Making new friends as an introvert is hard and it’s even more challenging when you have social anxiety.
Socially anxious people are constantly worried about how others perceive them, hence they prefer to avoid social situations and self-disclosure to prevent “being judged”.
The idea of “being negatively judged” may or may not be true, depending on who you are hanging out with. The truth is, no one is absolutely perfect and we all have our flaws.
If you’re an introvert and shy person who struggles with severe anxiety but want to make friends, know that this experience is much more common than you think.
A 2007 National Comorbidity Survey conducted by Harvard Medical School revealed that roughly 12.1% of U.S. adults experience social anxiety disorder at some point in life.
The good news is that you can learn to develop deep and fulfilling friendships with people even if you have social anxiety.
All it takes is courage and the willingness to try something new.
One proven thing you can do to alleviate your anxious feelings is to practice deep breathing to help you stay calm and relaxed in social settings.
In this article, you’ll discover 12 expert tips on how to make friends when you have social anxiety.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AS AN INTROVERT WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY
One of the simplest ways to connect with people and build solid friendships as an introvert is to use positivity to eliminate your intrusive thoughts.
If your anxiety is preventing you from developing loving relationships, you can overcome it with the right techniques and coping skills.
Here are 12 tips on how to make friends as an introvert with social anxiety:
#1 Practice self-compassion at all times
Social anxiety comes from a fear of being negatively judged. Because an individual judges themselves so harshly, they expect others to do the same.
Self-compassion involves treating yourself in an accepting, forgiving, and loving manner.
It forms the foundation for rewiring your mind and tackling some of the common causes of social anxiety in your life.
As a socially anxious person, if you can start to practice self-compassion, you’ll gradually shift your negative perception of yourself to a positive one and have newfound confidence to approach social situations.
Try not to be too hard on yourself all the time and treat yourself as you would a close friend or family member. If you won’t talk harshly to a loved one, don’t do it to yourself.
With greater self-compassion, developing and practicing the skills needed to make new friends and lasting connections will be less stressful.
Sam Holmes, a Psychologist and Editor of Feel and Thrive suggests that instead of being preoccupied with how you are seen, immerse yourself in the connection process.
#2 Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to socialize
When struggling with social anxiety, be realistic about the expectations of your socializing habits.
It is okay to have an expectation of “getting out” but don’t require yourself to talk to anyone.
If you feel comfortable with “getting out,” it’s okay to have an expectation of talking to one new person but don’t require yourself to start the conversation.
When it comes to socializing as an introvert, small steps will garner more success.
Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself is a recipe for disaster and leads to analysis paralysis, which will stop you from working through your social anxiety, says Heather Cain, Clinical Director at Shrink Me Not.
#3 Focus on building one relationship at a time
Social anxiety loneliness is real and it can be so brutal that you may want to speed up any friendship you kick off with someone new which could backfire later.
When you’re trying to make friends as an introvert, you may feel that having a bunch of new acquaintances would be a faster way to build friendships.
But this strategy is often counterproductive because you might just end up with a ton of strangers on your contact list.
Instead of keeping tabs on several people at the same time, work on creating a deep connection with one or two people.
Take it slow and allow the friendship to blossom naturally. Don’t feel pressured to hasten things up or to connect emotionally in a short time.
Healthy relationships involve good communication, trust, and patience so don’t rush the process.
#4 Curate a list of icebreaker questions beforehand
If you’re looking for how to make new friends as an introvert, you must work on your communication skills to avoid coming off as socially awkward.
One of the best ways to blend in with your peers is to know a few popular topics that people talk about.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to be who you’re not.
But it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with relevant trends and to learn how to converse if you want to make new friends.
Plus being prepared before a social event can make you feel more confident and self-assured.
When you’re familiar with what’s going on around you, you’ll have some opinions to share with others.
You’ll also have lots of conversation starters on hand to break the uncomfortable silence that’s common in new relationships.
#5 Focus on being present and authentic when interacting with others
As an introvert, the default thing to do when you’re in a public setting is to either overthink everything or fake it to make it until the occasion is over.
Sometimes roleplaying can be helpful in social gatherings, but simply being present, authentic, and accepting of yourself makes people around you feel like they can do the same.
This leads to more positive interactions and certainly increases your chances of forming meaningful relationships with others.
When you interact with people, don’t pretend to be someone else just to fit in. Remove your mask so people can get to know the real you better.
Be your true authentic self when you meet people and allow your beautiful personality to shine.
#6 Quieten your inner critic with positivity and mindfulness
Because anxiety tends to occur in anticipation of something, it helps to go into social settings prepared to avoid feeling too self-conscious.
A simple way to steady your mind is to acknowledge that your anxious feelings are negative and unhelpful to you. Anxiety is just a feeling and it doesn’t define you.
Rather than engage in a negative thought loop in which you continually imagine worst-case scenarios, flip the internal dialogue to something positive, recommends Dr. Matt Glowiak, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Choosing Therapy.
Saying positive affirmations like I am loveable, I will have fun, I will make friends, and People love my personality can help to improve your self-esteem exponentially.
Doing this while engaging in structured deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms down anxious thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
This is something that may be done discreetly and in the moment.
Whenever you feel your nervous system firing up, use social anxiety coping skills such as positive self-talk and breathwork to keep your emotions balanced.
You can also use guided meditation, yoga, and self-love affirmations to increase your self-confidence daily.
