How to befriend an Introvert in 5 Easy Steps
Hint: Do NOT go in for the hug
I would consider myself to be on the extreme end of the introvert scale. Couple that with an anxiety disorder and making friends doesn't exactly come easy.
I definitely give off an ice queen vibe. It's not my intent. I'm just a reserved person who finds social interactions with new people especially daunting.
I often hear common misconceptions like "Oh, you're introverted, you HATE people!"
Um, no. I don't hate people. In fact, there are certain people I love. I keep my circle small, it takes me a while to warm up and you definitely wouldn't classify me as a 'hugger'. But I don't HATE people.
It's a fair assumption, because you'll often find us hiding in the corner of the party on our phones, or seeking out the resident doggo for company. It's not that we don't want to socialise. In fact, we really quite enjoy it while it's happening. But it is draining. Even more so when we are faced with the possibility of actually having to initiate said interaction.
The whole introvert/extrovert thing isn't a definitive part of your personality. It's simply a way to describe where you draw your energy from. Extroverts are energised by being social and interacting with others. The more they do, the more they want to do. That doesn't mean they can't enjoy some alone time now and again. In turn, Introverts aren't complete loners. We are happy to be social, especially with our inner circle, but we will probably want to go home and spend some serious time alone to recharge the batteries once we're done, because that's where we draw our energy from.
Fortunately, I have a few extroverted friends who have adopted me, saving me the gruelling task of attempting to approach and interact with foreign humans. These ones have stuck because they exhibited a few simple behaviours that made them way less terrifying.
So, for all the outgoing, ray of sunshine, extroverts out there who are fascinated by these wonderful, shy little weirdos in the corner and unsure how to bridge the gap, I thought I would lay out 5 easy steps to befriend an anxious introvert.
Step 1. Approach with Caution
Extroverts are the labradors of the human world. But please, don't come bounding up to us, arms outstretched, ready for the embrace. We don't know you, we're uncomfortable, physical contact is so far down the road for us. A polite "hello, nice to meet you" and offer of a handshake will do nicely. Please don't be offended if we look at you like you have three heads. We are just surprised that someone wants to talk to us given that we have been doing our best inanimate object impersonation over here in the corner.
Step 2. Be prepared to make ALL the conversation (at first)
Here is what happens when someone new approaches me for the first time:
Random Stranger: "Hello, I'm Sarah, how are you?"
Me: "Good. Thank you."
Me (in my head): Now is the part where you ask them how they are and give them your name. Go on, you can do it, you know how to use words!
*More awkward silence, person smiles politely and walks away*
You're likely to get closed responses to most of your questions. But I assure you, if you are patient enough and persevere, we WILL eventually recover from the initial shock and regain the ability to interact with other humans.
And if we make it past this point to being actual friends, then you will be begging for us to shut up.
Step 3. Be Patient
Things are starting to go well. The conversation is flowing. We have things in common. We are getting along. Then, it's time to go and you suggest we catch up again soon. We say, "Yes, absolutely!" and the internal monologue whispers "Liar....".
It's not that we don't want to see you again. But on some level we have a hard time processing that you're being genuine and not just polite. If we blow you off the first time, please ask again. The persistence assures us that you actually do like us, and makes the whole thing way less daunting.
Step 4. Body Language is everything
Some of my very best friends are huggers by nature. They think it's comical how weird and awkward I get when people try to hug me.
Don't get me wrong, once we're comfortable around you, we're likely to endure every hug you throw our way, because we like you and we know it's your thing.
There's a few clear ways to determine whether your physical advances are going to be welcome or not in the early days.
1. Did we get up to greet you when you arrived or did we stay where we were? If we didn't approach you, it's not a hugging kind of day.
2. When we were leaving did we seek you out for a goodbye or stealthily put one foot out the door before waving a general "Cya!" to the room? If the latter, please don't chase us down for a hug.
3. Are we using someone else as a human shield? E.g. standing behind our significant other when the greetings/goodbyes are happening? Do NOT breach the shield.
4. If you missed the cues from items 1-3 above, was your hug reciprocated or was it like hugging a tree? If the latter, abort mission.
Step 5. Accept that we will always be this way
We might be your flakiest friends. It's not intentional. But you can count on the fact that we are fiercely loyal. Not seeing you in months or even years means nothing. Once we are friends, we are friends for life. We will be there when stuff really gets bad, even if we bail on every coffee date.
It might seem like a one-sided relationship, and in some ways it is. We just don't want to annoy you and don't handle rejection well. If we muster up enough courage to ask you to meet up and you say no, no matter how legit the reasons why are, expect us to dwell on all the ways you must hate us for the next week.
You can also guarantee that no matter how comfortable and normal we now are with you, as soon as someone new is added to the mix, we will revert right back to the mute tree you once worked so hard to befriend. Don't berate or humiliate us, have our backs.
And there you have it. 5 simple steps to befriend an introvert.
Why would you go to so much effort when you could just make friends with a fellow extrovert and ride off into the sunset, you ask?
Because we will balance you. We are the quiet observers. We listen well, which is why we are great to have around when life isn't all sunshine and daisies. We offer good advice but don't get offended if you ignore it. We will stick by you through thick and thin. If extroverts are the labradors of the human world, think of us as the German Shepherds. Trusting of few, protective, fiercely loyal but also kind, loving with a quirky personality.
Adopt an introvert, you won't regret it.