I’m Introverted and Socially Awkward. How Can I Make Friends?
I don't know how to make friends. I am generally just a negative and suspicious and sarcastic person, and I don't go out of my way to meet people because I assume they won't like me. I don't even know how to meet people. I am also really introverted, so that doesn't help. I am afraid that anything I say will sound stupid. I haven't been diagnosed, but I am sure I have social anxiety. A party is the last place I want to be. I don't know how to overcome my social awkwardness to get to a point where I can make friends. I don't even have a best friend. I have NO friends. I am stuck. What can I do? - Socially Stymied Dear Socially Stymied,
Thanks for writing. From what I could glean from your relatively brief message, I sensed both anxiety and some possible defensiveness on your part in regard to meeting people. Humor, like anything else, can be used a number of ways; by “sarcastic” I wonder if you mean laughing with or laughing at the potential friend. (Or if it’s taken as the latter even if you intend the former, by someone who doesn’t yet know you.)
Suspicion and negativity, too, can be used for self-protection, thus I make a very rough guess that perhaps there is a fear of being hurt. I’m wondering if you have been hurt by people in the past and are wary of trusting again? Or is there a crisis of confidence or self-esteem that might make you wary of allowing people to get to know you? (The fear of “once people really know me, they won’t like me” is very common.) I can assure you that everyone goes through such a challenge at one time or another; people who question their confidence or abilities are almost always harder on themselves than anyone else.
The other theme in your message is loneliness. When you say you have neither a best friend nor any friends, my heart twinged. Perhaps there’s some frustration and confusion there. Of course, I am highly biased given my profession, but this kind of conundrum—wanting to be safe while wanting to connect with others (who might potentially hurt or disappoint us)—is very common and precisely what a good psychotherapist would explore with you in a safe, productive manner. If my first deduction about self-protection is true, then it stands to inference that some past experience has left an emotional scar. I have a therapist friend who says that no one escapes trauma completely, that there is trauma with a big “T” and a little “t”. Even little t’s can make one wary of new relationships.
It also might be worth pausing to reflect about the negativity and sarcasm, which can be endearing or off-putting, depending on context. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by negativity. And if you’re being sarcastic about some pop-culture figure or the latest politician in trouble, for instance, that can be an icebreaker; if it’s about the host of the party, it could backfire. You may have a dry wit, for instance (which I always appreciate), but does it come across more cutting than you intend?
Here’s a little tip: People like to talk about themselves and what they do. Not because people are self-centered but because they’re looking to share their stories and, in many ways, reduce the isolation and loneliness you’re describing. To have another person actually interested in us and our experiences is reassuring. In fact, I’d say all of my clients struggle mightily with this issue; some modern psychologists believe loneliness and alienation is our culture’s biggest challenge. (Read Erich Fromm, Ernest Becker, or Viktor Frankl’s superb Man’s Search for Meaning if you’re interested in this.) In fact, I have found success socially—in spite of shyness—because I like to hear people’s stories and share a little of my own. As the old adage goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” (It’s also a great way to get dates, by the way, provided the person allows equal air time.) It continues to amaze me how we humans have so much more in common, emotionally and psychologically, than we realize. We are all pretty much in the same cosmic boat.
I wish you the best of luck and would comfortably guess the problem is not as dire as it feels. And there’s no shame in getting a little help to iron out temporary challenges, which all of us have at one time or another. Thanks again for writing.
lilFebruary 9th, 2013 at 4:30 AM
Is this who you really are or is this just what other people have always said about you and you have internalized it and come to believe it?
There are so many different ways to meet new people. Have you tried church nor something like that? That can be a great place to meet other people in a setting where they should not be judgemental of you at all!
Ginger.February 9th, 2013 at 11:49 AM
I have never really had this problem so it is kinda hard to relate to it. But I understand that there has to be a lot of pain and frustration that you are experiencing as a result of this consuming shyness and anxiety.
The one thing that I can say that I see as a good this is that at least you have started to feel like maybe this is not the life that you want to lead. You are looking to have something more in life and something better and I think that this is a very good start for you. I think that once you put yourself out there you will see that there are probably a lot of people who want to get to know you and that you would like to get to know too. I wish you the best of luck!
BrianFebruary 10th, 2013 at 9:18 AM
Everybody has doubts of the self.When you’re unsure and lack confidence know that it is the same for most people if not all. Do not think of yourself as inferior. Everybody is worried about their reputation and likeability quotient.If you can convince yourself that you are no less than anybody or that others do not judge you as you do to yourself you would be good to go!
azizFebruary 11th, 2013 at 3:54 AM
Have you ever tried working with a therapist one on one? This could make a huge difference for you
madelineFebruary 11th, 2013 at 3:10 PM
I had this problem and am currently employing the following technique. early days but hey its starting to show it works:
just get out and meet new people. say whatever you want to. you think you sound stupid?so what? those people are not going to remember what you said a few days later. and anyway if they find you stupid you don’t have to worry at all. because they will not be a friend to you. DO NOT care about what other people think. that is the main concept at work here.
