Fellow introverts 30+, what is your biggest challenge making friends?
April 5, 2018 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I would love to know what you have the hardest time with in making new friends as an adult.

(Examples, but not limited to these: where to go to find people, time pressure, getting conversation going, transitioning from acquaintance to friend, etc) Additionally, if there were a resource out there for you, like a dream toolkit, what would it include? Thinking of making such a resource :) Thanks in advance!
posted by iadacanavon to Human Relations (39 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Locating common interest gatherings, because my interests are generally either solitary or the kind that you only want to enjoy with people who are good friends already.

Maintaining a good flow-through of attention, letting them know they are in my thoughts without being over-present. (Social media has been good for this.)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:24 PM on April 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

We have a kid, and finding people that are both nice, sane, and don’t have diametrically opposed parenting styles from our own makes that very difficult. It’s a bummer to finally find some folks that you get along with and run with your same general pace of life, and then realize they won’t vaccinate their kids, or are hyper-religious.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

Being brave enough to strike up a conversation, finding other single/childless people who have more free time than the coupled and/or parents who make up my peer group, being vulnerable enough to let people know I want to be friends, being brave enough to make moves.

Plus the more time I spend being lonely and, worse, resenting being lonely, the harder it is to be positive and non-needy.
posted by bunderful at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

How strict are you on the age? Asking because I'm a 29-year-old introvert and have asked sad questions (elsewhere) about using dating apps to find friends...
posted by Baethan at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2018

As for a toolkit - I dunno. A way to find people in my town I have things in common with would be great. If it was available in my market I'd totally use one of those apps for "friend dating."

My therapist has suggested looking at the friendships that have really worked out for me and what made those click, and looking for more people who have the same characteristics that I've clicked with in the past.

Making myself go out alone and do things where I might meet people is hard. Researching things I would actually like doing, is time-consuming and it's surprisingly easy to forget that it's an option. Ideas/encouragement for this stuff might be good. Like an app that tell me on Monday "plan stuff for the weekend! Ask someone to get coffee, or look at these volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood."
posted by bunderful at 5:40 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Finding things to talk about. I don't generally like to talk about my work or my kids (unless its another parent), but I don't really have any hobbies since work and kids take up all my time. I hate meeting new people because it makes me feel really goddamn boring when all I have to contribute is "ooh, Black Panther! Yeah... I'm going to catch it at Redbox whenever the DVD is out."
posted by gatorae at 5:45 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Honestly? Just having the time and energy to socialize. My energy is zapped since hitting late 30s and when I come home from work I just want to zone out. Weekends are so precious and valuable for getting things done (laundry, groceries, basically anything around the house I’m too tired to do after work) that I hardly can make time for friends.

Related, it seems like everyone I know around this area has started going to bed earlier so there’s even less time in the day than when we were in our 20s. Blah!
posted by joan_holloway at 5:56 PM on April 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

Dealing with what happens when I meet someone new and they want to be my friend but I'm not really feeling it. Especially when social media and whatnot allow people to be all up in your grill pretty much whenever they want. Like, we had a nice time but also you said a couple of things that sounded kinda casually racist and now you seem to think we're besties and I can't get away from you. I haven't figured out how to gracefully disentangle myself from such situations.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:56 PM on April 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Talking. Like, actually making words come out.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:09 PM on April 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

Finding common interest groups where there is an interactive component that allows people to get to know one another, and where I also feel comfortable being an active participant. Finding the energy and the time to show up consistently enough to develop friendships from acquaintances.
posted by jazzbaby at 6:15 PM on April 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think the difficulty is a consequence of having too much control over who you spend time with. Younger people discover friends among groups of people they wouldn’t have chosen to spend time with, and have the chance to do so because they don’t have much choice — to attend a boring class, or hang out with unpleasant acquaintances or coworkers, etc. When you get to the point in life that you can say no to some of that unpleasant stuff, seeking friends becomes too much like shopping. It’s the opposite of a problem solvable with a toolkit.
posted by jon1270 at 6:36 PM on April 5, 2018 [29 favorites]

Making a transition from meeting someone who seems like potential friend material to establishing the kind of continuing contact with them that leads to a friendship that can stand alone, regardless of whether you continue to engage in the meetup group or whatever situation or activity brought you together. This is especially difficult if you don't have Facebook or Instagram or some other popular social media presence, because no one wants to email or talk on the phone anymore.

