Survey Says: How to Meet New People
How introverts make new friends (and more).
Posted February 21, 2012
In general, the responses confirmed what we already know: Meeting new people is not particularly easy for introverts. Among the introverts who responded (and you could check more than one response), 44.8 percent checked "Beats me, I have trouble meeting people."
We prefer tried-and-true methods. "Introduction by friends and family" was the clear winner for both introverts and extraverts, with "At work or school" a close second. About 24 percent checked "Through volunteering": about 23 percent chose "Online"; and 13 percent chose "At parties."
A few introverts rejected the whole idea. "I'm really ok not meeting any more people," one wrote in. "I'm quite happy not to meet anyone," wrote another. My favorite response from among the nine extravert responses: "Always out annoying introverts, evidently, since I have never met a stranger..."
The take-home message I got from reading the responses is that introverts prefer meeting people in situations where they can take their time to warm up and where there's a natural subject for discussion (i.e. a club or class).
Not that this makes the job easy, necessarily. One friend of mine would love to meet new men, but finds that the activities she's drawn to—book clubs, cooking classes, lectures, for example—attract more women and couples than single men. (Hint, hint, introverted men.) And getting involved in an activity that doesn't particularly interest you just to meet the opposite sex defeats the purpose.
Introverts face challenges in the meeting-people arena. For one, speaking very generally, we tend not to be big risk takers. We're not likely to strike up conversations just for the hell of it because we're so averse to banal conversation. We turn down invitations we're not gung-ho about, which may cause us to limit our socializing to the same people. We take a while to decide about people and warm up to them, which means meeting someone interesting at a party may or may not go anywhere because our time with them is limited.
So we need to be aware of ways we might get in our own way. Sometimes you just have to stick your neck out either by reaching out to people, or by somehow making yourself appear approachable.
An example: I admired the work of a writer at my local newspaper. I dropped her a brief fan email, mentioned I used to work for the newspaper. She responded by inviting me and my husband to have dinner with her and husband, and the seeds of a new friendship were planted. It's not what I expected, but I know how much I appreciate notes of appreciation, so I knew that at the very least, I would make another writer feel good-and it paid off.
Now, some of the write-in responses:
- ...parties can be a great way to allow myself to be more of an extravert for a short period of time. However, it is hard to meet introverted women as they seem to always be in hiding. I'd feel weird approaching a girl at a coffee shop or book store because I fear coming off as a creep by doing that. At a party it is much more acceptable to approach someone and introduce oneself.
- I'm very involved with couchsurfing.org, and meet a lot of people through couchsurfing events and mutual friends. To the contrary, I hate parties, especially if I don't know most of the people there, and my hatred is directly proportional to how many people are there.
- During sports/activities; something where communication is secondary to something else instead of the focal point of the interaction
- I feel like I can only get to know people when I'm obligated to spend a certain amount of time around them doing something.
- I have met plenty of people while on vacation... at museums, tours, etc.
- Meeting other people with the same interests - like in a hiking group, or a group of vegans. Check out meetup.com
- It's pretty awkward for me when I first meet people. This means parties (where I am intoxicated and willing to talk) and online are my best bets. I usually meet people by talking for a bit, online or not, then inviting them to a smaller party between me and my friends. Just so I can get to know them better.
- Walking my dog
- Conferences and seminars (likely to meet people with similar interests; easy to start a conversation about the subject at hand), traveling (can meet people of various cultures and with diverse interests), as well as classical music concerts, art galleries and museums (though I've never met people at these places, I'd really like to!).
- I'm ready to meet people in social situation that I chose to attend. Don't bother me anywhere else.
- I don't make friends easily, I have to really connect with someone in order to befriend them, otherwise it's just awkward. Since I have a hard time making friends, I tend to meet them anywhere, in random places. Sometimes at work, sometimes they're a neighbor, sometimes at a party. I met my fiance, who is an extravert, at a bar. He came up to me and talked to me first, I was by myself.
- Just random meetings. Total strangers who stop to ask me something, eg a direction, time, or just start chatting at tram/bus/train stops, or if i'm sitting on a bench eating a sandwich. Definitely not online—I don't think that online sites are very safe, there isnt the opportunity to get an instinctive feeling about them, watch their body language or read gestures and facial expressions.Ii rely heavily on my intuition about people when they are standing in front of me, so it doesn't matter where or how you meet them.
- Most people I meet are found through work.
- Pretty much any time I'm not home with one exception: Don't talk to me if I'm eating. It's a bit rude.
- Context, context, context. I need to have some knowledge of background, beliefs, interests, etc., before giving or receiving interest. Church, work, school, or mutual friends all count as "context." There is only a very small chance of becoming interested or attracted to someone when I have only just met them in a public place.
- New people are great in a structured environment. Parties are too overwhelming for me to do much more than sputter out lame answers and look for a way out.
- Outdoor hikes and classes by the local Audubon society. Church activities.
- Twitter. you can survey the landscape and talk to people who sound smart and interesting at your own convenience. Have met many introverts this way (as many as the extraverts!) You also get a sense of the extraverts and how they jump before connecting with them offline (and they, you).
- Public support for a shared cause, such as by setting up a table advertising a new club on a college or university campus.
- Meet people in the most random places, usually ones I frequent. If someone gives me the vibe that they could be a good friend, my intuition is usually right.
My book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released December 4, just in time for party/festive/family-togetherness season. You know you need it.