How to Make Friends When You’re Shy

If you’re a shy person, meeting people and making new friends might be hard for you. Feeling shy or extremely nervous, or uncomfortable around new people might have kept you from trying to make new friends in the past. In order to overcome your shyness and make new friends, you may need to step out of your comfort zone. The good news is that there are tons of tips, strategies, and skills that can make it easier to make friends as a shy person.

This article is a guide that includes some of the best techniques that shy, introverted, or socially anxious or awkward people can use to make friends.

Sections

  1. Am I the only one who struggles to make friends?
  2. How to make friends when you’re shy
  3. Common questions

Am I the only one who struggles to make friends?

While it can feel like you’re the only one who has a hard time making friends, the reality is that a lot of people find it hard to form close, meaningful friendships. According to Cigna’s annual loneliness report, three in five Americans reported feeling lonely in 2020. Also, nearly half of all adults in the study described wanting more meaningful relationships or struggled with loneliness and isolation.[1]

Also, researchers estimate that one in three or even half of people are introverts. Introverts tend to be more reserved and get more easily drained during social interactions, and are often labeled as shy.[2][3] Most people will also experience some form of social anxiety in their lives, which can also be mistaken as shyness.[3][4]

How to make friends when you’re shy

Making friends as an adult is hard enough, even for the most outgoing people. For people who are shy, it can be even more difficult to make new friends. Because there are so many people who are looking for new friends, there are also lots of different ways to make friends online or using apps. Getting more involved in social events, clubs, and activities in your community is also a great way to find new friends.

Below are 15 ways you can make friends, even if you’re a shy person.

1. Be friendly so more people approach you

By smiling, being friendly, and greeting people warmly, you can become more approachable and make a better first impression.[5][6] When you can make others feel more comfortable approaching you, you won’t have to do as much of the work to initiate conversations or plans. Instead, other people will begin coming to you, taking some pressure off. This is especially important if you tend to dread, overthink, or rehearse ways to start conversations or approach people.

2. Go out in public more to meet new people

It’s almost impossible to make new friends if you never leave home, so spending more time in public is an important step to making new friends. If you have a tendency to isolate yourself or stay home most of the time, getting out more can be a great way to improve your social life. It can also help to boost your mood and energy levels while also getting you more comfortable being in social places. The more time you spend in public, the more likely it is you’ll meet people and create more chances to spark up conversations.[5]

3. Choose low-key venues and small groups

People who are naturally shy or introverted can get easily overwhelmed when they’re in large, noisy, or crowded places. This is why it can help to be strategic about the places you go; choose events and venues that are more low-key.[2]

For example, it’s often easier for quiet or shy people to meet people and start conversations in coffee shops or at small gatherings rather than at loud bars or crowded events. Choosing a quiet, low-key venue can make it a lot easier to start a conversation with someone you just met.

4. Use friend apps to find like-minded people

Friend apps can be an amazing way to meet new friends, and more people are using these apps to connect with people. The key to being successful on this app is to create a profile that represents the “real” you. Don’t create a picture-perfect profile of what you think people want in a friend.

For instance, listing some of your hobbies, personality traits, or interests can help you connect to like-minded people. This is important, as similarities and common interests are major factors in friendship chemistry.[7]

5. Listen and focus on the other person

A lot of shy people struggle more with talking than listening. If this is true for you, it can help to focus more on the other person than yourself by trying to get to know them better. Do this by asking more open-ended questions, showing interest in what they say, and working to become a better listener.

Focusing on the other person can help lower your levels of anxiety and nervousness in the moment, making it easier to have a natural and enjoyable interaction.[4][5] This is also a proven way to make a good impression on other people, making it more likely that they’ll feel a connection with you.[6]

6. Turn your “what if’s” into “even if’s”

Socially awkward and anxious people tend to dread conversations and even hate making small talk with people. A lot of their anxiety may come from “what if” thoughts about everything that could go wrong in the conversation, including your mind going blank or saying something dumb. If you have a tendency to do this, work on changing your “what if” thoughts into “even if” thoughts. This often helps to reduce anxiety and boost confidence by helping you plan (instead of just worry) for things that could go wrong.[4][5]

7. Start slow and take time to get to know people

Shy and reserved people usually take a little longer to warm up and open up to other people, and that’s completely OK.[2][3] In fact, it’s a good idea to go slowly and take time to get to know someone before rushing into BFF status.

You can take things slowly by starting out with short calls or meetups with new friends where you stick to small talk. As you get more comfortable, aim for longer hangouts and deeper conversations. This ensures that you befriend the right people who share your values and have the qualities and traits of a true friend.[7]

8. Practice your social skills by making conversation

A lot of people who describe themselves as shy, introverted, or socially anxious struggle with their social skills. Thankfully, it is always possible to build, strengthen, and improve your social skills, and frequent practice is the best way to do so.[5]

This means starting more conversations, even if they’re just quick, polite “hellos” or small talk with a cashier, coworker, or someone you pass by on a walk.[4][5] Each interaction helps to build your confidence in your ability to socialize. Over time, this will make conversations feel easier and more natural.

9. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not

A lot of introverts set themselves up to fail in social situations because they try too hard to get people to like them, often by pretending to be someone they are not. For example, introverts may try to be more likable by pretending to be extroverts, and others try to fit in by mimicking other people.[2][3]

This can backfire in many ways when it comes to making friends. It can make you more nervous and insecure, and it also keeps you from being genuine and authentic, meaning no one gets to know the real you.[5]

10. Stay open-minded and don’t judge too fast

Humans have a natural tendency to form first impressions quickly, but this isn’t always a good thing, especially if your goal is to make more friends. Making snap judgments of others makes it more likely you’ll pass over someone who seems different but actually could become a close friend.

To avoid this, work on staying open-minded, curious, and get to know people before deciding whether you like them or not.[5][6] Also, make it a goal to find things in common with people you meet, no matter how different from you they seem.

11. Follow your passions to find new friends

Your interests, passions, and hobbies can become the foundations for close, rewarding friendships. Research shows that friendships often develop between people who are similar in their interests or values.[7] If you want to find like-minded friends, start by joining clubs, activities, classes, or events that involve the things you’re interested in or love doing. For example, consider attending a meetup for hikers, taking a pottery class, or signing up for Zumba or Yoga at a local spot and spark up conversations with people you meet there.

12. Rethink how you label yourself

Labels like “shy,” “awkward,” “socially anxious,” or even “introvert” can sometimes be limiting, holding you back from making friends. If you have a tendency to use words like these to describe yourself, it might be a good idea to rethink these. Even if they’re true, they may not be helpful.

For example, using these words to describe yourself might become a self-fulfilling prophecy or an excuse for not making more of an effort to meet new people.[6] If so, ditch the labels and put yourself to the test by doing things your old label said you couldn’t.

13. Boost your odds by initiating more often

Sometimes, it’s helpful to think of making new friends as just a numbers game. Eventually, if you reach out, start enough conversations, and meet enough people, you are bound to make some new friends. Don’t let your fear of rejection hold you back from asking someone to hang out, even if they’ve only been a work or school friend until now. The more you initiate, invite people out, and spend time with them, the more likely you are to meet at least a couple of close friends.[5]

14. Reconnect with old friends you lost touch with

When you’re trying to make friends, don’t forget to consider reconnecting with old friends you may have lost touch with. While you might feel weird about reaching out and reconnecting with someone after it’s been a while, you may be surprised at how happy they are to hear from you.

Often, it’s possible to rekindle old friendships with people just by reaching out via text or social media to say “Hi” or catch up. Even if they don’t respond, you can still feel good knowing you made an effort to reconnect.

15. Stay in touch with the friends you do make

Once you make some new friends, it’s really important to maintain those relationships by making an effort to keep in touch with friends. Some people who are shy or introverted have a bad habit of going MIA for long stretches of time, and some friends will take this personally.

Friendships are maintained by regular contact, mutual effort, and quality time together.[7] Don’t make the mistake of neglecting friendships you’ve worked hard to create, as this may land you back at square one.

Final thoughts

Most people are a little shy, especially when they’re in unfamiliar places or around new people, and this doesn’t have to be a barrier to making friends. Still, being extremely shy, introverted, or socially anxious can make meeting and talking to people a lot harder. If you’re a shy person, you might need to push yourself to get out more, meet people, and start conversations. With time and practice, this will get easier to do. If you do it enough, you are bound to make some new friends.

Common questions

Here are some answers to the most common questions about making friends as a shy person.

How do I stop being shy and quiet?

It’s a myth that you need to stop being a shy or quiet person in order to make friends. If you want to be less shy or quiet, the best way is to practice speaking up more often, but don’t make it a goal to change who you naturally are just to make friends.

What is the difference between introversion and shyness?

While they can look similar, being introverted is not the same as being shy. Shyness comes from emotions like nervousness or fear of being judged, while introversion is a personality trait that comes from a combination of genes and environment.

How can a shy person make friends with a shy person?

Shy people often make great pairs because they have similar social needs, and understand one another’s need for space and time alone.[2][3] The only problem with two shy people making friends is when no one initiates, so it may be necessary to push yourself to reach out first.

What causes shyness?

Shyness is sometimes related to being an introvert, which is a personality trait found in about half of the population.[4] Still, not all shy people are introverted. Some are just more reserved, quiet, and others may struggle with mental health issues like social anxiety or low self-esteem.[3]

What’s the best way to approach a shy person?

There isn’t one perfect way to approach someone who’s shy, because all people are a little different. Still, shy people often need a little more time to warm up to people before divulging a lot of personal information, so try to keep personal questions to a minimum at first.[2][3]

What to do when you are shy in school?

Being shy in school can be hard, as it’s easy to get left out or lost in a crowd. Being friendly, nice, and approachable is a good way to encourage people to talk to you, but it still may be necessary to push yourself to talk to new people to make friends.[6]

How do I make friends at school if no one likes me?

It’s probably not possible that everyone at your school dislikes you. If you’re shy, it’s probably more accurate to say that most people at your school don’t really know you. This is something you can change by making more of an effort to meet and talk to people.

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Hailey Shafir is a licensed mental health counselor, licensed addiction specialist, and clinical supervisor working out of Raleigh, NC. She has a Masters in Counseling from NC State University, and has extensive professional experience in counseling, program development, and clinical supervision. Read more.

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