There's a lot of relatable content in this post, but I think jon1270 touched on something huge - when you don't encounter, or can easily opt out of, situations that force you to interact on an ongoing basis with a diverse group of people who are sharing a common experience, you just...don't have the raw material necessary to turn acquaintances (coal) into friends (diamonds).
posted by the thought-fox at 6:52 PM on April 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

I tend to go into every interaction that I have with a stranger/acquaintance/co-worker with the assumption that they aren't interested in becoming my friend. This assumption keeps me from saying anything beyond the bare minimum required to accomplish whatever the point of the interaction was, which of course was never "to make a friend." I probably feel that way because I usually have the sense we don't have much in common. Not in a bad way, just in a reality way.

I often find myself wishing I had friends where I live now. I don't live near any of my friends anymore. My husband is in the same boat. We're both super introverted and have solitary hobbies, and we don't have children. So I'm rarely forced into that special situation others have mentioned where friendships have the opportunity to form.

I guess my biggest challenge is figuring out how to do things where I spend regular time doing activities with people that are more like me, seeing as that most of my time outside work is spent at home with my husband, and figuring out what those activities should be.
posted by wondermouse at 6:55 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm picky. I'm older and don't like wasting my time with people I don't feel a connection to. It would be interesting if there was a resource for quickly finding interesting groups / volunteering opportunities / meetups in my area though honestly I feel like I could find all those things with a little googling, so .... I don't know.
posted by xammerboy at 6:59 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

My personal time comes as a package deal with my spouse and two children. Most folks in my peer group also have spouses and children. That's a geometric equation of people who need to find each other pleasant to hang out with. It almost never happens.

Being married with a family is great in a lot of ways but in this one way it's very lonely.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:08 PM on April 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Time and energy. I want to turn acquaintances into friends but with work, study, family obligations, existing friendship obligations, errands, household stuff, nurturing my own relationship with my husband, squeezing in some self-care time...where? Honestly, where.

Social media helps a bit but also not really, it makes it easier to "pretend" to be friends because you 'like' each others posts and photos but it doesn't feel like a real connection. Part of me thinks those connections just can't exist anymore the older you get. I have two friends I really connect with but that's it and I miss it.
posted by liquorice at 7:13 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

- Not feeling like I'm too boring or too awkward to be a friend.
- Finding people who I can be borderline non-PC with and laugh with. Laughing and having the same kind of sense of humour, is so important to me in a friendship.
- Finding people who just want to hang out one-on-one and not necessarily go to a bar. Most *almost new friends* that I meet want to hang out in larger social groups that often involve alcohol. My reaction to that: Eh, no thanks (too much noise and attentiveness involved.)

My dream toolkit would be a way to find kinda normal, nice, but sarcastic and funny people who would want to do low-key stuff to keep each other company.
posted by watrlily at 7:26 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Um, all of the above?

I guess for me, right now, I hate where I live, and so I'm reluctant to even look for opportunities to meet people, because I don't want anything to tie me to this place I hate.

But yeah, even if I did want to make friends, I wouldn't know where to go/do, I wouldn't know what to say to start a conversation, and I wouldn't be able to interact enough to sustain a relationship. Heck, half the time I dint even respond to my wife's texts, and the only reason I eventually interact with her is because we live in the same place and I can't avoid her.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem is time, as in too many demands that I've already committed to, as others have said.

Another problem: when I want friendship, does the other person want sex and/or romance?

