I’m not a great friend. Or at least that’s what I used to think. The truth is… at heart, I’m an introvert. I love love LOVE being alone or with just my family. My life and work have put me in a place where connection, relationships and a fairly public existence require me to get outside myself and learn how to make friendship work successfully for an introvert like myself. So here are some things that help me do friendship as an introvert.
Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments afterward. I still have much to learn.
1. Using “introvert skills” can actually HELP introverts connect with people in unique ways. For instance, praying for the people you care about and sending them an encouraging note to let them know they’ve been on your heart is much less draining for an introvert than hosting a dinner party or organizing an outing.
2. Create boundaries you can live with. For me, this involves admitting that I will never be the kind of friend who can get together with people every day and night of the week. I open up certain times for socializing and protect other times for recharging my introverted soul. “I can’t get together at that time, but I can do _____,” is a line you need to learn if you’re an introvert.
3. Everyone has something to learn… and something to teach. Not only are we wiser when we learn from other people, they might even gain something from us. Consider that you are a gift to be shared, not locked away in solitude. This will, at moments, involve putting on your big-kid pants and expending some well-guarded energy into valuable relationships so you aren’t keeping all the good stuff to yourself.
4. Define your friendships. If you like someone, but not enough to confide in them, that is okay. If someone is an energy drainer, do yourself a favor and proceed with caution. There are lots of kinds of friends and not all of them have earned your trust. That’s doesn’t make either of you bad or wrong. Spend your friendship energy on relationships that are reciprocal and positive on both sides of the equation.
5. Admit your need for privacy. Many extroverted folks among us genuinely love to be surrounded by people at all times, and those friends might never dream that being alone is actually a treat for an introvert. So tell them, if necessary. Let them know when you’re “peopled out” and they’ll most likely respect that, if they’re the kind of friend you want to hang onto.
I heard once that people are like Legos when it comes to relationships… some have lots of space for lots of connections like those big, wide Legos with all the round clicky-things. Others have less capacity. Both kinds of people are essential for the big picture to work. It’s a wonderful thing to find a good “click” but that only happens when you haven’t exceeded your capacity.