The Collegiate Introvert's Guide to Making Friends

By Wesley Bolyard on February 8, 2014

We all know that with the rise of social media, it seems more and more difficult to make genuine friends, especially when they’re a tangible person right in front of us, staring us down until we’re nothing but a puddle of fear. Seriously, how do you just go up to someone and become their friend? How do you do that without them immediately disliking you, thinking you’re weird, or trying their best to shut you up and run in the opposite direction as fast as their probably gorgeous legs can carry them?

The truth is, it’s not easy, but it does get easier the more you do it. Eventually, yes, shy people can make friends, too—great friends, in fact. To help my fellow sheep out there inch a little closer to friendliness, here are some tips:

1. Rid yourself of all paranoia. You shouldn’t assume that everyone is judging you the exact second you smile and open your mouth. They might if they catch you staring into their souls, but you should probably avoid constantly staring at them. If they catch you and you find them attractive, throw out a wink to show that you’re interested. Don’t make things awkward. Try and relax before you go up to them, too. Whoever your choice is to be your next friend is just a normal human being, just like you. We’re all humans. An easy enough fact to remember, but sometimes we introverts pretend that we’re distressingly abnormal and that no one will like us, which is terribly false.

2. Embrace the creeper within you, the one everyone has. You can’t fool me. We all know you’ve honed your creeping abilities on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and maybe you’ve even Googled someone. In a world where access to information is open to us all, it’s acceptable (to a degree). Look for openings in conversation where you might be able to add something relevant in, or make a good joke. Everyone loves a good joke. That being said, don’t try and force something to happen when it isn’t right, but don’t doubt yourself in the moment. Be a lioness. You’ve stalked your prey for long enough, now pounce and conciliate them!

Casually eves-dropping—sometimes we as human beings with working ears can’t avoid hearing a conversation around us—isn’t the only way you can make friends with someone. A friend and I decided to strategize: we would find our “in.” An “in” could be something as simple as a common class, or hobby, or (better yet) friend. Knowing someone who knows someone can work effectively in certain situations! Finding an “in” is a good way to get “in” with someone.

3. Join clubs and organizations.This is a good way to network and meet different people with similar interests. Most introverts probably will stay far, far away from most of these places, but there’s a huge chance that other people just as shy as you are in these clubs as well—which is something we all have to remember. Shy people are common, and it’s likely they are doing the same thing you are, which is just waiting for someone to start a conversation with them. Just going to a couple of club meetings gets you out of your comfort zone. That sounds scary, but does dessert sound scary? When was the last time ice cream was frightening? Making friends is a wonderful reward, just like ice cream can be a reward for a finishing a test or going the extra mile in really anything you do!

4. Social Media. If you happen to be a prodigious Facebook stalker, use that to your advantage! If you can find someone you want to be friends with, send them a friend request. There are precautions that you should know, however. Say you have a class with them; just by sending them that friend request gives you a reason to say hi when you walk into the room. Don’t ignore them in real life! You can’t message them and never talk to them in person. If they responded to you on the Internet, it’s very likely they’ll respond to you in person as well.

5. Actually talk to someone. Now this last suggestion is going to sound crazy, but sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and dive in to the big unknown. What I mean by that is sometimes you just have to go in and talk to the person you’ve had your eye on for a couple weeks. If you want to be their friend so bad, and nothing seems natural, osmose all of the bravery of your current friends and walk up to your someone and make conversation. A nice, simple, “Hi, I’m _____,” “I see you’re eating alone. Do you mind if I eat with you?,” or a “I see you all of the time. What’s your name?” are great starters just to put something into the air. If you two have a smaller class together, those things may not work–they aren’t natural by any means. You might be able to skate by with asking something about the classwork or maybe notes you’ve missed. If those don’t work, you can always ask to go out for coffee or lunch. Spending just a single hour with someone is a good way to connect with them–and everyone has to eat food!

Remember that you don’t have to overthink it. You really don’t have to have planned anything at all. If you come up to someone and insist conversation enough, you can look back at how you met and laugh about it. Half of the friends I’ve made in college have all come within weird circumstances. My first comment to one of my friends was how much I dislike going up stairs slowly when they’re icy.

The biggest part is that you put yourself out there. Sometimes you may falter, but the times you succeed will make it all worth it!

6. Just be you. Probably the best piece of advice I can give you, as an introvert myself, is to just be yourself. Don’t force anything, and try not to do anything that isn’t in character for you. If something is too terribly uncomfortable, don’t make yourself do it. As long as you stay yourself, you’ll attract people who want to be your friend just as much as you want to be their’s!

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