Another problem: as a 30-something single introvert, am l using all of my limited meet-new-people energy on dating?
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 7:28 PM on April 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have serious trust issues so it’s hard for me to make the leap from acquaintance to friend. I need to interact with that person repeatedly in a low stakes environment where it’s not awkward for me to leave when I need to. I met my 3 closest friends in person first, we got each other’s contact info and then chatted online for awhile, meeting for coffee/drinks sporadically. After about a year they know most of my deep dark secrets and I’d give any of them my keys and credit card.
posted by AFABulous at 7:49 PM on April 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I should say that in that year, I met dozens of others who didn’t make the cut for various reasons.
posted by AFABulous at 7:50 PM on April 5, 2018

I don’t connect with people that often, so when I do, I try to make it into a friendship. I am always scared that I am coming on too strong and that the other person is giving off vibes like “no thanks,” but I’m too excited to pick up on them. This translates into me taking the smallest signs of potential disinterest (that may, in reality, just be busyness, or tiredness) and assuming the worst. I hate to make others uncomfortable or socially stifled. I’m not sure what the toolkit could do to make me not have this paranoia; I just wish more people would say: “Let's be friends!”
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:12 PM on April 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I love the app idea, I tried friend bumble but my city hasn't cottoned on to it. I have a hard time finding people that are in the same place in life that I am. Most of my interests (cats, gardening, canning) fall squarely into older woman territory. Most people my husband and I meet that are our age are either not as settled down or already have the house and kids, and we're somewhere in the middle? I wouldn't even know where to go to find people my age. So far, the main place is the gym at midnight and that's not really a place you strike up a casual conversation.
posted by Bistyfrass at 11:09 PM on April 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm defining "friend" as "someone I feel comfortable confiding in".

I would say that trouble moving from acquaintanceship to friendship, plus getting out of "life stage" sync with some existing friends are my biggest challenges. I'm single with no kids, and know a lot of people in long-term relationships and a growing number with young children. I find myself drifting apart from these groups even though some of these connections go back a while, especially so with parents of young kids because rearing children (understandably) takes so much time and focus.

Outside of that issue, it just seems harder to connect with people beyond a superficial level at this age. I meet perfectly nice people through activities, and we enjoy the activity together and have pleasant and witty conversations, but that is as far as it goes. No connection persists beyond that structured time. I think jon1270 is on to something about having so much control over who one spends time with. Bonding through shared adversity and shared discovery is a catalyst for forming social bonds, but there are fewer opportunities for this as people settle into established careers and relationships.
posted by 4rtemis at 11:17 PM on April 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I really relate to what others have said above about opportunities to meet people (not just like-minded people), and I think time is a huge part of it - some of my closest friends are people I didn't initially bond with (while the early bonds became casual friends or acquaintances), but got to know over years of contact, like at college. I'm also really introverted by nature and in my hobbies, and I rarely feel lonely but I know I need to build more friendships to reinforce and balance the ones I have.

The hardest thing is that I feel like everyone I meet is already doing fine for friends. That's probably not true, and maybe extra probable when they are people without kids. It feels like an imposition to push for friendship in any way, so I guess I really need that app.

What I'm currently trying is to look for opportunities to make acquaintances and casual friends - I went to a sewing meetup (with instagrammers!) where I'd be glad to see everyone again, I'm going to a knitting festival and a writing workshop. (I've made hi-bye friends at the gym, but that's about it.) They might come to nothing beyond a few nice chats, or maybe running into people again and again throws up potential friendships.
posted by carbide at 12:14 AM on April 6, 2018

I'm in my 40s and don't have children. People my age usually do. And that's fine. I'd love to be friendly with them too, but if there is (activity) on Saturday afternoon, it's far easier for them to go to Applebee's with the other activity-parents right afterwards and their kids than to peel off and do something with me. Even if I'm cool with Applebee's. (Spoiler: even if you think I'm all childless hoity-toity wine bar lady, I'm cool with Applebee's.)

