Making new friends can be extremely intimidating, especially if you’re shy.
When you’re unsure of how to approach someone and what to say to start a conversation, you feel overwhelmed, a little bit anxious, and want to forget the whole thing.
Sometimes, it feels safer and easier to retreat into your shell because you’re scared of taking risks or you just aren’t sure how to go about making those real connections.
But with a few encouraging steps and a lot of perseverance, you could find yourself opening doors to authentic and lasting friendships you could never have imagined.
If you’re ready to start an exciting new chapter in your life, discover 9 ways to build real adult friendships, even if you’re shy.
1) Take things slow
“This time, we’ll take it slow.” I think musician John Legend got it right in his song Ordinary People.
Taking things one step at a time in any relationship is one of the best ways to get to know someone.
It takes the pressure off.
It also stops you from turning into a clam!
As a bit of an introvert, a slow and steady approach makes it easier to open up to people.
You can move at a pace that you find comfortable, whether in general conversation or scheduling where to meet up.
Over time, you decide whether the person or people you want to befriend have the attitudes, interests, and qualities that you are looking for in a friend.
2) Pluck up the courage to invite someone out
Being shy doesn’t mean being passive.
You’ve got to try to take an active role when it comes to engaging people.
And yes, I know all about the frustration of striking up a conversation or reaching out to someone when you’re shy.
The fear of rejection and not knowing what to say can get in the way of meeting new people.
But the only way you can build a true friendship as an adult is if you’re willing to do some work.
This means taking calculated risks by putting yourself out there.
You don’t have to be the life of the party or capture everyone’s attention when you walk into a room to connect with other people. But remember that being shy doesn’t give you a free pass to wait until someone approaches you to talk.
I wouldn’t recommend walking up to a group of people and crashing their conversation.
You might just get a few awkward stares and grins.
If you notice someone who is on their own and looks approachable, build up the courage to go over to them and say hi. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that people are quite receptive to someone who is friendly and polite.
3) Meet small groups of people in modest settings
Whether you’re on the reserved side or have an outgoing personality, the hardest way to make friends is to try to break into large groups of people.
Large crowds and busy places will make you feel overwhelmed if you’re shy.
An established group of friends already has their own social hierarchy, and the odds are definitely not in your favor when introducing yourself.
Think about the places or events where you’ll feel more comfortable and relaxed. Activities such as volunteering at a pet shelter or taking up cooking classes where you’ll regularly meet people are simple and not overwhelming.
When you feel anxious and awkward, it shows.
It comes through in your body language and creates panic, especially when you don’t know what to say to hold a conversation.
4) Shift attention to the person you are talking to
There is one thing that “we shy people” tend to have in common, and that is social awkwardness.
Initiating a conversation is tough, but holding one can be a living nightmare when you’re an introvert.
I know the feeling all too well.
You catch up with someone that you’ve met once or twice, and suddenly, you have to steer the conversation. You start crumbling under the pressure because you’re the one doing all the talking.
We both know that our shyness can make it harder to keep a conversation going, especially when you become self-aware and anxious.
Perhaps you’re a better listener?
If that’s the case, shift the focus onto the other person by asking them questions about their hobbies, interests, family, and so on.
Not only does it relieve the burden of doing all the talking, but it also shows that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them. It’s an excellent building block for true friendship because it creates personal connections.
As the person responds and the conversation is free-flowing, your nervousness will ease, you’ll become more interactive, and you’ll have fun.
Just don’t ask questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers because that will take you right back to square one: sitting in silence while feeling awkward and anxious.
5) Find ways to connect with people of similar interests and passions
How can you possibly build a real friendship if you don’t have much in common with someone else?
The things you find interesting should serve as a foundation for friendship. People who share passions, values, or even past experiences create stronger connections through enriching conversations and rewarding interactions.
Research shows that like-minded individuals are more inclined to hang out and develop reliable and trustworthy relationships with one another.
So, visit places that you enjoy, whether it be a yoga class or a local dog-walking group (if you have a dog, of course). This way, you’ll get to meet people who do some of the things you love, and that way, you can grow an incredible friendship.
6) Work on your confidence and squash self-doubt
Ever heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?”
Well, the more you get out there and connect with people, the better you feel about yourself, and it shows.
When you’re shy, you can get caught up in a whirlwind of self-doubt, especially when someone doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. Being yourself and reaching out to others in a social setting is challenging, so we try to be someone we aren’t in the hopes that people will accept us.
This is why you need to squash the self-doubt.
If we copy others to be liked, we cannot build a real friendship. It’s emotionally taxing when you can’t be your authentic self, so don’t allow doubt and anxiety to make you feel inadequate.
There are people with whom you won’t get along, and that’s fine. Their loss, anyway!
The best way to make lasting friendships in adulthood is to work on your confidence by building your social and conversational skills. Start by greeting people, whether in the street or at work. Practice using small talk, and eventually, you’ll be able to hold natural and meaningful conversations.
7) Be approachable and open-minded
There could be a chance that someone might approach you to start a conversation while you’re out and about.
Many shy people prefer to be approached rather than make the first move, so to improve the odds of making a connection, you should always keep an open mind and look approachable.
Put some thought into what you will wear.
In some cases, a vintage fashion item or a T-shirt with a positive slogan might intrigue another person at a class or event, and they might praise your style.
When you’re in a crowded room, don’t hang back, and don’t keep your head down. It will chase people away.
Keep your shoulders back, head up, and make eye contact with others.
Don’t forget to smile.
8) Ditch the negativity
Have you heard about the “what if” game?
It’s a type of game that many of us play when we want to protect ourselves from an unpleasant experience or a negative outcome.
The problem with this game is that there’s never really a winner.
As a shy person, running different scenarios in your head of how something could turn out will stop you from taking the initiative to make friends. You simply get caught up in a loop of overwhelming thoughts that create fear.
Maybe this is what you do…
You’re preparing to attend a pottery class with the purpose of meeting some new people. On your way to class, you start thinking about the ways your day could play out. What if they don’t like me? What if I run out of things to say? What if I’m wasting my time and should just forget the whole thing?
You just create social awkwardness, self-doubt, and stress.
Shake it off and take things as they come.
9) Don’t let rejection get the better of you
You should never put pressure on yourself when your goal is to make new friends.
As a shy person, think of it as a way to strengthen your social skills without preconceived notions about how things will go.
With enough time and after meeting different people, you’ll stop fearing rejection and have fun.
Take the risk by initiating a conversation or inviting someone to hang out. Not everyone will be receptive, and that is not the end of the world.
Not only can you walk away from this experience feeling more confident, but you can also build true friendships that will last a lifetime.