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Student Accommodation Blog

How to make new friends – for the introvert!

Do you sometimes feel you struggle to make new friends or think you might be an introvert? Kate, our General Manager at UniLodge Lincoln House has a few tips to share with fellow introverts. 

Making new friends as an adult can be hard for anyone but being an introvert can make it 100x harder. As an introvert myself I have struggled to make new friends as an adult or being comfortable in social environments but it is important to remember that you are not alone and a lot of people in the room, are probably suffering in the same way as yourself!

For those extroverts reading this who do not struggle in social situations or with meeting new people, you may find it hard to understand us introverts. I have been told multiple times in my life that I am a “snob” or “standoffish” or sometimes I can even come across as “rude” in social situations, but people cannot see the internal struggle that I am going through when faced with a room of 10+ people. I try to smile, but this can come across as fake, I cannot remember peoples names 5 seconds after they introduce themselves because there is too much noise running through my brain, I pretend I need to go to the bathroom 10 minutes after arriving just so I can escape the uncomfortableness. The receptionist at my gym thinks I am the rudest woman on the planet because I am always on my phone when I walk in and I don’t acknowledge her, but really, I am on the phone to my mum because I can’t walk into the gym alone and it takes me 15 minutes to pluck up the confidence to make the quick dash from the locker room to the treadmill.

I am completely comfortable around my small group of friends – some of my friends would probably even describe me as an extrovert but add an “outsider” to that group, and you will see me slowly shut down because the environment has suddenly become unfamiliar and I don’t know how to process the change as quickly as others.

It’s not that introverts hate people. Rather, we have limited social energy due to the way our brains are wired. Laurie Helgoe, in her book, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, compares extroverts to hotels and introverts to luxury suites. Extroverts can accommodate a large number of interactions that come and go, while for introverts, bookings are limited.

Here are some tips and pieces of advice to help introverts meet new people & make new friends –

  1. Go ahead, make the first move: Many introverts (me!) wait for others to come to them. Having survived our share of awkward interactions, we may worry about rejection. “What if I ask her to get coffee and she says no?” Or worse, “What if he gets to know me better and doesn’t like who I am?” The process of making new friends can fill anyone with self-doubt, even the most confident among us. And if you’re an introvert who has experienced significant rejection (as many of us have), you may feel like simply giving up. Upon reflection, I realised I often don’t even think to make the first move. It just doesn’t come naturally to me as an introvert; observation and contemplation are my sweet spots, and I’m generally content just doing my own thing. However, I learned that making friends doesn’t usually “just happen” — unless an extrovert adopts me, but our goal here is to make like-minded friends. If I wanted new friends in my life, I would have to take action, even if it meant occasionally stepping out of my comfort zone.
  1. The Awkwardness will go away with time: We all do it to some extent, but introverts even more so: we keep our best stuff inside – our fun, unique personalities are often hidden and will only let it out once we feel truly comfortable around someone. If being with new people is awkward at first, don’t beat yourself up. The more you put yourself out there and hang out with them, the more comfortable you will feel. So, if you fall over the first time, dust yourself off and try again!
  1. Get into a friendship routine: Lots of introverts love routine. So ask friends to hang out once a week at a regularly scheduled time. Have brunch every Saturday morning or get coffee in the same park every Tuesday after work. When we know what to expect, we feel more comfortable, and we expend less energy. Plus, it takes the pressure off having to come up with something new and exciting to do each time you get together.
  1. Notice how you feel: How a friendship makes you feel is the most important factor — not how alike you two are on the surface, or what others think. Sometimes introverts have to be intentional about checking in with their feelings, as they can get lost in all the other activities going on in their busy minds. So ask yourself:
  • Do I feel better after spending time with this person? (Or am I so exhausted that I want to lock my bedroom door and recharge for days?)
  • Can I be myself around this person?
  • Can I trust this person? (Or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?)
  • Does this person treat me with respect? Do they support me?

Overall, your friends should make you feel good. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Adam S. McHugh in Introverts in the Church explains: “Because introverts are typically good listeners and, at least, have the appearance of calmness, we are attractive to emotionally needy people. Introverts, gratified that other people are initiating with them, can easily get caught in these exhausting and unsatisfying relationships.” If someone is a total drain to be around, give yourself permission to step back. The last thing you need in your life is another source of exhaustion. Plus, when you step back from people and situations that aren’t right for you, you free up more time and energy for those that are.

  1. Look out for other introverts: My plan of attack in any social setting from school, parties, work events, university events, has always been to find other introverts. They won’t pressure you to become some vivacious human, and I’m convinced few things bring people together like sharing a dislike of an awkward social situation. Look for the people quietly hanging along the edges, and recognize that you may have to make the first move — they are introverts, after all!

And remember, you are not alone!! Try these new things out at the next CSP event or Uni gathering and see how you go. If you fail, pick yourself up and try again. There are so many people in this world looking to make new friends and often, are in the same position as yourself, scared, nervous or uncomfortable.

And for those extroverts reading this, next time you see a person standing alone at an event, don’t be afraid to approach them and calmly say hello, as they have probably been trying to make the first move for hours but have been too scared to do so. We aren’t “weird” we are just shy!