Also, I have no idea how to ask someone out on a first friend-outing. I can get to "Hey, we've been social media friends for a few years now and we're local so I'd love to meet up with you sometime!" And I get an "Okay!" And then...I should probably be saying, " ...I'd love to meet up with you sometime, how's dinner on Thursday or Saturday sound?" Right. I'll get on that.
posted by kimberussell at 5:34 AM on April 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Even as an introvert who is good at making one-on-one connections, it's the one-on-one connections themselves that really seem to limit my social life. I'm a thinky sort of person who gets pigeonholed as the "serious" friend rather than the "fun" friend. In my 20s, as part of a pre-existing group in university/etc this wasn't as big a deal, but as I got separated from that group and began to make one-off friendships I found that I can't seem to scale those relationships up to a versatile social life.

Hanging out with one other person is a much different vibe than spending time with a group. I'm a thinky, serious person - as are some of my friends - and if I'm hanging out with a friend we'll get to talking and it's hard to steer the conversation away from work or life issues sometimes. To be honest, I make commiseration partners much more easily than I do activity partners or casual friends, so as I've gotten older I've become a lot more apprehensive about taking the next step with acquaintances because I feel like I don't know how to create social fun anymore.

Not having a group of friends makes me a lot more hesitant to initiate/invite people to do things with me, because their enjoyment is going to depend on the activity we're doing and/or how I perform socially. If I'm feeling venty or not at my shiniest, I risk making that time together not "fun enough", which wouldn't be as much of an issue in group settings.

I don't feel like I can bring together friends with whom I spend time with solo because they often have little in common and again, if the time they spend with me can be enjoyable but isn't always super light-hearted, they may be apprehensive to spend time with me in different settings. I've joked about not being able to get people together for an enjoyable dinner party, but...truthfully it's a real issue.
posted by blerghamot at 6:06 AM on April 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

I have trouble reaching out to new people I've been introduced to or who are in my circles because I feel insecure they won't want to be bothered doing something with me. For example, inviting people over for dinner. I am a decent cook and enjoy entertaining but fear rejection or worse that someone will come over only out of feeling obligated! But when I meet people who eagerly invite me to come to a small or large party or meet for lunch I am very impressed with their easy manner and don't feel that kind of pressure to attend.
posted by waving at 6:35 AM on April 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

One challenge for me is that I dislike party/ small-talk/ hanging out with acquaintances or strangers, which means I have no interest in doing the things people do in order to meet new people. It’s subjecting myself to a wholly unpleasant experience with low odds of future rewards, so generally I just don’t.
posted by metasarah at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

My social circle shrank dramatically after I separated from my husband - I stopped attending their BBQs, dinners etc.

My ex is a dud as a co-parent so I’m not guaranteed consistent days without my child. And I have my child most days. Parenting takes my time.

My child is 11, very awkward age. Too old for a sitter, but too young to be left alone for extended periods (I max out at 4 hours in the day and a dog walk/grocery run in the night). She needs my support due to Disappearing Dad. Also, she is very interested in socializing with her friend group and is less interested in meeting with folks that I know but she doesn’t. That all translates to little social life for me.

I have hope that once my kid is in the 14+ age range that I can attend early evenings out, classes, hobby groups as a way to extend my social circle.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2018

This might also partially be my location, but it seems like most people I run into filled up their friend quota in college and really haven't looked into meeting new people since. Plus, work and sleep and doing responsible adult things takes up a lot of time.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:39 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The energy to persevere after leaving yet another group for any number of reasons. It takes time for me to feel comfortable enough to put down roots in a group and I'm not quick to leave when things get difficult, so when I finally do it's out of disgust/exasperation. Every community has its problems, but the more it happens to me, the less I want to try.
posted by koucha at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

