8 signs you’re not unfriendly, you just find connecting with people hard

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Do you watch social butterflies with envy, wondering how they pick up friends everywhere they go?

Meanwhile, you might feel left out of group settings, or struggling to connect with others. 

I know this can be frustrating — especially because it’s not because you don’t want to. 

But this doesn’t have to mean anything bad about you. Perhaps you just find connecting with people hard. 

See if you recognize yourself in these 8 signs.

1) You tend to listen more than share

What is it that makes people connect with each other? Science has found some clear answers to this question.

Firstly, there is a concept called “reciprocal disclosure”. This basically means that you and the other person must take turns sharing information about yourselves.

For example, they tell you that they’re tired of their job, and you tell them about a similar experience you had. You then share that you’re hoping to get a promotion at work, and they might give you some advice from their own experience.

This builds in intimacy until you start sharing even very personal things with each other. This is how people get closer to each other and achieve friendship. 

But what happens if one person doesn’t participate in this exchange? Eventually, the other person will feel the disbalance of sharing, but not being shared with. So they will stop, and the relationship stops developing too. 

This is one reason you might find it hard to connect with people — you’re more of a listener than a talker.

Now don’t get me wrong — it’s fantastic to be a great listener! By no means do you have to stop doing this. 

But if you want to connect with someone, try taking some small steps to share a bit more as well.

2) Group settings overwhelm you

Another reason you might struggle to connect with others is how you feel in social interactions.

We each have a threshold for how much noise or social interaction we can handle. Some people thrive off of having conversations, and don’t mind even if 5 people are talking over each other in a lively back and forth.

But for others, such as myself, these kinds of situations can be very overwhelming. 

I remember as a teenager, I found myself longing to go to parties and have fun, but somehow feeling a sense of dread. I imagined myself going there and being super into it, but my body knew I wasn’t built for that.

Whenever I pushed myself to go anyways, I always ended up retreating to a quiet corner. 

Back then, I felt sad that I wasn’t able to engage in these gatherings in the same way as my extroverted friends. 

But now, I understand that it’s not that I’m unfriendly. I just like to connect in a different way — in a closer, more one-on-one setting. 

3) You feel insecure about initiating interactions

I have friends who can go up to anyone, anywhere, and strike up a conversation. Once, I was walking through the mall with a friend, and I commented on a passerby’s funny tie. 

My friend immediately swiveled around, went up to the man in question to ask about the tie, and ended up getting into such a great conversation that they exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up. 

My jaw was practically on the floor. I could never imagine myself making a friend out of the blue like this. And although my friend didn’t plan it, I was amazed how people like him can manage to do it. 

If you’re more shy and reserved like me, you might feel more comfortable being approached by others than initiating conversations yourself. 

It’s a part of who we are — but it’s something we can decide to change, if you want to connect with people more.

This isn’t about making up a whole new personality for yourself, or forcing yourself into uncomfortable situations. 

But allow yourself to get curious about people, and follow any nudges from your intuition to ask someone about a topic, give them a compliment, or just make a comment that pops into your mind. 

4) You have a calmer or more serious essence

There’s this guy I know who always seems super serious when I see him. So I was surprised to hear from another friend that he’s “super nice and friendly”. 

It’s not that he looked mean or anything — he just doesn’t seem very approachable. 

But of course, people can act and feel differently in different settings. When he’s with his friends, he is still himself, but he is relaxed enough to bring out his fun and friendly side. 

On the other hand, when he’s alone, he sinks into his neutral state. 

It made me realize how much of an effect this can have on meeting people. People who seem to naturally have a smile on their face make it easier to start conversations with them. 

But people who have a more serious resting face may find themselves in a kind of bubble. 

Again, this does not mean you need to change the way you are — unless you decide you want to. But it can be useful to realize that this is one of the things that can impact how easily you make friends. 

5) You’re not super comfortable with physical closeness

Another sign that could be keeping distance from you and others is the boundaries you set — intentionally or not. 

I know people who feel so comfortable with physical closeness, they will meet someone and 5 minutes later be sitting on each other’s lap while chatting. 

Meanwhile, it can take others years to even let their friends give them a longer hug. 

Physical closeness can often make people open up more emotionally as well. Or at least, it can give the impression that they are closer. 

Your comfort level with this may not be something you can change about yourself, but it can help you to understand the factors that influence how you connect with people. 

6) You got used to online interactions

The modern world presents another challenge to connecting with people: spending too much time on electronic devices. 

Firstly, it takes away time from real world interactions. You could be talking to the people sitting next to you, or at least perceiving the world around you, but instead you’re hunched over a screen.

This makes it much harder for people to approach you too. A very extroverted friend told me that when someone is wearing earphones, it removes every chance of him starting a conversation. 

Another consideration is that you might have an internal block as well. If you get used to communicating with others through text, it can feel uncomfortable to have real interactions. 

I know as well as anyone else that our lives are deeply connected with the online world

But they are not completely inseparable. Next time you go somewhere, try turning your data off — or even your phone entirely.

7) You feel different from most other people

We’ve gone through a few reasons related to personality or behavior. But what about the environment?

This can also have a big impact on how easily you connect with others

Maybe you find yourself living in a foreign country, and you don’t understand the culture or customs yet. 

Maybe you’re part of a minority of people and have a different outlook than most others around you.

Or perhaps you have an alternative lifestyle and your values don’t align so well with those of others. 

This is no fault of your own. There will surely be people you can connect with in any environment. It just may take a bit longer to find them. 

8) You prefer deep conversations over small talk

Finally, you might find it hard to connect if you shy away from small talk. 

Maybe you find it boring, or you’re just sick of rehashing the same old mundane topics with everyone you meet. 

And I get it. I myself much prefer having a deep conversation about life over chatting about the weather. 

But as we mentioned in the first sign, you must gradually build up intimacy before you can reach that level with someone. 

If you dive too quickly into deep territory, it can feel forced or unnatural — though there are certainly exceptions where you just immediately click with someone. 

It can be worthwhile to have some lighter conversation topics in your back pocket in order to break the ice with new people — and then let the conversation go where it may. 

Breaking through to new connections

If you find it difficult to connect with people, it can take some time to grow more comfortable with it. 

But don’t lose heart. This is something I’ve struggled with myself at various points of my life. 

And I can say that these phases don’t last forever. More importantly, you can decide to change something and get yourself out of it. 

Silvia Adamyova

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada, with a translation degree from University of Ottawa and an editing certificate from Simon Fraser University. Now based back in Slovakia (if you’re wondering why - have you seen Canadian winters?). Full-time freelance English teacher, translator, editor, and copywriter. Part-time avid reader, self-development junkie, and cake addict. I hope my writing inspires you in some way — if it does, find me on LinkedIn or Instagram and let me know!

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