If you don’t have many — or any — close friends, you might wonder whether you do, in fact, spend too much time alone.
Even as you weigh the pros and cons of expanding your social circle, you may feel unsure where to start. Most people find that making friends as an adult is hard.
During the COVID-19 era, the new reality of remote friendships may seem doubly appealing: It offers a way to connect on your own terms while physical distancing. But finding friends remotely can prove challenging, too.
When you want a little change from solitude, try the 10 tips below to connect with meaning.
Evaluate your reasons
As you probably know, introversion simply refers to the way you get your energy. This trait doesn’t make you shy or mean you dislike people — both common misconceptions about introversion.
As a matter of fact, introverts tend to form strong relationships.
If you truly want to find more friends, it’s entirely possible to do so. But it’s important to make these connections for the right reasons. Ask yourself whether you really want more friends or merely believe you should have them.
If you don’t actually feel the need to spend time among others, that’s just fine. Being alone doesn’t necessarily translate to loneliness, after all.
But perhaps some of the articles suggesting extroverted people are happier and better off kick-started your motivation to make friends.
One 2015 studyTrusted Source, for example, gave a series of personality and trait assessments to 1,006 adults of varying ages and made a few key discoveries:
- Extroverts scored higher on measures of happiness, emotion regulation, and relationship quality.
- People who demonstrated good emotion regulation abilities or had strong relationships reported greater happiness.
- Introverts with stronger emotion regulation abilities and high-quality relationships reported greater happiness than introverts with lower scores in these areas.
Based on these results, study authors connected higher-quality social relationships and strong emotional regulation skills indirectly to greater happiness.
Keep in mind, though, that no one but you can determine what you need for your own happiness.
If you feel content with your life right now, going against your nature by forcing yourself to make friends you don’t particularly want could actually leave you unhappier.
Aim for quality over quantity
As noted by the study mentioned above, high-quality relationships appear to offer the most benefits.
Say you have strong relationships with your family and one good friend. You get along with your co-workers but feel perfectly satisfied to say goodbye at the end of the day. You can make polite conversation as needed but feel no particular need to get to know most people you meet.
Some people might consider your life severely lacking in social connections — but they aren’t you.
Finding one good friend is often easier (and less draining) than building a crowd of superficial acquaintances you don’t have the time or energy to really get to know.
Embrace your interests
While some people might encourage you to “break out of your shell” or “expand your horizons,” you don’t always need to look to new interests to find new friends.
Seeking out people with similar interests in hobbies, activities, or schools of thought can be key to creating lasting bonds.
Introverted people often feel most drawn to activities usually done alone, including:
- creating art
- watching movies
Even though these activities are often thought of as solo hobbies, you can still find a community who shares your interests.
Perhaps you could:
- look into an online book club or review group
- explore movie clubs in your area or online
- look into local or virtual art classes
But don’t feel afraid to try new things
Branching out can have benefits, too. If your existing hobbies don’t provide many opportunities for connection, you might consider a new approach.
Challenge yourself to try one thing — it’s OK to start small — that has always interested you. Maybe it’s a stargazing evening, a dance class, a birdwatching tour, or a guided tour of a historical site.
Many people also find opportunities for connection while volunteering or participating in other community events.
You don’t have to talk with anyone the first time you go. But if you enjoy yourself, show up again and try connecting with someone you recognize.
You can also turn to the internet to make friends. You might join (or even create) a forum for something you’re passionate about or connect with people over social media.
Friend-finding features on dating apps also offer a convenient way to find potential friends in the time of COVID-19 and get acquainted remotely before hanging out in person when it’s safe to do so.
As you look for friends in new places, consider this: People often feel drawn to others with similar values and backgrounds, but it’s always a good idea to get to know people who are different from you, too. Sticking to friendships with people who have mostly the same ideas can sometimes limit you and your view of the world.
Play to your strengths
You may not shine your brightest in group settings or lay your feelings down on the table for all to see, but you have other valuable things to offer.
- You’re a great listener.
