Here’s a common misconception about introverts: they’re shy and antisocial.
This can sometimes be the case, but most often, it’s not. Introverts (me included) enjoy alone time because there aren’t external stimuli around. It gives time for our brains to process interactions. At the same time, humans rely on connections. Friendships are some of the most important connections we make.
1. Be a tag-a-long to make new friends with less effort
Look to your existing friends who lean more on the extraverted side and tag along with them to their social plans. If you’re new in town, go ahead and say yes to after work drinks with co-workers. Be open to the opportunity- You might connect with someone new who also dreams of leaving early. There is certainly something bonding in a shared experience.
I have a friend who’s a great networker. To him, seeking out others is natural, while for me, it takes conscious effort. I decided to join him to a few of the meet-up groups he frequented (even if I didn’t feel like it). I’m happy I did because it helped grow my social circle. Two of my closest friends are from those meetups.
2. Incorporate downtime into your plans
Playing the tag-a-long can be exhausting, especially for us introverts. Take care of yourself, and don’t over-commit. Knowing yourself is crucial to knowing the kind of self-care to give. In the case of an introvert, self-care means time alone.
Try logging your downtime week to week, and see which weeks you feel best. How much downtime did you need compared to social time? Use that information when you commit to plans. This helps new connections turn into friendships because they are getting the best possible version of you.
The Ink+Volt Planner is perfect for this.
I try to keep Sundays free of plans (and even free of phones and social media, which is becoming more and more common). The difference is clear: When I wake up on Monday morning, I’m full of new energy.
3. Make yourself available with the rule of thirds
The ⅔ rule
One way to keep yourself accountable and also practice self-care is to plan on accepting 2 out of 3 social invitations. Introverts are notorious for turning down plans, and for valid reasons. Be kind to yourself and respect your boundaries- don’t accept every invitation that comes your way. Pick and choose based on your wants and needs. Just be sure you say yes to plans too.
The ⅓ rule
As you build friendships, it can be easy as an introvert to let the other person make all the plans. Show that you invest time into the friendship by initiating plans 1 out of every 3 times you see each other. This is also a great way to let your personality shine. By picking the venue, you are setting the atmosphere for your time together.
It’s a good idea to write down which plans you said yes to, and which you’ve said no to. This helps you stay on track with the rule of thirds, and also goes back to logging your experiences.
Self-exploration is key to setting boundaries you feel comfortable with, and also participating in fulfilling friendships.
4. Use 1:1 time to socialize without draining your energy
Introverts are often excellent listeners. Because of this, they make wonderful friends. When you decide to hang out one on one you showcase your excellent ability to listen.
On the flip side, introverts aren’t drained of their energy so quickly when they focus on just one person at a time. This creates the vessel for a more meaningful experience and connection.
Suggest going to grab coffee, or lunch with an acquaintance from work, school, or any social group you are part of. The 1:1 time in a low key environment will create a relaxed mood.
Choose someone you have something in common with- but don’t be too picky; people are full of surprises and you never know who your next connection could be with.
5. Let your interests guide your social life
Meeting like-minded through your interests is the best way to make friends! Introverted or extraverted, knowing yourself well enough to understand what makes you tick is a great way to meet other people who are like you – And you get to have fun while doing it.
Do you like to write? Join a writers group. Read? Try a book club. These are great activities for introverts because they are generally quiet and involve a heavy dose of internal reflection.
A few years ago, I started my own philosophy group. I still keep in touch with several of the people I met through that group.
Connecting with people who enjoy the things you enjoy maybe sounds difficult. But in the 21st century, it doesn’t have to be hard. A great way to find people who enjoy your hobbies is the Internet. A personal favorite is Meetup (check out Meetup here). Though joining Facebook groups specific to your location and interest is also a great option.
Say you enjoy gardening. Try volunteering at your local community garden. Volunteering is also a great way to connect with others- and if you find a nonprofit you are passionate about, it’s likely the other people who show up to volunteer will be similar to you in their passions and interests.
5. Online groups
Sometimes, introverts want to talk and connect with others, but on their own time and at their own pace. Online platforms make this possible. It’s really cool to be able to connect with someone from across the globe. Research shows that we shouldn’t look down on online friendships – they can be as supportive as real ones.
Maybe you’re connecting through shared laughter over a meme. Don’t be afraid to comment on posts, or send a DM to someone who you find interesting (who seems to want to hear from new people!). Connecting virtually is a low-pressure way to start a conversation with someone you would not ordinarily be able to talk to.
A few great places that introverts rule are Reddit, and Tumblr. (And why not start off with /r/introvert?) These social platforms tend to draw creatives, and so discussions are interesting and thought-provoking — two things introverts thrive on. So inject your opinion into the next online conversation that catches your eye — you might just feel a sense of fulfillment from an unexpected conversation with a stranger, who could very well turn into an online friend.
As introverts, we want to re-think what socializing means to us. We want to not just think of it as loud parties and stiff mingles. Socializing done right is something even the most introverted of us can truly enjoy.