When we spend so much time online, responding with emojis instead of having to articulate a feeling, and considering that we were confined to our houses for two years during the pandemic, it’s no wonder that more and more of us have developed a shy personality.
Meeting strangers IRL and making friends can feel overwhelming and challenging when you're lonely for these reasons and many more (some of us just are naturally shy, quiet people). But we want to help you embrace that side of yourself and still allow your personality to shine through. In many ways, shyness can be a superpower if you know how to harness it, and it can help to make you a great friend.
Before we look at some more practical tips for making friends as a shy person, let’s get into how you might be able to manage this personality trait (and in some cases overcome it), becoming quietly confident in who you are in any social situation.
Shy people take note! here are some ways to become less of an introvert
- Embrace your unique qualities: Shyness can be a part of your personality, but it doesn't define you. Embrace your unique qualities and strengths, and don't be afraid to show them to the world. Even starting a conversation by admitting that you have a little social anxiety can be a great way of connecting, because the likelihood is you are merely voicing what many other people around you are feeling too. Not being afraid to lean into your vulnerability can really help when making new friends.
- Identify the root of your shyness: Understanding the reasons behind your shyness can help you develop strategies to overcome it. Is it because of a lack of confidence, fear of being judged, or something else? Try talking to a friend or a therapist about this or write a journal entry exploring the subject. Once you have some ideas about the root cause, you can take steps to address it.
- Start small: Don't try to change everything all at once. Instead, start with small, manageable steps that will help you build your confidence. For example, you could try making eye contact with people when you speak to them or smiling more often.
- Practice positive self-talk: Our inner dialogue can have a significant impact on our confidence levels. Instead of negative self-talk,where you put yourself down or remember every embarrassing or awkward thing that has ever happened to you, try to stay in the moment and focus on positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you are capable, confident, and worthy of making connections with others.
- Seek out social situations: While it may be uncomfortable at first, exposing yourself to social situations can help you become more comfortable around others. Joining clubs, attending social events, or taking a class can be a great way to meet new friends as a shy person and practice your social skills. We’ve got some suggestions for how you can do this later on, so keep reading!
- Learn social skills: Social skills can be learned, and practiced. There are many resources available to help you develop them. Books, online courses, and workshops can give you strategies for becoming more confident in social situations if it isn’t something that feels natural.
- Practice gratitude: Focusing on the positive aspects of your life can help you develop a more optimistic outlook. Take time each day to think about what you're grateful for, and you may find that your confidence levels start to rise.
With these tools, here’s where and how you can start making friends
If you're shy or introverted, finding a group of like-minded individuals can be very comforting and they can be easy to bond with. The beauty of clubs and communities is that they're formed around a common interest, so you already have something to talk about.
When you are in a social situation, say it’s your first time attending a club or community event, don’t be afraid to take initiative and make the first move by joining in an active group conversation or approaching 1 person who is sitting alone. Starting a conversation is challenging, but it can lead to lasting friendships.
The key to making friends when you're shy is to be willing to take the initiative to reach out to others. Start small with a simple greeting or a compliment. Remember that everyone is just as nervous as you are.
It’s so important to be genuine and authentic when trying to make new friends. People can sense when someone is being fake or insincere, so be true to yourself. This is when having a shy or timid personality can actually work in your favor. In a room full of egos, or over confident and arrogant people, you will stand out for all the right reasons.
You don’t have to be an extrovert to make friends
One way of showing how much more empathetic and emotionally attractive you are as a potential friend is by active listening. When you're shy, it can be challenging to initiate a conversation. Listening is a great way to engage with others and show interest in what they're saying. Active listening involves being fully present and engaged in the conversation, and it can help build stronger connections with others. If you don’t like talking about yourself, ask lots of questions.
Admitting that you’re an introvert or are feeling socially anxious can also be a great way of connecting with someone new or a group as you’ll be surprised by how many other people feel the same.
As for where you might start making new friends if you have previously felt too shy to do so, volunteering is another potentially great way to connect with people who share your values and interests. You'll be working toward a common goal, and that can help build a sense of camaraderie. Doing something physical such as a sport can also take the pressure off a bit and put you in a social situation where you have a clear sense of your purpose and what you can offer. This can be something that shy people find the hardest thing to deal with at parties or networking events. Not knowing what to do with yourself can be many a shy person’s downfall, so a sports club or exercise class can be a great way to feel more confident and connect with others.
Making new friends takes courage and vulnerability, but the payoff is worth it. A strong support system can help us navigate life's challenges and provide us with a sense of belonging and purpose. And remember, some of the biggest stars in the world admit to being shy, they’ve just found strategies to cope. You’re not alone, and being shy can make you a sensitive, empathetic friend who is thoughtful and a great listener. So, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. You've got this!