One of the most common types of emails/messages I receive from you lovely, wonderful people, is how you struggle to make friends or maintain friendships that already exist because of your social anxiety.
It’s tough making friends when you constantly worry about social situations and how people perceive you. Where do you meet people? How do you get people to like you? How do you keep friends when you often have to cancel plans? I know that when I was younger, I felt like I would never make any friends or at the very least never have any true long-lasting friendships.
You can make friends when you have social anxiety though and you can maintain great friendships. Here’s a few tips on how to do that…
Make it less about you
If you find it hard to make friends because you’re always worried about why someone would like you, maybe you feel like you might not be much fun, or you feel like you’re not interesting enough or that you’re social anxiety will only annoy them… You need to stop right there!
Making friends is not about you, or about what is great about you! It’s about how you make that person feel. If you’re too concerned about whether or not people will like you, or if your personality is good enough to make friends, then that is the reason you aren’t making friends right now.
Quit with the self focus and focus on making them feel awesome instead.
Making people feel good around you
So how do you make people feel good around you? Listen. Listen. Listen.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk ever, it just means you need to listen better. Often when we’re in a conversation, our social anxiety gets us all concerned about how we look when we’re talking, whether we’re smiling properly or what that person thinks of us that we forget to actually pay attention to other person.
When you’re having a conversation from now on, I want you to try to focus on what the person is actually saying, pushing away any urge to think about yourself or what you’re doing. Focus on THEM.
Listen out for a person’s name when meeting them, so you can actually use it when talking to them. People respond really well when you use their name, it makes them feel like they’ve known you longer and they feel more connected to you. So try using their name where you can.
Give them compliments and make it genuine. If you really want to be this persons friend, it should be easy enough to think of something nice to compliment them with. Tell them you love their style or what they’re wearing. Just a simple compliment that will make them feel good being around you.
Talk more about them and less about yourself. Ask them questions about themselves, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, where they grew up, what they love doing in their spare time… make the conversation more about getting to know them instead of worrying about talking about yourself.
Stop trying to please everyone
If you’re going to make true friends then you need to be yourself, not who you think people will like. Trying to fit in isn’t going to win you a group of best friends, the best kind of friends will love you for who you are, so you need to give people a chance to know YOU.
I know it’s hard when you have social anxiety to voice your own opinion and not agree with everything someone says but people will respect you much harder if you are an independent person who doesn’t come across as fake.
Be yourself. If someone doesn’t like who you really are, they are not going to be a good friend for you anyway.
Be Less Dependant
A lot of the times I hear you guys say that your friendships are often strained because you feel you’re clingy. Your friends have their own lives and they probably aren’t able to hang out with you as much as you’d like, so you feel insecure in the friendship, like you don’t mean as much to them perhaps. Really the truth is, your friends probably have a lot going on and it’s nothing to do with how they feel about you but guilting people into spending more time with you can be damaging so we don’t want to get to that point.
A good starting point to making friends and maintaining friendships is to be comfortable being alone as well as with other people. If you rely solely upon your friends, you’ll put too much pressure on the friendship. Value the quality time, over the quantity.
Make friends through hobbies
The best way to make friends who you know you will get along great with, is to meet them through a hobby. Maybe taking classes for something you enjoy or joining a club or even going on a local group or online forum that caters to your hobby/interest and meeting people that way.
You instantly have something to talk about with them, so the ice is easily already broken.
Making friends at school or work
I think that often our social anxiety stops us from talking to people at school or work because we assume they’re not going to like us, or that they’re too different from us. Sometimes we just talk ourselves out of initiating conversations in case they go horribly wrong.
You will likely be surprised though at how many people you could make friends with, people you already know as acquaintances but haven’t had the chance to get to know them better.
They might have completely different hobbies and interested to you but that doesn’t mean they can’t become brilliant friends. I have lots of friends now that are polar opposite to me, people who I thought would never like me or would think I was weird.
Ask them how their day off was or talk to them about something anyone can relate to, to get the conversation started. You might be surprised how much you do have in common actually.
Meetup.com is a network where you can meet local people for drinks, trips to the cinema, photography walks, lots of different things. There are different groups for different kinds of stuff, depending on your area.
This might help as you already know the people using it want to meet new people and make new friends.
Try to avoid social situations less
I know that sometimes avoiding a social situation when you have social anxiety is inevitable, as you’re going to come across things that are just far too much for you to handle but if you’re invited into a social situation that you know you could do but it makes you fairly anxious, try not to avoid it altogether. The more you avoid social situations or cancel plans, the less you’ll be invited in future because people will just always assume you won’t be into it.
Try and say ‘yes’ to as much stuff as your social anxiety allows and while you might find that you maintain good friendships that way, you may also find your anxiety decreasing each time.
Recognise when it’s okay to let a friendship go
Some friendships just aren’t meant to be. If it makes you feel stressed or down, or if you feel like you’re being walked all over, then it’s perfectly okay to end the friendship and go your own separate way. A toxic friendship is no good for your mental health and really it just wastes your time!