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November 20, 2020
by Tina Arnoldi

Lack of Time and Introversion Prevents Adults from Making Friends

November 20, 2020 08:45 by Tina Arnoldi  [About the Author]

Photo by Felix Rostig on Unsplash

New research in the September 2020 issue of Personality and Individual Differences lists 40 reasons people have trouble making friends. The most important factors included “lack of time” and “Introversion”. I asked experts to share their thoughts on how people can overcome these barriers to making friends.  

Blogger Christine Wilcox relates to introversion as a barrier to making friends. She said, “When meeting new people, I thought I didn't have anything interesting to say, and worried about saying the wrong thing. I would often watch a conversation for some time before participating actively in it. This tended to make people think I was aloof or disinterested, when I was just shy.”

Her advice? “Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. If you ask them questions, actively listen, and then ask more questions, they will walk away from the conversation feeling good about themselves, and in turn feeling good about you. It also means people don't have to worry about coming up with lots of interesting things to say, as the main thing they're doing is listening and then asking more questions.”

Peter Mann, founder of SC Vehicle Hire, suggests that introverts bring an extroverted friend with them to gatherings, and let the person do the initial talking. Mann notes, “you'll be with your friend who clears the way so you can easily join in the conversation. This eliminates those crucial first steps that introverts usually trip up on.”

Mann also sees social media as a positive tool for introverts to find people with similar interests. “If a person likes pets, books, or skincare, there are tons of groups to meet like-minded people,” said Mann. “Another thing to consider is online classes. It can open you up to meeting people from around the world, especially if the class involves video conferencing.”

Dr. Brian Wind, Chief Clinical Officer of JourneyPure, agrees with the suggestion for introverts to join activities that allow them to build friendships. “Signing up for regular weekly activities where people meet the same people each time can help introverts to take the time they need to open up to others,” said Wind. “Common interests are an easy way to get a conversation started.”

The benefit of meeting people through activities is that it’s a low pressure way to learn if you connect well with them. Genesis Games, LMHC with Healing Connectionssaid it “reduces the possibility for awkwardness because you focus on that activity. So you have something to discuss, even if you have nothing in common.”

Author Mary Potter Kenyon didn’t feel she had many friends until she attended a writer’s conference ten years ago. It made a difference for her to interact with others who shared her passion. Because she found value in this connection, she began forming tribes of her own in a Bible study and lifelong learner's group. Kenyon realized how valuable this was later; “It's a good thing I developed some fledgling friendships at that writer's conference in the summer of 2011 because those women became a support system for me when my husband died a few months later in March 2012.” She developed that support before she was in crisis and since then has “established many friendships through shared interests and groups.”

In addition to introversion, the study noted that “lack of time” was listed as a barrier to friendships. Since we make time for the things that are important to us, Wind believes we should view friendships as an important investment of our time, adding that “spending time with friends can improve our creativity and boost our energy levels which has spillover effects to other aspects of our lives.” 

Nicole Arzt, LMFT, and advisory board member for Family Enthusiast, reminds us that how we make friendships changes as we get older. Arzt noted, “In our adult lives, friendships are challenging to keep up because they are often our only optional relationships. We feel obligated to maintain our relationships with our partners, family members, coworkers, and children. But friends are voluntary. As a result, we tend to prioritize them last. And with everyone having such busy schedules, it is difficult to carve out a few hours to spend time with our friends. As a therapist, I always advocate for the importance of friends. Often, these people help fill gaps where our other relationships cannot.”  

Whatever the reason, whether it's time, introversion, or another factor mentioned in the study, creating and maintaining friendships as adults is challenging for most people. It takes intentionality and effort to follow-up with people and show up when we invited. Games summed it up by saying, “No one is setting play dates for us anymore. Humans, regardless of their age, are social beings who need to connect with others and feel supported.” 

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi, MA is a business consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. She has reviewed books for PsychCentral and has a portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com


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