Children seem to make friends effortlessly.
There is no pressure. They don’t have to make friends, it just seems to happen.
Us adults on the other hand, have a number of excuses for our inability to effortlessly make friends.
- I have no time
- Everyone is so busy working / spending time with their partner / seeing other friends
- I’m an introvert
Dedicating your time and efforts to making friends can also feel a bit weird too.
“But it should happen naturally!” I hear you cry.
Yes, my dear friend, in an ideal world it does happen naturally. After time and effort on your part.
There are some people in life who make friends as effortlessly. Us introverts tend to find it more difficult.
Friendship for us is a big deal. We typically don’t want to have a multitude of friends. A close circle of people we love and trust helps us feel seen and supported.
Having close friends that you can turn to for support is essential for our mental wellbeing.
However a lot of us have had bad experiences in the past.
Perhaps you shared openly and vulnerably with someone, who then told it to 6 other people.
Perhaps you were bullied growing up and don’t trust many people.
Perhaps you find it hard being yourself in social situations and so find it hard to make friends.
These experiences can create negative stories that we tell ourselves over and over again. And if you tell yourself something enough times, your mind takes it as truth. We become the stories we tell ourselves.
Common discouraging thoughts
Our minds chatter away all day. We often don’t notice because it’s constant. Like background noise.
This means that the majority of our thoughts are automatic. They come from our subconscious, float into our mind, and often create a feeling.
This feeling can lead to an action. Which then creates a result.
Thoughts → Feelings → Actions → Result.
If you want a different result (like making friends effortlessly), you need to go to the start of the sequence and change the thoughts.
A lot of us tend to have discouraging thoughts.
This is part evolutionary. Our cavewoman and caveman ancestors only remained alive if they interpreted rustling in the bushes as a tiger ready to pounce, rather than a bird.
If you were a positive, happy-go-lucky soul who only saw the best in everything, you often didn’t survive.
Because of this, our minds interpret events as negative, possibly life-threatening.
Your mind’s job is to keep you safe.
Unfortunately, what is harmful to you now has dramatically changed. Instead of sabre-tooth tigers, loneliness, isolation, and depression are life-threatening. Not to mention the second-cause effects, like drinking too much, binge-eating, self-harm.
The world around us has changed, but our minds have stayed the same.
This is why it’s so hard to challenge negative thought patterns. Your mind starts to freak out. “I was just trying to keep you alive! So you can have babies and keep the human race going!”
Luckily for us, it’s difficult but not impossible.
These are some common discouraging thoughts you may have had around making friends:
- “When a social situation goes badly, I’m 100% to blame.”
- “Feeling awkward will always be the way for me. When something goes well, it’s because the other person made it better.”
- “I have no control over social situations.”
- “If someone becomes upset during a conversation or social situation, it’s probably because I said or did the wrong thing.”
- “What happens in a social situation is because of who I am. If I screw up, it means that I’m useless.”
- “Unless I’m perfect, no one will like me.”
- “If I make a mistake, everyone will notice and judge me.”
- “People judge me for who I am.”
- “Other people are born naturals, that’s not me. You’re either born with social skills, or not at all.”
- “Society is extroverted and shallow. People don’t value the same things I do. There’s nothing I can do about this.”
- “Learning social skills is weird.”
These are some of the thoughts that hold us back from making connections with other people.
What are your most common discouraging thoughts?
Write them down and find a couple that frustrate you the most.
Changing your thoughts
Because these thoughts are so ingrained in our mind, we believe them. Even if they don’t make sense.
Byron Katie has an effective way of challenging our thoughts. She is most known for a practise called The Work. Part of the reason why it’s so popular is because it helps us challenge our ways of thinking.
It encourages us to take responsibility for our emotions, which empowers us to take action.
Pick one of the thoughts you chose and take it through the below questions:
1. Is it true?
Think of any evidence that you have to show it is true.
If the thought you picked was “it’s weird to learn social skills”, how is that true?
2. Are you absolutely sure it is true?
Double check yourself here. What concrete evidence suggests it is true?
If we stick with the same though as above, the best-selling book How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie does suggest otherwise.
3. How do you react when you think this thought?
Witness the feelings and sensations that come up when you think the thought.
4. Who would you be without this thought?
If you could live your life without having this thought — or perhaps even having the opposite of this thought — how would your life be?
5. And an extra step from me: what thought could you replace it with?
If it’s not weird to learn social skills, what could you do? How would learning social skills change your life?