Listening to your favorite songs or using relaxing essential oils before any social activity can be helpful too.
#7 Use the 3-3-3 rule to ground yourself and keep your emotions balanced
This coping strategy is recommended by therapists and it’s often effective in reducing the thoughts that cause feelings of anxiety so you can remain in the present.
When you sense a panic attack coming on, bring your mind back to the present and focus your attention on your immediate environment.
Next, name three things you see, identify three sounds you hear, and touch three things near you such as your body parts or external objects.
Just by paying attention to other things around you, you can remove your mind from the current situation and give it something neutral to focus on instead of your irrational fear or anxious thoughts.
You can also use the 3-3-3 rule to calm your nerves, relax your body, and stay grounded when you’re going to new places, meeting new people, or whenever your mind starts to spiral out of control.
#8 Join a group that promotes an interest or cause you believe in
Friendships are built when meaningful conversations happen again and again.
To keep your anxious thoughts at bay, it’s important to find something to focus your thoughts on, says Dr. I Ting Tsao, a Clinical Psychologist at Redwood Psychology.
If you are interested in art or literature, join a local group where much of the conversation and activities will be about books.
Once you get going at conversing with others about interesting books or artworks, you’ll be less attentive to your anxious feelings and thoughts.
Since talking about your experience helps you manage your anxiety better, you can also join a few support groups to meet other individuals who are struggling with social anxiety.
In the privacy of these groups, you can discuss your experiences, support each other, share helpful coping strategies and resources, and even form true friendships that can last for a long time.
To find a support group in your area, search for “social anxiety forum” or “social anxiety support groups near me” online. From there, the experience may prove life-changing.
#9 Sign up for introvert dating apps to meet like-minded people
Making friends when you have social anxiety is quite challenging and it doesn’t get any better when you’re a shy introvert.
If dating in real life feels awkward or scary for you, try online dating instead. You can sign up for introvert dating apps that are designed for shy and reserved people.
This will enable you to take things slow and connect with new people without feeling pressured. You don’t have to date anyone or commit to a serious relationship right away.
You can just mingle with a few interesting people and see where it leads. If you don’t find a romantic partner, at least you’ll make new friends online.
#10 Strategize your social engagement in a way that feels safe but progressive
If you’re an introvert who’s struggling with social anxiety, start by engaging those in your immediate environment such as at school, at work, in social groups, and otherwise.
If text messages, phone calls, and video chats feel safest at first; begin building your relationships there.
When you feel safe, schedule in-person meetings at places where you feel most comfortable.
This may even include bringing social support to individuals with whom you are already comfortable and meeting as a group.
From there, remain open to the experience of building new relationships while being transparent about what you feel whenever you find yourself struggling.
Though you may be reluctant to share things about yourself that you perceive as weaknesses, remember that those who care about you most will be there with you through the thick and thin.
Social anxiety group therapy has been proven to help people and it can be a stepping stone for you to make new friends in your locality.
#11 Consider online therapy to help you manage your anxiety better
If you have social anxiety that is interfering with making new friends or building healthy relationships, consider working with a certified therapist online.
A therapist can help you by utilizing techniques like roleplay combined with relaxation techniques to help you manage your anxiety and regain control of your internal dialogue in social situations.
Since you’ll be having your sessions online, you’ll feel more comfortable sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone who can help you work through your anxiety.
#12 Be open to social anxiety treatment options that are available to you
While there are many approaches to the treatment of social anxiety, one component of any therapy should be the use of propranolol, advises Sheldon Zablow, a Nutritional Psychiatrist and Author in San Diego.
This medication is used at high doses to treat heart disorders but can be used at low doses to block the anxiousness of anxiety, by blocking the fear response.
If someone no longer feels the feelings of anxiety, it is much easier to tolerate those situations that might provoke anxiety.
Propranolol blocks the negative feedback loop allowing exposure to previously avoided activities.
Sometimes just having the pill in your pocket and knowing it can help in just fifteen minutes relieves nervousness and helps you stay calm.
This social anxiety medication, like any other, should be prescribed and monitored by your physician or psychiatrist.
Social anxiety, sometimes called social phobia, is one of the most common forms of anxiety and becomes a disorder once it interrupts everyday function by increasing isolation.
It can present as difficulty eating in front of others, speaking in a group or to a group, or simply being around one or more people.
The body experiences this anxiety by going into the fear response of flight, fight, or freeze with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, stomach upset, and a tightening of the throat.
The physiologic symptoms of anxiety once felt start a negative feedback loop which increases the fear feeling even more.
Socially anxious people are often unable to make friends or build relationships with others because they’re afraid of being seen in a negative light.
So, instead of being vulnerable and putting themselves out there, they remain stuck in their heads as they constantly listen to their unhelpful thoughts, which in turn manifest as fear in the body.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which one may work through anxiety to ultimately build and maintain strong relationships.
The people who overcome social anxiety and succeed in life are those who don’t allow their fears to keep them trapped.
By using any of the methods mentioned above, you can reduce your intrusive thoughts, alleviate your anxiety symptoms and live a happier life.
You’ll also be able to make new acquaintances and strike meaningful connections with them with ease.
If you explore the social anxiety coping skills and treatment options in this article but still find it difficult to make new friends, seek professional help as soon as possible.
A licensed therapist will be able to provide you with the right support and tools you need to thrive as an individual.