do to thrive isn’t fun. It isn’t sexy or beautiful. It’s easy to try to spread out too far, too fast and ignore what anchors us. And, just like the plant, it cannot be supported long term.

 

Loosen the Barriers

I probably killed that plant in fifteen different ways. When I finally removed its remains, I saw evidence of some root growth. To a point. I had made the planting hole too small and the roots had stopped growing once they reached the barrier of the rock-hard Georgia red clay. Sometimes, after divorce, we can find ourselves in a pocket of compassion and intervention and then once the empathy and concern of others begins to fade, we feel as though we’re up against a rock wall of indifference. Strive to integrate those barriers so that support is slowly decreased as you gain your strength.

 

Patience

So many of my mistakes with my little shrub were made out of impatience. I wanted it to be fully grown. Like yesterday. But, as with anything, there are no shortcuts. Instead, it’s a process of trial and error, adaptation and setbacks, and learning from each mistake. Only then, and with time, will the blooms return in full.

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Why Building a Life After Divorce Is Like Starting a New Company

 

Staying With the The Devil You Know

The Monty Hall problem is a famous puzzle in mathematics. In this dilemma, a contestant on a gameshow is attempting to correctly choose the one door out of of three that hides a prize. The contestant selects door and does not open it. The host then opens door three, revealing that there is no prize. The player is then given the option to stick with their initial choice or switch to the second door.

Most people intuitively feel that remaining with the initial choice of door one is advantageous or that the contestant now has an equal chance with either door one or two. Mathematically, however, the player has a better opportunity of winning (67% chance) if they change their selection.

When this solution was first published, the outcry was enormous, well beyond what would be expected for a math-related article. So why were people so resistant to the idea of letting go and taking their chances on something new?

Once people make a decision or arrive at a solution, they take on a sense of ownership of that idea. And once they possess it, they become wary of letting it go. In a sense, releasing the choice becomes a loss. And we often act to avoid loss.

The first choice for the contestant is knee-jerk. At that point, all of the doors have an equal chance of containing the prize. But once the second choice is offered, the situation has changed. Inaction is tempting both because it needs no overcoming of inertia and accepting a loss due to a failure to act is easier than accepting a loss that arises directly from an action.

And then of course, there’s ego that has a difficult time admitting that maybe the first choice wasn’t the right pick after all.

And all of this simply to avoid leaving behind a door that may not even contain a prize.

We face a version of this dilemma in life. Except then, we know what is behind the door. And yet sometimes we struggle to choose another option even when we know that what lies behind the door we picked is certainly no prize.

I think we’ve all chosen the devil we know at times. Maybe you stayed in a job too long that wasn’t a good fit. Perhaps you tolerated an abusive situation after the pattern became clear. Or possibly you have clung to a self-narrative long past its expiration date.

We justify our decision to stay with the status quo –

“At least I know what to expect.”

“I know how to navigate this situation and I don’t now how to do the other.”

“Maybe this is the best I can do.”

“I still have hope that this situation can change.”

It;s scary to leave what you know. It’s hard to admit that maybe your first choice wasn’t such a good one. It’s so hard to let go of one selection when you don’t yet know where the other will lead.

But if you know that the door you chose isn’t right for you, maybe it’s time to select another. After all, that one might just hide the prize you’ve been looking for.

Change is Never Easy, But it Can Be Easier

It’s not just seasons changing in these parts.

The school where I’ve worked for the past five years has become swollen. Overripe and bursting with more kids than the building was designed to hold. And so it’s being cleaved and the excess is being funneled into a new school, opening next fall.

My first reaction when confronted with the reality was that I wanted everything to remain the same.

Because change is hard.

And it’s so much easier to just keep on keeping on.

But that’s not always (or even often) a choice.

So when decision time came, I elected to transfer allegiance to the new school.

And between the additional meetings, the multitude of unknowns, the additional curriculum burdens and the physical sorting and packing, it has not always been easy.

But change never is.

Here are some strategies that I’m using now that help to make this change a little easier:

Accept Change As Inevitable

Even when things stay the course, the course changes, as do the people on it. Some change is obvious, the sudden endings and the hard right turns of life. And other change, most change, is more subtle and slow. The fraction of a millimeter added to a child’s height. The replacement of tall grasses with short trees that eventually grow to shade out the growth below.

When the abrupt changes occur, we often resist, digging our heels in and skidding through the turn as though we can alter reality through an act of sheer stubbornness.

We may as well push down on our children’s heads in an attempt to halt their growth.

Change is normal.

Change is unavoidable.

We may as well get used to it.

Frame Change As an Adventure

How exciting! You get to try something new!

Not feeling it yet? Keep practicing. Watch your words. Rather than speaking negatively about your situation, work to frame it as an adventure. An experience. Yes, there will be trials and tribulations. That’s part of what makes it more exhilarating. Aren’t you lucky to have this opportunity for excitement!

Part of the adventure mindset is to view setbacks as problems to be solved rather than roadblocks in your way. Be creative. Be flexible. And remember to have some fun along the way.

Control What You Can

We all feel better when we have the impression that we are in control of our lives. Unfortunately, life does not always agree. When you’re faced with unwanted change, it’s easy to fall into a victim mindset, taking the approach that all of this is happening to you and that there’s nothing you can do.

It’s true you cannot stop the change. But it’s also true that you’re not completely helpless either. In the midst of upheaval, control what you can, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. Simply recognizing that you have choice and acting upon those choices will go a long way to alleviating the fear and frustration that accompanies change.

What If It Is Your Circus and They Are Your Monkeys?

Create a “Worth It Because…” List

If you have chosen this change, you probably already have some idea of how it may benefit you down the road. If this change was thrust upon you, you’re probably drawing a blank as to the potential positives of the unwanted life renovation.

So figure them out. Step outside yourself and brainstorm some of the current and future reasons that this change is/will be worth it. You don’t have to like or agree with the change to uncover some of the positives. Some of these positive side effects may not be automatic. So put in the effort to make them happen.

The Upside of Betrayal

Piggyback On Your Change

You know that thing you’ve always intended to do but never quite got around to it? Now’s the time. You know that bucket list that has been collecting dust? Brush it off.

Change provides opportunities for more change. It’s harder to come up with excuses to avoid something new when new and different are everywhere you look. View this as a window of opportunity for you to bring to life some of the changes you have dreamt about.

—–

As for me, I am super excited about my upcoming change. It will push me. It will challenge me. Some days it will probably bring tears when overwhelm hits, but I’m confident that the effort will pay dividends. I’m thrilled to be part of building something new.