monasaFebruary 12th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
You feel like that because you think the next person may not accept you for who you are. The reality is that that person next door is exactly the same as you. Whatever your feeling, they feel too, however as they’ve made themselves come across as a confident person, that’s all it took for people to start ‘accepting’ them or ‘knowing’ them as a confident person. Its the same with you, because you’ve so frequently come across as an inward or shy person, most people like that walk around in a bubble that gives of a message saying ‘stay away, i’m in my world’ that people are often scared to break so don’t talk to. Try this, for one day, just imagine that the people around you are all babies, little small, cute babies that you don’t care how you come across to.And literally speak your heart out, just for one day, and see how it works. Best case scenario, a conversation strikes up with someone and you get to know them perhaps. Worst case scenario, You’ve perhaps shouted. Just try it, see if it works, just for a day!
Good Luck and I hope you find the bestest friends ever!
Darren Haber, MFTFebruary 16th, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Thanks to all those who wrote in comments.
SixxBoomBangFebruary 21st, 2013 at 1:33 AM
This isn’t professional advise but your introverted ways might be a sign of being able to be self sufficient and people not fulfilling what standard you might imagine them to be at. For example if you were in a role playing club, one might expect everyone there to be interested in role playing. After going a few days you find that the group does role play but it is in such a mocking way that you would consider it a joke rather than a different style of playing and thus you leave.
In addition to the many problems each person must hurdle to make a new friend we must also hurdle the expectations we have for others or that they have for us. Its part of what makes things hard for me at least.
MikeNovember 20th, 2013 at 8:03 PM
Awkwardly making friends.
You’ll be fine.
LisaJanuary 1st, 2014 at 4:20 PM
Hi, looking for a good therapist for my 16yr son that is very sad and depressed. All he wants is to know where he fits into this world and wants to feel some happiness. Very smart but needs help to get back on track. Much more, but would like to find some help that works with this age. Anaheim, Ca.
Darren HaberJanuary 2nd, 2014 at 7:28 AM
Hi Lisa. Pls send me your email to email@example.com and I’ll send you some referrals. Thanks to you and everyone for the excellent responses!
Andrew BurgonApril 14th, 2014 at 5:34 PM
Time to get your feet wet. If parties cause you anxiety then start by finding individuals and small groups to hang out with socially then ease into parties by going to small ones or ones that your friends are going to. It’s not mandatory, of course, to attend parties but they do offer some great social experiences. You may find that you might be more comfortable at a particular kind of party like a board game party or a comedy party.
If you follow this route two things in particular should grow if you are determined to make friends. Your social capacity and your social confidence.
Social capacity has to do with how many people you can socially accommodate in your life. My social capacity grew to a point where I could easily get 15 people up for a game of beach volleyball or 20 for a party at my home. As for social confidence it’s a game changer that will help you draw the kind of friends you desire into your life.
Being overly shy, having poor self-esteem or an inferiority complex need to be ditched. These things give off a wrong vibe, may cause us to behave strangely and worst of all hold us back from having the friends we desire. So the next time you feel like avoiding social interaction with somebody because you feel they won’t like you do the exact opposite! If you keep doing this you should find that this feeling that people won’t like you will diminish.
BrandonJuly 12th, 2014 at 3:24 PM
You say do the exact opposite or to do things that describe an introvert in the opposite ……. We/us/they are introverts for a reason!! It isn’t in your so called “nature” to just do what you say to do so ….. You act like you make yourself out to be an introvert but have changed cause of one person cause of one drunken night out….. I’ve got friends who who people from who knows where and I know some of them I rather just keep walking an pretend I didn’t see them…. You should seriously do your research before making a comment in how to fix things you clearly know very little about….
krithiJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 8:17 AM
I am facing the exact same problems right now. I’m a 20 year old female. I feel really lonely most of the time. I can’t even express myself to anybody except probably my family. I easily give in to anybody, not being able to say no, thus end up doing things for them. Having to meet people scares me. I have always been this way. If I have a normal conversation with people for once, not feeling awkward or anxious, that would make my day. Please let me know if it is at least possible to make my life a little better. Thank you.
EllieFebruary 27th, 2015 at 7:31 PM
I agree with Brandon. Most of the responses have no knowledge of what it is to be an introvert. You are born introverted or your not. It’s not something to “fix” or a result of being damaged. In fact it was first discovered in a test done with infants.
As a self aware introvert I know that parties are not for me and to use Andrew’s term I have a very small social capacity, yet I lead a very healthy, fulfilling life. It is common for introverts to not enjoy small talk or the other superficial social behaviors that are usually used to initiate relationships. This is probably why you worry that what you say sounds stupid. It probably feels fake to you. Personally I love when I am just comfortable being near someone without having to fill the space with pointless blather. The conversations I do enjoy are centered around my specific interests so when I do choose to meet a new person or two I look for small intimate groups centered around the things I am interested in and don’t mind talking about.
