How to Start (and Keep) Friendships as an Introvert

Very few people who meet me would ever consider me an introvert.
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I dance this weird line of being an extroverted introvert. When I get in a group I am very chatty (too chatty?) and loud and comical and can’t really turn it off. It’s more of a coping mechanism because meeting new people skyrockets my anxiety. I become incredibly self-conscious. I second guess everything I say and then replay it in my head for weeks (sometimes months). I don’t need to socialize outside of my 1-2 closest friends (and even they rarely see me). If you call, count on me not answering (why? why would you not text?!). If I do socialize, I am going to need a day or two to recover, so no, I won’t be going out again with you this week… When people ask what I am doing for my birthday, I feel ashamed to admit that I just want everyone out of the house so I can lay in my flannel sheets and watch all the grown-up shows I can’t watch while my kids are awake. All day.

In high school I had a frustrating phone call with my very, very best friend at the time. I really ~~liked~~ like naps. I grew up in the pacific northwest where it was cold and I hate being cold. School was too early, and I am the furthest thing from a morning person. My preferred after-school routine was to walk in the door, cover the heater vent with a blanket to create a cocoon of heat and nap. I loved this routine. Apparently, this isn’t a good routine for a high school social life. As my friend dragged me out of my nap with yet another phone call, she began to tell me how bad of a friend I was because I didn’t like to talk on the phone to her. What she didn’t understand is that I didn’t like to talk on the phone to anyone. And I just saw her at school! What really could have happened between 3pm and 6pm?? This was the moment our friendship started to see trouble. I never initiated communication with her outside of school. She was always the one dragging me around. Which I loved, but that one-sided love can only last so long.

Here I am 20 years later and just now learning that no matter how much of an introvert I am, if I really like someone and want them as a friend, I need to start by doing these 3 things.

ANSWER THE PHONE.

Why is this so hard?! It seems simple to all you non-introverts, but this is a miserable task. When I get a phone call I am put on the spot and have to answer and discuss unknown questions and topics. I have no time to prepare myself or look at my calendar to find potential ways to already be busy for whatever they want to invite me to. However, people call you because they WANT to talk to you! Answering phone calls will make them feel as though you are engaged and not avoiding them.

INITIATE OUTINGS.

I love it when plans are canceled. Doesn’t matter who with — I just love the feeling that falls off my shoulders when I HAD to do something and now don’t have to. However, you don’t get friends by canceling plans whenever possible. Sometimes you MUST be the person who initiates social outings. It could be as simple as a movie at your house, a quick lunch with the kids at a nearby park, or even a quick coffee. Any time together is an expression of love and caring; it’s saying “Hey, I like you and want to spend time with you.” (Imagine that!)

BE OPEN ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT.

Some people may not fully understand what you are saying when you tell them you are an introvert. So if you really like someone and really do want to be their friend, you have to communicate to them about who you are. One of my dearest friends is the best kind of introvert friend ever. I often tell people we became friends after she tried to date me for a year. She NEVER gave up on me. I remember plenty of texts where I bowed out of plans or invites and followed it up with “Please don’t give up on me. Still invite me.” And she did. Even though I said no most of the time, she never let me go too long without seeing her face or getting a text. Soon enough she was a safe, anxiety-free place for me to land…and now she gets video chats about my dirty clothes pile.

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Introverts are tough to be friends with. Trust me when I say that just because we really like being home and doing “boring” things that don’t involve socializing, it doesn’t mean we want to be forgotten or left out of the invites (and all you introverts — you have to say this to people!! They don’t know!). We just need time and space to figure out when we are comfortable enough to get involved.

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