My problem is that I hardly ever meet anyone that is around my age. I'm not opposed to being friends with someone in their early 20s or 40s etc. but in my experience, the way they want to spend their free time is not how I want to spend mine. Also, I earn a lot less money than people in my age bracket so I can't do stuff like go out to dinner or a bar every week, and that limits how much socialising I can do. Unless a situation pops us that makes me think "Hey, {new person I met} might think this is a rad thing to do!" and it's some cheap thing at the museum etc. I'm just never going to extend an invite to an acquaintance to get that ball rolling.
posted by BeeJiddy at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Many of the things others have mentioned resonate with me, especially my fear of coming off as too clingy/needy/try-hard/what-if-they-don't-friend-me-back? anxiety/etc.... I reallyreallyreallyreally like my relationships with other humans to be really substantive and deep and thick, and I'm self-aware enough to know that because of this I can come off too strong too soon, and I can be an over-sharer, and I can make people really uncomfortable by being too eager for friend-intimacy. Because I know this, I severely over-compensate, and have been told that I can come off as cold or shy or "snobby" (have you heard that used since middle school?!) or some other variation of closed off.....Not a very successful friend-making strategy.

But another big factor for me that limits my ability to make new friends is that (despite life stage mismatches and physical distance) I'm still really, intensely connected with my small group of friends from my late teens/early 20s. Our relationship is really tight, we've all been through some serious shit together, and there's so much history and love there that relationship maintenance is easy and pleasurable.

I find that with new acquaintances I meet, I (unfairly) want to bail - or at least not pursue a deeper friendship - early on because I'm (again, unfairly) disappointed that our relationship doesn't have the depth that my relationship with my "real" friends does. Obviously this is silly and irrational - why compare a new relationship to one that developed of many years, and through the most formative years of your adult life? That's nuts! - but it is nevertheless how I feel when trying to take a friendship to the next step. It just feels a little false and a little empty and a little disappointing always, like the person is pleasant enough, and we can get along well enough, but there's no real substance there, ya know? It feels forced (because it probably is) and faked (even though it might not be).

Of course, the only way to get a new relationship to any level of substance is time and shared experiences....but who has time to build that at this age?! And if I'm honest, I'm not sure that any friendship can ever really live up to the kind of friendships you develop in those intense post-adolescent/early adulthood years.....
posted by Dorinda at 4:15 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, age/life stage/time. Some friends are far away (globalization), kids (or not) and partners (or not) are factors. In addition, I tend to feel closest to other low-key introverts who are chronically short on time and energy, so finding a day when all relevant actors are in the mood to leave the house can be a challenge.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:42 PM on April 6, 2018

Yo, so expat, freelance, single, childless, mid-30's here.

I think the difficulty is a consequence of having too much control over who you spend time with. Younger people discover friends among groups of people they wouldn’t have chosen to spend time with, and have the chance to do so because they don’t have much choice — to attend a boring class, or hang out with unpleasant acquaintances or coworkers, etc. When you get to the point in life that you can say no to some of that unpleasant stuff, seeking friends becomes too much like shopping. It’s the opposite of a problem solvable with a toolkit.
posted by jon1270 at 10:36 AM on April 6 [18 favorites +] [!]


Last October, I'd had it, couldn't take anymore, fed up to here, all kinds of fun depression and malaise, and I said, "nope, gonna do this winter in Indonesia". Not everyone has this luxury of course, but I did, and I'll be damned if that didn't shake me out of my rut. I made All The Friends. They like me I like them I'm coming back they're visiting me... hell I made enemies. There was nightlife drama about me. I had a fantastic time just picking mangoes with someone's grandmother who sells garlic by the roadside for a living! Met her through her granddaughter on Tinder...but I went in to the adventure so depressed that I was up for anything. Tinder date led to mangoes with grandma and a good time was had by all. Nothing shady or weird happened and it was all very innocent and I just went with it. And I will not lie, Tinder was my starting point, but I mean, where else am I gonna find English speakers outside of commercial transactions? And yeah, Couchsurfing, random forums...but that all takes time. Tinder's just in your phone, boom, match, what's up, tell me about yourself. I was in a foreign country, didn't speak the language, and I had wonderful adventures I wouldn't have dared to repeat at home. I hunted frogs with a bow and arrow.

