I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. I do have a few good friends that I enjoy talking to, but usually they were the ones who befriended me, instead of the other way around. Now, because of changes of circumstances in my life, I would like to bring more new people into my life, more actively this time. Dear hive mind, please give me some tips on how I can do it.
posted by clair-obscur to human relations (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I was born in China, then moved to North America with my family when I was 11. So, most of my teenage years were quite solitary: naturally introverted + only child + no extended family (just me and my parents) + language and cultural barriers. Now that I have grown up, I have become somewhat more sociable, but the old patterns that I used as part of my ego defence mechanism during those years still come back to haunt me.
Even as a child, I have been shy and proud at the same time. For example, once, because my grandparents had made fun of the way I spoke in our regional dialect, I stopped using that dialect; to this day I cannot speak it, although I can understand 100% of it. So, imagine extending this to a completely new language such as English. During high school, I refrained from talking because I was scared to sound inappropriate or "stupid". So, from age 11 to 17, I didn't really talk to anyone in another language other than Chinese. By "talking", I mean having a meaningful conversation, not that I pretended that I was mute.
Needless to say, not talking to people, really limited one in the getting-to-know-you arena. In addition to the language barrier, there was also the cultural one. They are similar in the sense that I was always scared to do something inappropriate for the context, because I found the very new cultural environment that I was in bewildering. Case in point 2: When I graduated from language classes to be part of a "regular class" with local kids, I was once invited to watch a movie with the "normal kids". I was extremely nervous and anxious about how to handle the event, so I meekly said in the phone that "I had things to do" and couldn't go. Ouch, even now I wince when I recall that awkward conversation.
Again, this can be extended to other areas of my social life, even to this day. I am not the best at accepting invitations to events for which I don't understand the behavioural norm. Also, I rarely invite people to go on outings of any nature. That is because, I guess, because of the way I feel about invitations, I feel disinclined to put other people in what I perceive as "a hard place to be".
To this day, my up-bring has made me a very independent and self-reliant person. The problem is, I feel that I am too independent and self-reliant, to the extent of excluding people I enjoy being with. My friends tell me that they think I am intelligent, knowledgeable and reflective, but they also think that I am distant, aloof and cold. In September 2011, I have started graduate studies, which lead once more to a rather solitary and confining lifestyle. And, I am acutely experiencing that the way that I behave currently is not who I really am. I am ready to make some changes in my life that will release me from the cold, distant manners that I almost instinctively adopt to prevent hurt and loss in self-esteem. The first move, I think, would be to become less passive in meeting people and making new friends.
Since I am really really new to making friends, I would love to get some tips on how to approach people. I also wonder how people who are out of college (so slightly older, with more responsibilities and time commitments) would feel about new friendship at this stage of their life. (I have read that it is universally hard to make new friends once we get older. It is a piece of information that I use to rationalize away my feeling of inadequacy...)
BTW, I am female, if it makes any difference.