For years I tried to maintain a lot of friendships and thought there was something “wrong” with me that it didn’t come easy and that I didn’t enjoy a lot of the things that others considered fun. I don’t like parties, large crowds, social gatherings, or crowded clubs or bars. I also thought that I was worried that people wouldn’t like the real me. I’ve discovered over the last two years that the truth is that I was worried that when i really got to know people I wouldn’t like them-and I’d be alone again. Now besides my husband and two kids I have one really great friend. We usually talk once a day but when I need a little space and we don’t talk for a little while she doesn’t hound me and make me feel guilty.
Hang in there. I am sarcastic and introverted too. But I have a great life with less than a handful of great people. You can get there. Read up on being an introvert, find a very small group about something you really like to do, read, or talk about even if it is just online (where you will most likely feel more safe) and be patient. Let go of what society says “normal” friendships look like and hold out for the perfect fit. Don’t feed into the crap that you are broken or need to be fixed. Enjoy the time to yourself to pursue things you are passionate about without being held up by other’s plans and without wallowing in the fact that your life doesn’t look like an episode of Friends.
Much love to you.
DeeMay 23rd, 2015 at 6:05 PM
I want so much to just have one friend.My only friend is in N,C.I am so lonely most days,I feel the pain will never end.
AmyMarieMay 29th, 2015 at 9:24 AM
I read this article recently. It said the easiest way to meet someone at a gathering is to go up to someone, stick out your hand, say hi. I don’t know anyone here… my name is (fill in blank). They will tell you their name. Ask them how they came to be at that place. You tell them how you came to be there. It goes from there. I have yet to try it but reading this gave me a sense of relief. There are many introverts in this world. We are not alone, as much as it might seem sometimes(: If for some reason the person is rude, move along, they weren’t worth knowing in the first place. Good luck!
NatalieJune 4th, 2015 at 6:10 PM
Hey, I’m an 18 year old with social anxiety. I have two part-time jobs and don’t really have time to socialize I guess I’m extremely shy & introverted. I have trusting issues and can’t open up with anyone not even family. I HAVE NO FRIENDS. I used to like almost 2 years ago when I used to live in California but now I live Arizona. I barely know people & I wish I can start over and be more social. I don’t know what to talk about. I PANIC. I feel very lonely & embarrassed I have no friends. How can I make new friend. I really want to connect with people. Really badly. Just writing this makes me feel soooooo much better….
Darren HaberJune 4th, 2015 at 9:04 PM
Hi Natalie, thanks for writing. You seem like a nice person so I’m curious about having no friends. As a therapist I have the nagging suspicion that your social anxiety might possibly be symbolic of something psychologically vulnerable — anxious you might be judged, rejected, or otherwise turned away. Or, sometimes social anxiety is related to some deeper shame or lurking sense of inadequacy, that the other person might see “through” whatever social persona you have and discover something shameful. (Often this happens when a person grows up in a school or home situation(s) where it felt unsafe to be fully oneself.) Sometimes joining a therapy group can really help people work through these fears; some find an activity that is enjoyable (such as sports, spiritual or religious groups, cultural groups such as music or acting or improv classes) makes it easier to interact with others when a sense of play is involved, and a common interest is established. I would also bet that if you ever voiced your anxiety, you’d find just about everyone could identify. We all want to be liked and fear disapproval to some degree. It could also be — just a guess here — there’s possibly something unsettling about making friends in your new place, which might truly establish you have left California, meaning there is underlying fears or feelings about loss or change which is sad or distressing, or that you’ll remain alone if you don’t make friends. At any rate I appreciate your honesty and glad posting was helpful.
HiroshiJune 8th, 2015 at 9:56 PM
Hi there everyone, I also happen to be an 18 year old that just graduated from High School and I used to have a bunch of “friends” but then they all ended up ditching or abandoning me and the thing is, I just don’t know the reason why, I mean I always stuck to their side no matter what whenever they needed a real friend even if they screwed up in a really messed up way hundreds of times and I’d always forgive them, because I thought that that’s what true friends really do, but then the second that I’d mess up by doing one tiny little thing they’d over react and that’s when instantly the friendships would cease to exist, so ever since I graduated I see that all the people from High School that used to be my “friends” are all moving on and having their own separate lives now and they’re moving on with their own little social circles while I stay alone at home just doing the same lame routines of staying inside playing video games, going on youtube, sleeping, eating, and repeating the cycle, it just makes me question really if I’ll ever have actual friends again because I did actually used to but they all changed for the worst, (and that’s why they stopped being friends with me), and if it’ll even be worth it since every time I make a new “friend” they always end up using or backstabbing me, especially the last time I tried to make a new “friend” all they did was pretend they were my friend so that they could steal my girlfriend and in the end, with all the experiences I’ve had with “friends” it’s made me alienate myself from everyone, since it also just seems like everyone around me isn’t into the same things that I’m into, I wonder if I’ll always be this lonely introverted person that has zero communication with any humans since in the end, it just doesn’t seem worth it.
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