And then I came home with my mind blown, fired up Tinder, and started the process over. And this time I DO speak the language, and I do know this city like the back of my hand, and there are tons of people in this city I've been ignoring who must be up to some interesting things. Those old friends wanna go to bed early? Fine, I'll find some who won't!

Obviously not everyone can just go to Indonesia for 6 months and recover their lust for life...but then again...they have a pretty lenient visa policy and life on the ground isn't expensive there. I started in a $600/month airbnb and within 2-3 months I found a $184/month room. And then I discovered Singapore on a visa run. Hello $40 flights...so maybe you can?

It took hitting a low point in my life to put up with crap I thought I was done with, too old for, and too good for. Visa runs are the height of expat skeeviness, I thought once. Not speaking the language is just stupid, I thought. Nope. Socializing takes work, and putting up with the dumb stuff is the work. I was aided greatly by being older and having definite preferences informed by experience, rather than just having biases informed by...well a lot of people seem to get their life views from Instagram. I can very definitively tell you what I like and don't like, and now that I know those things, I can get creative about avoiding them, as well as about enjoying the moment despite it being imperfect. I might not speak the language, but I'm great at pantomiming and mugging, and I love learning languages, now it doesn't bother me so much.

It's a sliding scale, you decide how far to open it up, but really, the more you can, and the more of that discomfort you can tolerate in the name of adventure, the easier you'll find it to make friends.

Also, with that in mind, reconsider your bucket list. Maybe skydiving in the Alps really isn't for you, but learning to play the ukulele is. Maybe once you post on craigslist, you find out your tutor is a member of the local chapter of the World Andean Skydiving Ukulele Association, so if you give up Switzerland for Peru, your dreams can come true! You always wanted to see Tortoise and Mouse on the Keys but they were never in your town, so you settled for studying Chinese, got a scholarship in Beijing, and OH HAI. You will be surprised what you find. Begin pursuing your realistic goals in a sustainable manner and stuff will pop up. Others be damned, do what you wanna do, you'll find allies, the allies will surprise you. Take that on faith.
posted by saysthis at 12:13 AM on April 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

My most successful social experiences are owed to extraverted friends who aren't hesitant to call/text me and ask me what I'm doing and would I like to go to an exhibit or try a new restaurant.

An app that took on some of the work of the aggression for introverts might be good. A check-in could pop-up every week or so "Are you lonely right now? How long has it been since you did something social? Would you like to plan something for the next several days?"

If the user isn't lonely and doesn't want to plan anything: Good for you! Maybe the app tracks the not-lonely response for the user on a calendar.

If the user is does want to plan something, the app could then say "Here are other users interested in planning something. Pat likes modern art and knitting and likes to plan things on Saturday afternoons" and the user would have the option to message other users.
posted by bunderful at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

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posted by taz (staff) at 6:05 AM on April 22, 2018

I think people have less close friends than you think, especially the older they are. In fact , I know someone who has a a lot of friends, except that most of them are from work. When they leave, they are usually not that close anymore. That comforted me because it shows how much circumstances and work can push people together and make them look more intimate than you think.

Single childless people will generally be a low priority for couples socially. Some married people still think socializing must be done with couples only! Hang out around people without kids or who have older kids who have freedom to go out to clubs, movies, shows, arcade, or whatever.

Most people get married and have kids. In my experience, married couples with kids have to make a consistent effort to involve you in their lives, which reduces the likelihood of closeness. I mention events I'm interested in advance and parents are the flakiest. But they may have a single friend you've met once or twice who will go.
posted by Freecola at 7:40 PM on April 24, 2018

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