Tips for Making New Friends When You’re Shy

Updated on August 22, 2017
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Sadie Holloway writes about enjoying the good life while living on a modest income. She loves finding creative ways to save money.

Does shyness keep you from reaching out and making new friends? Don't worry, you're not alone. Chances are there are other shy people out there who would like to make new friends, just like you!

Taking Fido to a local dog park is one way to get outside and meet new people, especially if you are shy.
Taking Fido to a local dog park is one way to get outside and meet new people, especially if you are shy.

Is it possible for people who have been timid all their lives to get past their shyness and reach out to make new friends? Yes! But the answer is not to try to be someone else, someone you think is more outgoing. The answer is to just be yourself and fearlessly celebrate every positive thing that makes you a unique and interesting individual!

If your shyness is causing problems for you at work, at school or among friends, there are some simple things you can do to boost your confidence and reduce your feelings of social awkwardness.

  • Do you often find it hard to connect with other people, especially people you have just met?
  • Do you sometimes find yourself really wanting to talk to a particular person but are afraid to approach them because you fear they might reject you?
  • Do you think that you would be happier, richer and more satisfied with life if only you weren’t so shy?

Overcoming your shyness isn’t about trying to change who you are. Or pleasing other people. Or always being able to say the right thing at the right time. We all want to be that person; the person who seems to have it all: a magnetic personality, endless attention and an unshakeable confidence. But the truth is, if you have to be someone else in order to feel likeable and sociable, you’ll wear yourself out. It takes a lot of energy trying to figure out what you think other people want you to be. In fact, most people would rather you be who you are. After all, you aren’t the only one who can sniff out a faker; other people can, too. And if you are fake, others will soon catch on. Then you can really kiss your chances of making new friends good-bye!

Making small talk over a cup of coffee with an acquaintance is a good start if you are shy but want to make new friends.
Making small talk over a cup of coffee with an acquaintance is a good start if you are shy but want to make new friends.

Be honest with yourself about why you want to be friends with a certain person. Is it because they have things that you wish you had (i.e.; money, prestige, status)? Do you think that by being friends with that person, you’ll be able to ride their coattails up the social ladder? If your desire to be friends with someone stems from feelings of envy or an attempt at material gain, then you won’t form friendships that last very long!

Approach your wish to make new friends from a place of genuine interest and compassion for other people. You wouldn’t want others to approach you based on your social or material status, would you? Be truthful with yourself about why you want to meet someone; your relationship will be much more enduring if it is born of mutual honesty and equality.

Practice your conversational skills. Starting an easy, effortless and comfortable conversation with another person seems to come naturally for some people, while others have to work a little harder to come out of their shells. Read books on how to strike up and maintain a friendly conversation with someone you've just met. And if you head to the library or local independent bookseller to find self-help books on shyness, you never know who'll you'll meet in the aisle! Libraries are great places to meet other people if you want to practice being less shy and awkward.

Making new friends starts with a smile and a genuine interest in learning about someone else. If you can’t think of anything to say at a party, on a date or at the lunchroom table, find something nice to say about someone else. Give someone a compliment or ask them about something they're wearing. If being shy means you don’t like to talk about yourself, just ask questions and be genuinely curious about other people. You’d be surprised at how many people are just dying to talk to someone and share their life story. (Hint: Those people want to make friends, too!)

Are you shy? You're in good company! Here are just a few famous, smart, beautiful people who have identified themselves as being shy:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Barbara Walters
  • Johnny Carson
  • Sting
  • Princess Diana

Even among the rich and famous, the bold and the beautiful, and the smart and sassy, there are shy folks.

From Shyness: A Bold New Approach by Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D and Susan Golant.

Be who you are and celebrate your own personal style. Wear the clothes that make you proud and confident. It doesn’t matter if your coat is from Burberry or from a charity thrift shop. If you feel good wearing it, that’s all that matters. When you feel comfortable and at ease with how you look, it will be easier for you to take a few steps forward and reach out to another person.

Get busy doing the things that you really want to do if you want to make new friends! Sometimes it's tempting to pick up hobbies and recreational activities that you think will make it easier to talk to other people. Following a certain fashion trend, watching a certain TV program or hanging out at a club that seems to attract lots of people isn’t necessarily the best way to find new friends. Why? Because if you aren’t truly into those things, you won’t have a good time. And one of the easiest ways to meet people is to actually have a good time. Happiness and joy are magnetic.

If you’re a bookworm, join a book club. Do you have a passion for theater? Take an acting class. Or if you're really good at acting, then teach an acting class! Focus your attention on doing the things that you really want to do, not the things that you think other people want you to do. Keeping up with games and activities that you don’t enjoy will zap your energy. You’re likely to start more friendships among a small group of people doing things that you love than you would by hanging out with a large group of people doing something that you really don't want to do.

Where or when do you feel the shyest?

See results
If you feel shy, like this little pup, why not let your love of animals help you break out of your shell? Connecting with other dog 'parents' at your local park is one way to start overcoming shyness.
If you feel shy, like this little pup, why not let your love of animals help you break out of your shell? Connecting with other dog 'parents' at your local park is one way to start overcoming shyness.

Find out what is really holding you back from making new friends. For example, is a language barrier keeping you from reaching out to other people? Do you think that you must have perfect English (or French or Mandarin, whatever the dominant language in your community is), in order to talk to other people? If you are afraid to reach out to other people because you are nervous about your language skills, then join a conversation club or language class at your community center! You’ll meet other people just like you who want to meet people while learning a new language.

For some people, there are other things besides shyness that present barriers to meeting new friends. For example, someone with a physical disability may not be able to access certain social venues. For other people, feeling cash-strapped and broke may make the idea of going out for a good time seem impossible. Think carefully about what it is that is really preventing you from having the social life that you want—it may not just be shyness—and then see if you can find creative ways to get around those obstacles. Turn your barriers into opportunities to meet other people who may be facing the same challenges as you. After all, isn’t that what we are looking for when we seek to make new friends: someone who shares a common life experience?

Be open to a new definition of "friend." Some people think that the people you work with or your family members don't really count as your friends. Do you assume that these aren't real "friends" because, due to circumstances, they have to hang out with you and be nice to you? Give yourself, and your co-workers and family, more credit than that. Having such a narrow definition of who can be classified as a friend isn't really a fair assessment of you, your likeability and your ability to meet new people. And it's not a fair assessment of the other people either. Any relationship, whether it is with a family member or someone two cubicles over, takes effort. No one can be forced to like you, even if it says that they have to on their birth certificate. If you get along well with your co-workers and your family, then by golly, you do have friends.

Remind yourself that you are a likable person. And that is enough. Think of the people in your life who love and appreciate you: a child in your life, a sister or brother, a wise old mentor. It doesn’t matter if these people aren't part of your social life or your so-called circle of friends. Their care and affection for you is proof that you are lovable, that you are likable and that you do have many positive things to share with the world.

Being yourself, being authentic, being real: those are the personality traits that will draw the right kind of people to you.

Check out some of these interesting and little-known facts about shyness!

  • Shy people have a stronger sense of smell than outgoing people do.
  • Humans aren't the only species to experience shyness. Scientists have discovered that there are shy cats, dogs, cattle, even shy fish!
  • Most shyness is hidden. Only a small percentage of shy people actually appear to be nervous or uncomfortable around new people.

To find out more interesting myths and realities about shyness read Shyness: A Bold New Approach by Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D and Susan Golant.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

— Anais Nin

© 2013 Sadie Holloway


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