An Introvert Asks: How to find other introverts to be friends with when you’re new in town

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An introvert named Patrick in southeastern New England emailed me with this question, and I think a lot of us have probably wondered the same thing – how to find those needles in a haystack, those high-quality friendships, when we’re totally new in town?

I very recently moved away from home for the first time to a new city for a job. And, for the last few weeks, I have been feeling uncharacteristically lonely. Reading and gaming and generally spending time by myself, activities which have always keep me contented and happy in the past, have not been holding my interest. (I still have no desire to go out and party, so I’m fairly confident that I remain an introvert 🙂 ). I assume that my family was providing me with my necessary % Daily value of human contact and social interaction and that now that I am 1000 miles away, I am feeling lonely.

I think that the solution to my problem would be to acquire a few friends (or perhaps a girlfriend) around here, but this leads me to the problem that actually got me typing here in the first place: How does an introvert find, meet, and make friends with other introverts? Pretty much all of the standard strategies for making friends and meeting people seem to be geared towards extroverts. The most common piece of advice I hear/read is to participate in activities that interest me, in order to meet like minded people, but all the things I like to do are things I can do by myself. And furthermore, trying to join a group of people who already know each other to participate in some group activity is just the sort of outgoing social activity that scares an introvert like me away.

And then, part two of my dilemma. Let’s say I somehow manage to find a place where like minded introverts congregate (a library?). How do I approach a fellow introvert without appearing to be one of those annoying extroverts that we are all trying to avoid in the first place? I know that when I am busy reading (on those rare occasions when I am out in public) and a stranger tries to strike up a conversation, I automatically become annoyed at the interruption, especially when they start asking me about what I am reading without actually caring. I always get the impression that they are talking to me as an act of charity rather than because they actually want to talk to me. Thus, when I see someone else just reading, I feel like I want to go talk to them because they might be my kind of person, but I never do for fear that I’ll annoy them the same way that I get annoyed, or worse, that I might be interrupting their personal recharging time.

Now that I know that there are lots of other people like me out there, I suspect that these might be common problems, so I wonder if anyone has found solutions for them. Thanks in advance!

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29 Comments

  1. Oh I totally understand, and you’re so right – you can’t just go barging up to a likely looking introvert and interrupt what he/she is doing, because they have no way of knowing you. I moved to another city when I was 25, and yep, then I realized how much I’d previously relied on family and a few close friends for my social life. A lot of people spend plenty of time with their parents and siblings, really, but for us introverts the starting over is slower because we’re more discriminating and want deeper, high quality connections.

    For me personally, the answer has come at work (there may be only one or two true “keepers” at each office you work at over your lifetime, but those keepers for us are really good friends), or at the more geeky hobby things, like a night class for a particular programming language. And, once I got better introvert-dar 🙂 I’ve come to recognize the pleasant but quieter people around me that I might see around our small city here or at kids’ events who turn out to be awesome friends after we finally get to know each other over a period of time.

    You’ll be great – but like I said, instead of 100 instant “friends” that some people might think they make when they move to a place, you’re going to be developing yours more slowly and genuinely.

  2. One reason it’s easier to meet friends when doing something that interests you is because (aside from the obvious fact that you have at least one shared interest) you’re in a setting where you have a task of some sort. Say, a knitting club. So there’s less social pressure, because there’s this other thing that you’ve all gathered to do. Going to a place just to meet people – whether a bar, a coffeeshop, a library, etc – there’s a lot more social pressure. There’s having to approach, and then deal with the fact that they might not want to be approached, etc.

    I’m not sure there is such a thing as a place where introverts tend to gather. I figure an introvert is at the library because they need to get something done there – study or read or work. Otherwise they’d have gone, gotten the book they need, and headed home. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Your current interests can all be done solo, but you could also turn at least some of them into sometimes-social activities. For instance, join a book club – turning a solo activity into something that leads to a social network, at least some of the time.

    You also could find new interests that might be conducive to being group activities at least some of the time. Sports are fairly obvious here – from running or biking to tennis, volleyball, etc.

    Or take a class. That’s a different dynamic again, and it might not lead to friendships, but even if it doesn’t, it might give you a certain amount of socializing that satisfies you.

    Finally, do some volunteer work. Volunteering satisfies something in us separate from anything to do with being an introvert/extrovert, and at the same time you might meet some friends through it.

  3. I know you’d like to meet people in the real world. But maybe you should start off by meeting them online – maybe at a niche forum or in a reputable chat room – begin email correspondence with them, and then move on to meeting them offline. That’s one of the beauties of technology: like the telephone before it, the internet affords you the opportunity to really get to know someone before you’re comfortable enough to meet them in person.
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  4. Hello, thank you very much for this post) I was convinced I’m unique in feelings like you described. And I’m glad I was wrong)
    I think to find new friends we should get interested in real life around us and be yourself. I know a lot of people who have calm, serious and sometimes shy character, but they find friends in any place! Rich inner world, calmness and self-confidence are features of character that attract other people. Appreciate yourself, other people and life around you is my motto and advice))

  5. I always find I am fighting between the introvert and extrvert in me. its like I just can’t get settled on it and keep going back and forth. As an introvert stretching myself into extrovert territory, I would say put yourself outside the comfort zone.

    take up acting, public speaking, sports – any typically extroverted activity. Sure, it will expend your energy, but give it some time and be consistent. You will slowly reap the benefits in the form of new friends, new activities and new challenges.
    Jason
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  6. Most of the friends we make in life are either schoolfriends,workmates or teammates. If you’re in a new town and no longer at school, that leaves 2 options – work or team mates. For team you can also read hobby or club. You just have to get out and make the effort!
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  7. A Very good question and some very good answers. You can take a solo activity and find a group to do it with.

