Forming and keeping a good quality friendship was one of the biggest challenges I faced while growing up. I’ve always been quite an introvert, and if you’re like me, you know how hard it is to reach out and make friends when you’re severely withdrawn. Whether you’ve always been socially awkward, sheepish and shy or if you learned to hide behind walls built up over time, being outgoing takes a ton of effort, so naturally, trying to make friends is exhausting. So, how do you do it? Well, I can’t give you a manual or magic formula, but I can give you 10 tips on what’s helped me over the years.
10. You can’t force anything.
Just like you have the option to choose someone as a potential friend, you need to give that person the option as well. No amount of sucking up or giving them attention is going to guarantee a friendship, and honestly, that is not how to build a foundation with anyone. Always give effort, but know when enough is enough, and know when you’re not receiving what you deserve in return. As impossible and cliché as it may seem, you just have to be yourself. The right people will come when you least expect it.
9. Patience is a virtue.
As hard as it is, making friends takes time. There’s no set agenda for establishing a solid relationship with people; every person and every friendship is different. No matter how frustrated you get with the lack of results, trying to rush things along will not help. You will not only end up disappointed, but could possibly scare potential friends away.
8. Know the difference between friends and acquaintances.
Don’t envy the “popular people” who always seem to have a million friends. Chances are, they only have a few real ones. Not everyone you meet and hang out with is going to be a friend. You may mutually enjoy each other’s presence, and that is great, but it might not be more than that. So how do you tell who’s who? Trust your gut here. Don’t get caught up in being as social as possible; this is unmistakably a QUALITY over QUANTITY situation, especially for an introvert. Making a connection with a person is the crucial ingredient to a quality friendship. The last thing you need to do is think everyone you hang out with is your friend. Let trust be earned; it saves you frustrating, and sometimes painful drama, and will ultimately strengthen your bond with those who are true friends.
7. It’s okay to be alone.
Being social is hard, and a lot of times you find yourself alone instead of out with people. Trust me, that’s okay. Being alone is better than being with the wrong people. And when you do make friends, do not attach yourself to them immediately. You also don’t want to start spending every moment with your new friend, because you’ll not only tire yourself out, but it could also make you become socially dependent on that person, which can really end up hurting you later. Don’t discount your personality, being introverted is not a handicap. It also isn’t something you can just ignore. Learn how to enjoy your own company.
6. Don’t try to compensate for being introverted.
Too often we introverts apologize for not being the most outgoing. Do not say you’re okay if you’re not. If you’re not feeling the situation you’re in, don’t act like you are. Don’t get carried away trying to prove that you can be social. It comes off as fake, and sometimes really annoying. If you’re trying to make friends with people who are always on the go to the point where it makes you miserable trying to keep up, you might want to consider pursuing another friendship. The right people will understand that sometimes you just need a break.
5. You do not and should not have to try to fit in.
People are not always going to understand you, especially if being socially outgoing is something they’re good at. Sometimes it seems so easy to just jump right in with new people as soon as the offer comes up, but you should always take the time to make sure they’re right for you. Yes, give them a chance or two, but don’t commit yourself to a friendship right off the bat. You should go about making friends the same way you would go about finding a significant other. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT change yourself to try and fit in with people, even if it “seems okay for now” or “is really not that bad.” If you’ve given it some time and still feel like you can’t be 100% yourself with your new friends, or you feel the need to do things you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable doing) you need to reevaluate. Being an introvert is hard enough as it is; it is so important to be with quality people who will make an effort to understand you.
4. Make an effort.
Friends are most likely not going to just pop out of thin air and into your life. Sometimes, you’re going to have to go out of your way to meet them. Being alone is good, but not all the time. If you’re not involved in anything on campus, get involved. Play a sport, join a club, go to that tailgate or even that seminar for extra credit… just do something to get yourself out and about. I met my best friend at a party my roommate literally fought me out of my bed to go to. You never know what can happen.
3. Think and act positively.
For those whose introversion is accompanied by a depression or anxiety of any kind, it can be extremely challenging to stay positive when forming a new friendship. You may have been hurt before, you may have every reason in the world to be skeptical of every new person who enters your life, but for your own sake, let it go. This is one of the most important things I can stress to you. Be cautious, yes, but give people the benefit of the doubt. And be positive. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who is self-defeating, self-victimizing, or just plain negative about everything. Your attitude will be reflected by those who are around you, so if you can’t find the bright side, be it.
2. Don’t discount other introverts.
This is a mistake I made a lot. Just as you feel overlooked for being an introvert, don’t overlook the ones around you. I have found that the people who sit alone in the corner at parties have the better stories to tell than those who sit in class the next day bragging about how great that party actually wasn’t. I’m not saying don’t be friends with the loud, funny guy that everyone loves, but don’t ignore the quiet ones that nobody notices. Those are the people who will understand why you are the way you are socially. Yeah, it’s hard to be the one to approach people sometimes, but you might just surprise yourself…
1. Do not have expectations.
As I said earlier, do not get caught up in wanting to be that popular person with a bunch of friends. You don’t need to be the prettiest sorority girl, most talked about athlete or the frattiest bro on campus. Having expectations puts an unnecessary pressure on everyone involved, and sets the situation up to be disappointing. Don’t set your heart on receiving your personal definition of the perfect friendship. Have an idea but don’t expect perfection. What matters is that you find some people, or even just one person, that gives you a steady shoulder to lean on.
Written by: Corie White