10/01/2015 05:14 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2016

Making Friends as an Introvert

Introverts enjoy solitude. We don't need the presence of other people to feel content. There's a subsection of introverts who go beyond this and really love solitude. They stay home alone on Friday nights to watch Netflix. Their weekends and evenings are spent doing quiet and solitary activities. And they're happy like that ... most of the time. But there can be times when solitude feels like a cage. 

It isn't "inauthentic" for an introvert to want company. Wanting to be around people just means an introvert isn't a misanthrope. Unfortunately, making new friends can be difficult. We may have made friends organically in high school or college, but that doesn't necessarily translate into making new friends in the real world.

So if you're out of practice, or are out of ideas, here are a few tips for making friends as an introvert:
  • Realize that you want to make friends. And not just "kind of want." "Kind of" doesn't make things happen.
  • Make a list of five places where you can find people with similar interests. If you're having a hard time coming up with things that interest you, include places where anyone goes when they leave the house. You can find a potential friend at your work's cafeteria, in line at a grocery store, or volunteering at the animal shelter. Personally, I've made several friends at knitting circles. You can also make friends online. Maybe it's on Facebook in the form of an old classmate, or in chat rooms for readers of Sherlock fan fiction. I met one of my good friends on Twitter.
  • The most important step in starting a new friendship is showing up. Start showing up to those places you just listed.
  • Make sure you factor in enough downtime before and after you get out there. This may mean incorporating a few productivity tweaks into your day.
  • It's OK if you're anxious about going to new places and doing new things. It's ok if you're shy--it's very common. But don't let it control your life.
  • Show up with an open and nonjudgemental (of yourself or others) mind, and with your only expectation being that you will meet people, not that you will make a friend.
  • Realize that for most people, friendships can take a while to form. Don't push a possible friendship. Do acknowledge and be interested in other people and what they are saying. You may click with someone the first time you meet, or you might have to meet and talk to someone many times before you're interested in becoming friends with them.
  • Be open to others. If someone smiles, smile back. Sometimes that's the end of the interaction. Sometimes the smile segues into an annoyance, like being hit on or asked for money. Sometimes the smile turns into a conversation, which eventually turns into a friendship. You'll never know if you don't smile back.
  • Learn to tolerate small talk. I know, it's the bane of our existence, but conversations have to start somewhere, and most of the time it's with small talk.
  • Have a plan. What are a few ways you can let a person know you want to stay in touch? Can you ask them if you can connect on Facebook? What about giving them your email and telling them you'd love to keep in touch? If the person is likely to be in the same place the next day or the next week (like a store clerk or a fellow volunteer) you can end a conversation with "see you next week!"
  • Don't take rejection personally. Do you want to be friends with everyone? If you're an introvert, I'm guessing the answer is a big No. The person you're talking to may have too many friends as it is. Or, they may be totally disinterested in having any friends. I've turned down opportunities to get to know people I normally would have loved being friends with simply because I felt my life was too chaotic to add something else to the mix. You have no way of knowing, so it's best not to take it personally.
  • Find an accountability partner. Maybe it's a current friend who's very supportive, a family member, or a life coach. It's often easier to follow through on a promise to someone else than a promise to yourself.
  • Realize that hard things get easier the more you practice. Don't give up.
There are friends out there for you, but you may need some patience, luck and a whole lot of showing up until you find them. It'll be worth it.