Shy. Quiet. Hard to get to know. If any of these terms have been used to describe you, you might identify with being an introvert. Often, introversion and the traits that come along with it (like being shy and quiet) and portrayed in a negative light. But introverts are awesome, and a friendship with an introvert is often one of the most deep and rewarding friendships you can have. However, introverts do face some unique challenges in the social arena that can make the process of building and maintaining those friendships a bit… daunting. So, fellow introverts, what are those unique challenges we face, and how do we overcome them so that we can cultivate the meaningful friendships that help make our lives so great?
Meeting new people
Easily the scariest stage. New people. Small talk. The uncertainty of if someone will like you or think you’re kind of awkward. This is a stage that many introverts really struggle with. Introverts are not antisocial (in fact, introverts tend to form some of the most meaningful friendships), but social situations can be a little exhausting and scary.
In an interview with Business Insider in 2018, the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, Susan Cain provides some tips for this tricky stage as an introvert. Cain suggests changing your perspective on these situations. Many of us might see networking situations as small talk gauntlets, but she suggests refocusing on the fact that every person in that room has at least one that makes them fascinating. When you think in this way, you can “tap into [your] natural curiosity and figure out what that fascinating thing is”. With this mindset, networking turns into a bit of a game, and small talk quickly turns to big talk as you dig deeper to find out what makes each person interesting!
Introverts often aim to build fewer, closer friendships. If you are an introvert looking to build those friendships you might be wondering how to know who to put your energy into. The key with this is to know who you are, what you value and what you like doing. A bit of self-reflection will go a long way towards making sure you are investing your energy into people who are going to add to your life. Perhaps you love films and really want a friend who will go to the strange double features at the cinema. Or maybe you are really active and like to be around people who are keen to get out for adventures in nature. Whatever your interests are, knowing what you love will mean that you not only invest your energy in the right relationships but that you have a natural connection from the start, making the friendship building easy and fun!
Maintaining friendships is another area where an introvert might feel slightly overwhelmed. Not being sure how often to be in touch with someone, how much they would want to see you (and, let's be honest, how much you want to see other people) is tricky to figure out. This is an area where we might overthink a little, but the best thing to do is relax, communicate clearly and let the rest come naturally. Take some time to reflect on what you want out of the friendship and practice communicating that clearly with your friend. Don’t be afraid to tell a friend when you need alone time, or when a plan you made together is feeling daunting to you or causing some anxiety. It is really unhelpful to push yourself into things you don’t want to do, only to resent your friend for it later. It is also important to think about your friends’ needs and check in with them about what works for them in a friendship. This openness and care will serve to strengthen your friendship, making this communication easier and more natural over time.
Take the pressure off
Finally, lovely introverted readers, take the pressure off yourself. Introverts often feel that we need to change to fit in, but being shy, quiet, and slightly hard to get to know are great traits! Don’t feel the pressure to have a huge circle of friends. Having just a few close friends who really care about you is super rewarding and easier to manage (less birthdays to remember!). It also means that those who are lucky enough to get to know you get the benefit of an authentic, meaningful friendship. And they get to find out what it is that makes you so fascinating!