Taking note of the thoughts that come up during the day, writing them down, and running them through these steps later on can show some surprising results.
Perhaps you realise that you’ve been thinking something that’s held you back for years.
Or perhaps it’s empowered you to upskill yourself so situations that felt challenging no longer do.
If you get stuck with any of the questions, try out a new perspective. Let’s go with the negative thought “I have no control over social situations”:
- Am I certain that this will always be the way with me?
- Am I certain that I am 100% responsible for having no control?
- Does this absolutely mean that I am not sociable?
- Does having no control over social situations mean that I’m not a sociable person?
- Could there be a less harsh way of looking at this?
- What would I say to a friend who told me this?
- Does this thought help me or stop me from growing?
Becoming more aware of the subconscious mind chatter we have and actively taking steps to challenge those thoughts can make the world of difference.
One day you’ll realise that you no longer identify with that thought.
Perhaps you’ve even replaced it with a new thought.
I am sociable. I am taking action to learn how to be great at social situations. I have the ability to make friends.
Seeking new friendships
The secret to finding friendships is to make seeking out new people something that is familiar.
Our minds love the familiar and want to avoid the unfamiliar. The good thing is that you can make unfamiliar things familiar.
Creating a new habit is essential for maintaining your motivation for doing this. There are times when it will feel difficult. Out of reach. Bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating.
Taking this gradually is important. Don’t jump into a situation that makes you incredibly nervous.
If you’re not comfortable holding conversations, then start making an effort to talk a little longer every day in the times you casually chat to people. Think taxi drivers, waiters, supermarket cashiers. Each time you do it, you will start to notice you’ll be able to hold conversations longer and longer.
If you’re not comfortable going somewhere you don’t know anyone, start by attending by leaving early. You could even plan something so that you have to leave. (And yes, a date with Netflix does count). Each time you do it, you will start to notice you’ll be able to stay longer and longer.
If you’re not comfortable talking in a group of people and having all the attention on you, focus on increasing it by one sentence at a time. Perhaps the first time you speak it’s an affirmative, like “That’s amazing!”. The next time, you could say “that’s amazing! I can’t believe you had that experience.” Keep adding on one sentence. Each time you do it, you will start to notice you’ll be speak for longer and longer.
Start off small with a regular weekly action.
Implementing these changes into your daily routine makes it even more effective.
If you go to the same place to grab coffee, start extending the conversation you have with the barista.
Find 30 minutes that would otherwise be spent on YouTube, scrolling Instagram, or obsessing over your life choices, and instead spend your energy reaching out to people like:
- Those you met briefly but haven’t really spoken since
- An old friend who you’ve lost contact with
- Acquaintances who you have something in common with
- Those you have recently met
And suggest making a plan to go out later that week or month.
Once a month, go out to meet new people.
Follow your heart & your interests, ever had a craving to learn a new skill? There’s a Meet-Up group for that.
Feeling the need to immerse yourself in nature? Hiking groups are everywhere.
Try to go somewhere where there is an activity to do, you’ll have something in common from the get-go. Volunteering is also a great place to meet new people, and give back to the world in the meantime.
Building the weekly and monthly habits makes having new friends in your life something that is familiar.
Creating a habit or rhythm doesn’t stop: it soon becomes natural to be the one reaching out to others and welcoming a new face into a group.
Making friends as an adult and as an introvert can feel challenging.
Start by assessing where you currently are. What are the frequent negative thoughts that you have? How can you challenge these? What could you think instead? What actions could you take?
Pushing to the edge of your comfort zone will help you become the type of person who finds it easy to talk with people and make friends.
You may need to dedicate time to being social on your calendar every week.
It’s important to put yourself in social situations regularly where you can practice and improve.
After practicing for a while, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come.
- Humans have evolved to think the worst possible outcome, but we have the power to change this
- We have automatic thoughts constantly running through our minds which form our identities
- Replacing them with thoughts of how we want to become can change everything
- When going out to make friends, take it slowly step-by-step
- Combine making friends with passions and activities you love to do
Want more tips on how to connect with other people?
Click on the blue button below.
I’ll send you the Introvert’s Ultimate Guide to Connection.
In it, you’ll learn:
- Strategies to melt away awkwardness when starting conversations
- A framework to ensure you’ll never run out of things to say
- How to navigate fears of saying the wrong thing or social blunders