The world today can be a pretty intimidating place for an introvert. But while introverts highly value their alone time, they also value meaningful connections in the right doses.
When I found myself at a point in my life when I thought I should start making new connections, I didn’t know where to start.
I signed up for a few newsletters from career-oriented websites and the advice to join “networking events” and “industry-related conferences” started popping up in my email. Only the thought of it made me cringe.
Although I see a benefit in attending talks and I have done that in the past, I knew that I would most likely miss on a lot when it comes to the social aspect of the conference/networking type of event. I would be the one slowly sipping a coffee or eating a sandwich in a corner during the breaks while looking at other people interact. Unless someone decided to start a conversation with me and dragged me by my words out of my comfort zone.
So I researched further and found a few alternatives I felt comfortable with. To make things clear, there is no method of putting myself in a new, noisy place and meeting strangers that I am completely comfortable with. And that’s ok. Reading a book, for example, is something that I’m completely comfortable with.
But some paths are definitely easier than others. Here are my top four choices so far:
This is one of my favorite methods. Volunteering can introduce you to a lot of like-minded people. Think of causes you support and look for organizations that might need your skills.
You can clean your local park/beach/forest, visit the residents of a nursing home, volunteer at a church, at an animal shelter or you can even volunteer your professional skills (ex: writing, marketing, administrative or financial skills) to an organization in need.
You will get to know people who share a common belief and are passionate enough to act upon it. These are always great qualities that make connecting easier and more meaningful. Also, what helped me when it comes to volunteering is that it gives you the chance to meet people through an activity, the main focus is not usually on the social aspect, which makes things easier.
Join a club
The good thing about clubs is that they are not a one-time thing. You will have a lot of opportunities to observe, get comfortable and then interact. Clubs meetings usually have a limited number of members attending and this reduces the noise and the energy you have to put in, making it feel less overwhelming.
Find something you’re passionate about and decide which way you want to go – you can either look for something for leisure or for a business-oriented club.
For example, if you are passionate about knitting or reading, try to find a friendly knitting club or a book club. What makes this method more approachable is that you will have an instant connection with the people you will meet and an obvious ice-breaker. Plus, talking about something that you already care about is a lot more enjoyable and worthwhile than talking about the weather.
If you are looking more into connecting with professionals, I have one piece of advice that worked for me: look for structure.
A great example of a well structured professional club is Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is an organization that aims to empower its members to become effective communicators and leaders. It achieves that by being a “school” of public speaking, with clubs all over the world.
I find public speaking terrifying but I still joined Toastmasters and took it as a challenge. It was something that I decided to work on at the time. Communication and public speaking are skills that can be applied in all the areas of our lives, so why not try to improve them in a supportive environment?
When it comes to the social aspect, you can first attend a meeting (or more) as a guest and just observe. The meetings are very clearly structured and members choose from various meeting roles, by rotation. So you will always be able to choose your role in a meeting and have time to prepare. As an introvert, making your voice heard in a group discussion can sometimes be a challenge, so I enjoyed the fact that the meetings were organized this way.
I was also lucky to find a friendly club, where you could spark up a conversation with anyone during the breaks. And again, we already had a common topic – the interest in public speaking and the way the current meeting is unfolding.
If you want to find a club/organization in your area you can use meetup.com, your local library, Facebook, or even Craigslist to look for ideas.
The good thing about clubs is that you will always get another chance to get to know the other members better and build meaningful connections. So you don’t have to put on yourself the pressure of making a good impression and forming a connection in the first 10 minutes after you meet someone. There is always the next meeting.
[bctt tweet=”Surprisingly, I think if you’re known on the internet, you’re probably an introvert Felicia Day #quote”]
Take a course
Taking courses is another thing that I love doing, as I strongly believe in lifelong learning.
If you are looking to learn or improve a skill and you would also like to meet new people along the way, I would suggest choosing a course in class, rather than online.
Research ahead and see what the course structure looks like. If it includes group projects, it’s even better – you will have a chance to work with a small group of people, share ideas and connect. If you’re doing it to develop professionally, you will also get the chance to meet people who work in the same field and maybe help each other on your career paths.
Find an online community that might extend in real life
Online communities are thriving today more than ever.
Depending on where you are in life, look for a community that aligns with your current interests.
For example, if you are a new mother passionate about baby wearing, look for an online community of local moms who baby wear. There are lots of them, I checked.
If you love cooking, computer programming, crafts, hiking, running or cycling, there is a community out there for you. And when you feel comfortable enough, you might even meet in real life for a baby wearing swap, a hike or a day of crafting.
A final thought
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” ― Susan Cain
As an introvert, I appreciated Susan Cain’s book “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. You can also check her website and her TED talk for some insightful and thoroughly researched ideas on the nature of introverts and on how we fit in today’s society.
So my final thought is that you should not put pressure on yourself to socialize and meet new people unless it’s something you believe that will improve your life in some way.
If you’re an introvert and you prefer to spend your time reading, exercising or talking with your existing good friends, that’s ok. Just live and be happy! If going out there and making new connections is your choice, then I hope that the ideas above might help.
Over to you
I would love to read your thoughts on making new connections. So, introverted and extroverted alike, please share your tips & tricks in the comments.
How and where did you find your long-lasting friends? Where do you like to go to meet new people?