I don’t like big groups. More specifically, I don’t like being in big groups of people I don’t know when there’s nothing to do but socialize. For an introvert, that’s just about the worst thing there is. In my ideal world, people would approach me and seek out my friendship every time I entered a new place. Then, as all the people in the group welcomed me with open arms, I would be completely at ease in this circle of my new best friends.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the way any group I’ve ever encountered operates. Especially at big church events, it’s hard to meet new people without experiencing at least one of these painful, large group minglings. In fact, I have a quick and easy three step plan that I execute whenever I sense one of these coming on.
- I head for the snack table. At least I won’t have to stand with my arms awkwardly crossed if there are some pretzels to snack on!
- I cling closely to anyone I know. I don’t care if we just said hi and sat next to each other in the church service, I’m going to stick by your side because you’re the only familiar face in this large and overwhelming crowd.
- (Worst case scenario) I skip it. If I know there will be a time for socializing before the main event, I’ll show up late. Or if I see groups of friends forming to chat after Bible study, I’ll run for the parking lot.
Warning: This plan may work a little too well. It helps me avoid small talk with people I don’t know, but I also end up driving away feeling a little bit empty. As I’ve religiously operated by this three step plan, I’ve also dealt with feelings of loneliness. I’ve realized I can’t have it all; I either have to leave my cozy comfort zone or forfeit the opportunity for deep friendships. And as much as I love a quiet night at home with Netflix, my heart grows bitter and weary without life-giving relationships.
I personally think that the benefits of deep friendship outweigh the mind-numbing comforts of Netflix, so I came up with a new game plan that’s more challenging and definitely more rewarding.
- Don’t expect immediate intimacy. The beginning stages of a friendship are the hardest, when you don’t feel completely comfortable or at ease. It’s easy to withdraw when you don’t experience an immediate, heartfelt connection with the person you’ve just met, but don’t be afraid to take a few more chances to truly discover their personality.
- Be the first to initiate. This can be the hardest thing for any introvert. I hate to put myself out there at the risk of rejection, but I rarely regret it. Once people realize that you’re interested in spending time with them, whether it’s just at a Bible study or over a cup of coffee, they’ll want to get to know you, too!
- Don’t be discouraged by dead ends. If they don’t laugh at jokes the first time, don’t give up. My freshman year of college, I showed my roommate what I thought was one of the funniest Youtube videos of all time. I’m pretty sure she smiled through a few minutes of it and then slipped out the door when I was too busy laughing to notice. But, I kept telling her my jokes and we ended up laughing late into the night for the majority of that year.
My fellow introverts, don’t be discouraged. Friendship is out there! Your preference for small group settings and comfortable routine doesn’t make you boring. In fact, your loyalty and willingness to listen probably make you a pretty great friend. Just like any good adventure, the rewards of relationship come after you take that brave first step.