- You take time to consider all angles of a challenge instead of impulsively rushing into action.
- You have a fierce commitment to privacy, and people know they can count on you to honor confidences.
- Sensitivity makes you a deeply compassionate person.
- Curiosity and imagination allow you to see things differently and offer new insight on difficult problems.
The important thing to realize is that everyone has different strengths. That’s a good thing — the world needs balance, after all.
Your strengths might appeal to another introvert who recognizes a kindred spirit, but they could also complement the contrasting traits of a more extroverted person.
Remember: Socialization needs look different for everyone
As you work on developing new relationships, try to keep in perspective just how much time and energy you actually have to give. Many introverted people do have several close friends, but the fact remains that introverts will always need time to recharge alone.
If you try to make more friends than you have energy for, you might end up feeling guilty you don’t have enough time for everyone. This can add an entirely different kind of stress to your social life.
When you stretch yourself too thin, you’ll have less to give to the people you care about — which can decrease the quality of your existing relationships.
It’s wise to go forward cautiously as you explore the level of interaction that works best for you. Setting limits around the time you spend with others can help you avoid burnout.
Get more involved in what happens around you
It never hurts to start seeking connections in the things you already do. This might be harder during the pandemic — but harder doesn’t mean impossible.
Getting to know someone generally starts with the simple act of listening to what they say. Many introverts do this already, so try to take it a step further and offer something in return.
Maybe a co-worker you regularly handle projects with has invited you to lunch a few times, or your neighbor always waves hello and asks if you’d like to have a cup of coffee.
You might instinctively avoid these interactions for fear of being put on the spot for small talk. By becoming better acquainted, though, you might find some room for common ground.
Perhaps you and your neighbor share the same gardening and television interests or you and your co-worker have pretty similar personalities.
Once a fledgling friendship begins to take off, keep it thriving by finding new ways to connect. You might plan picnic lunches outside with your co-worker, for example, or accompany your neighbor to a gardening show.
Change your behavior, not your identity
Making friends doesn’t mean you have to completely reinvent your true self. Putting up a pretense of extroversion might seem like the best way to “fake it until you make it,” but this could backfire.
Personality traits usually don’t change easily. And at the end of the day, you’re still the same person with the same needs for solitude.
That said, changing certain behaviors could offer some benefits, according to a 2020 study that asked 131 students to change their behavior for 2 weeks.
For 1 week, they adopted traits associated with extroversion: talkativeness, spontaneity, and assertiveness. For the other week, they demonstrated more quiet, reserved, and deliberate behavior.
Everyone, especially those who wanted to be more extroverted, showed improvements in well-being during the extroverted week. During the introverted week, their well-being went down.
It would seem, then, that adapting your behavior could have a positive impact on your well-being. Study authors note, however, that the language used in the prompts could have primed participants to expect one outcome over the other.
But the power of suggestion isn’t always bad. If you expect improvements, you might unconsciously work harder to bring them about.
The study authors asked participants to come up with a list of five ways they might change their behavior. This method can work for you, too.
You might, for example, decide to:
- Speak to one new classmate after each class.
- Make small talk with a co-worker or other acquaintance.
- Accept a friend’s invitation to a party.
- Introduce yourself to someone in your walking group.
- Find one community or virtual event to participate in each month.
You’ll encounter plenty of different people in life, and you probably won’t click with every single one of them. That’s normal — expecting otherwise is unrealistic.
It can feel disheartening to accept that sometimes your efforts to socialize will go nowhere. Rejection never feels pleasant, and you might feel even more discouraged when interactions go nowhere after you really make an effort to engage.
Keep in mind, though, that the more chances you take, the more likely you are to succeed. True friendship does require effort, and success can take time.
When you meet someone you’d really like to spend more time with, show your interest by reaching out to make concrete plans and communicating your desire to stay in touch.
If you’ve tried a few times and they don’t seem receptive, move on to someone else. This process can feel daunting at first, but it generally gets a little easier (and feels more natural) with more practice.
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