My Life/Teen Life Making Friends When You’d Rather Stay in: Introverting 101 by Trenton Mattingly It can be hard to find good friends – no matter who you are. And, if you are an introvert, it might seem like an especially daunting task. After all, an introvert is someone that needs a healthy amount of alone time in their schedule to feel healthy, re-energized, and collected; both in body and mind. As fellow introverts are probably well-aware, socializing can be draining, no matter who you are talking to or how much you enjoy being around others. It is a constant temptation to seek out alone time to recoup from the day-to-day challenges of life. Plus, it isn’t uncommon for some of our favorite activities to be a bit more solitary in nature, like reading or writing. To make matters worse, it is all too easy to conjure up images of walking into a room with dozens of people that you don’t know and being forced to small talk whenever you hear phrases like “put yourself out there” – the nightmare of most introverts. With that being said, I promise things don’t have to be as hard as they seem. Here are some of my tips on making friends as an introvert. Accept the reality of your introversion. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Your goal shouldn’t be to figure out how to be an extrovert. I promise that they don’t have a monopoly on making friends. You shouldn’t ever feel guilty for not being as outgoing as someone else. Trying to be something that you aren’t wouldn’t be authentically you. Instead, your goal should be how to lean into your introversion, learn how to balance it, and make it work for you in a positive way. Any extrovert will tell you that they have to do the same thing. They have to be mindful of their common behaviors and have to learn to use it to their advantage. Most extroverts can probably share an experience of neglecting some of their duties because they’ve prioritized their social life, stayed up too late talking to a new acquaintance that they made, or overshared with someone and made them a bit uncomfortable. Just like extroverts, introverts have their own unique set of behaviors to watch out for and keep in balance so that they can stay healthy, be happy, and attend to their obligations, like school, work, and faith life. Let me give a step-by-step strategy on how to begin doing this. 1. Lean into your introversion by acknowledging that it is good, healthy, and necessary to spend some time alone. It won’t be that uncommon for people to not understand that you need this time. Be patient and be willing to help them understand that you aren’t trying to be antisocial and you aren’t trying to avoid them. Learn that it is absolutely okay to say no sometimes. There is no need to feel guilty about it. 2. Don’t overdo it. While it is absolutely crucial for you to have your alone time, you can’t ignore the fact that human beings are creations of God. We reflect being made in His image in a variety of ways, but one of them is being communal in nature – just like the loving relationship between each person of the Holy Trinity. That being said, if something sounds exciting and fun, you should do it. Don’t let your identity as an introvert define you in your entirety. It can be all to easy for an introvert to talk themselves into staying home… again. Don’t let this happen every time. Prioritize spending some quality time with friends and family. Don’t neglect the relationships you already have. If you need accountability here, craft up plans well in advance and make the commitment that you are going to be there. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up can help you avoid flaking out at the last minute. 3. Take advantage of your strengths. Introverts have some natural inclinations that can be used to your advantage. For example, introverts tend to be above average listeners – which can be incredibly helpful in school and also really helpful in relationships. Everyone needs a friend that is perfectly content to just sit and listen to what you have to say without the need to say much themselves. Introverts also tend to be very successful when doing behind-the-scenes work and work that requires you to spend long periods of time working by yourself. Figure out what other benefits your introversion may have and you’ll be well on your way to making it work for you in a positive way. Identify what is most important in your life. What do you enjoy doing, what do you care about, and what kind of life do you want to live? Seek out events, organizations, clubs, and volunteer opportunities that revolve around the answers that you have to those questions. A great place to start looking is at your local parish. They are full of people that share your faith and almost always have exciting groups to get involved in and service opportunities. You will find that it is much easier to talk, not be drained of your energy quickly, and be with others when you know that the conversations, environment, or activities are going to revolve around something that you are passionate about and know a lot about. I’ve found that most introverts don’t actually dislike talking, socializing, or meeting new people. I’m sure you’ll agree that most of us actually really enjoy those things in the right quantities. They just need to revolve around something meaningful and important because that provides something comfortable and familiar for us to hold on to. If you know your hobbies and what matters to you, it is easier to surround yourself with people that feel the same as you do. Small talk, awkward silences, and other similar things that your typical introvert dreads in the early stages of a friendship will lessened or skipped entirely. Instead, you’ll be too busy taking part in life-giving conversations and activities. You’ll find yourself making friend after friend in no time. Rely on your extroverted friends. This may seem like a cop out, but I promise this is a game changer. It isn’t always the case, but I’ve found that almost every introvert has an extroverted friend that has somehow butted their way into their life and isn’t planning on leaving any time soon. If you don’t have this yet, follow my previous advice until it does. It’ll happen eventually and this friendship will be a bigger blessing than you may have ever realized. As it turns out, God has designed people in such a way that they often complement one another. I think this can especially be seen in the special relationship that can exist between an introvert and an extrovert. For every person that loves to talk and tell stories, there is a person that loves to sit back and listen. For every person that is a little shy or is uncomfortable meeting new people, there is a person that is outgoing and has never met a stranger. Allow your extroverted friends to complement you. Ask them to introduce you to some of their friends and actually take them up on the invitations they’ve probably been texting you from time to time. If you are friends, they obviously find something about your personality attractive and enjoyable. I promise that other people will feel the same – you’ve just got to give them the chance to see that. All of this being said, I want to re-emphasize keeping balance in your life. Like I said earlier, the goal is not to become something that you aren’t. While it is good to do from time to time, you don’t have to constantly be forcing yourself to make new friends and socialize. It is okay to not have hundreds of friends, have an insanely busy social life, or always be staying in the loop on other people’s lives through social media. Learn to recognize when you need time to yourself and when you need to push yourself to be with others. If you don’t keep this balance, you could easily find yourself making lots of friends and being surrounded by great, friendly people and still not feeling very healthy or happy. Instead, you’ll probably find yourself in an overwhelmed and stressed state of mind. If you are an introvert, you simply need time alone to replenish your energy, keep your sanity, and collect your thoughts. You need the warm happy feelings that bubble up in your chest when you finally get to sit down in a quiet room with your rosary, a great book, or a favorite movie after a long day. Make those things a priority too or you won’t be being you.