    I like outdoor activities like backpacking and gardening. I joined an outdoor club that has over 300 people in it. I don’t attend the meetings and big gatherings. I attend small activities and join committees. I made some good friends there and we do our own outdoor activities and other things as well.

    I recently took a class in archery put on by my local Parks and Rec. There were only 6 students, but I was able to make a friend.

  8. Yeah, I’m an introvert myself. And I’m more comfort to have another introvert person next to me as my friend. But I never thought what if I had to move to somewhere else? How can I make friends again since I’m not an extrovert person? And your article here has answered my question. Great sharing. Thanks a lot!
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  9. I begin to like this site. Really!
    I understand your situation. Well I am not really sure if I am an introvert but I really socialize with people well. But not the egoistic type of person. I just want to make friends. Good thing is that I can catch up with different personalities and jive with them in no time. There is no harm in trying. Just try to be polite and approach those you think are friendly. We sometimes need to follow out instincts.

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  11. Among my personal favorite things about living in L . A . was going to concert events. I spent lots of money attending a myriad of concerts, from big name acts to neighborhood bands performing in coffee shops. By simply relating with individuals on fan forums on the internet and then meeting up face-to-face at the show, I personally made friendships rapidly with a multitude of persons. Very frequently they’d end up being the same age as me, have similar pastimes and comparable income levels. We’d hang out, meet up for lunch or dinner and if little else, might get together a couple of times a year to go to different concerts with each other.
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  12. gah! this is the story of my life! im trying to move from phx to portland in august and have no idea how im gonna meet ppl!

  13. http://www.meetup.com is an excellent way to locate people who share the same interests in your area. And because it’s kind of a come one, come all type of website the social pressure isn’t as great because you have a built in activity/common interest.

    The one place I’m always guaranteed to meet people is at a concert. I tend to go to quite a few alone. It’s natural setting for people to engage each other because EVERYONE wants to talk about the band/music they like.

    And I’m going to go on a limb with a caution–most people in libraries, coffee shops, etc. are not there to chit-chat/make new friends.

    It’s passive socialization—they get the foundation of human contact without actually having to deal with true communication beyond the pleasantries and politeness.

    I go to a few different coffee shops and I’m usually with my laptop or a book–and I get really peeved if someone starts trying to chat me up when I’m obviously occupied.

  14. Such excellent suggestions! And thanks Michelle, I just went to Meetup.com to see what the site was like – put in my city, and found PAGES of groups of a wide variety of interests. So heck, if anyone wants to try Meetup.com, don’t limit yourself – just type in your city or postal code and see what all’s there. I was very surprised at how many groups there are for even a small city.

  15. I’m an introvert too and this problem was urgent for me. But then I noticed that communication with people who have the same interests like me was very easy. For example, I play music with my friends – of course, I can do it by yourself, but it’s much more exiciting to be a part of something, to feel you are not alone.

  16. I am an extreme introvert but also very intellectually curious, and I find it easiest to make friends when I go be involved in things I’m interested in. For me this involves going to school, being part of a Bible study, taking the public library up on its offer of a free language class. It’s easy to talk to people and get to know them, slowly, over time, when you’re both talking about something you’re fascinated with. For other introverts it could be finding someone to teach you how to fix up a motorcycle or joining a choir or finding a knitting group. Whatever. Go to where what you love happens, and you’ll find people it’s easy to get to know, because you’re not focusing on you but on the mutual activity.

  17. We need to come up with a secret handshake, tattoo symbol, or badge. Then we can identify each other without jumping through all of the social hoops and dive right into talking about important introverted subjects! 😉

  18. I moved to my current location a few years ago and was in the same situatuion. This is what I did: I went to places like a library or the community center or something and read while I observed other people. This gave me a chance to see whether there were other people like me or people I wanted to talk to. I eventually found a girl who was always by herself and reading also. When I worked up enough confidence, I caught her on the way back from the bathroom and introduced myself. Eventually we became friends.
    I’m not sure this will work all of the time, but it is worth a try! 🙂

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  20. I am also a lifelong introvert. I’m 64 and very lonely because of it. I isolate, only going out to doctors appointments and to buy groceries. I have no friends and thus no one to talk to. I have hobbies but they are not the kinds of things other people like to do. So I’ll just sit in my apartment and isolate because whenever I have tried to join a group and try to speak, they look at me like I’m an alien and tend to ignore me anyway. I have even tried visiting my housemates in their side of the house and they tend to wander away to other rooms or just don’t talk to me and treat me like I’m not there anyway. So isolate it is.

    • Hi LIz I feel you, I’m 33 and I really can imagine living like you in a few years, if you want to talk to someone here I am 🙂

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