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An introvert’s guide to making friends in London

You’re in London, the most vibrant city in the UK. There are people everywhere. There are a plethora of opportunities. So why doesn’t that always mean feeling connected and having loads of friends? 

Specialist research commissioned by the charity Get Connected has found that a young person in London is twice as likely to be lonely as their counterparts elsewhere in the country. Throw into the mix that you’re an introvert, and making meaningful connections can be a challenge. As a general rule, introverts gain energy from pursuing their passions and interests. They are drawn to inventing, creating, exploring, expanding and regenerating and that often requires solitary space for their own thoughts.

But connection is important for all of us. According to social psychologist and neuroscientist, Matthew Lieberman, who wrote the book Social: Why our brains are wired to connect, our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. He asserts that when we experience social pain, such as a cruel word or social isolation, we feel it just as we feel physical pain. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert or something in between it’s vital for your health and wellbeing to pursue real connections. 

Sometimes, though, we need help to connect, particularly if we have a tendency towards introversion. Here are a few tips on how to navigate the buzzing city to get the most out of it whilst making some lifelong friends along the way. 

We've already done a guide to making new friends but this one is for real introverts

TIP 1: Courageously connect with people in person

Introverts don’t lack courage. Some of our bravest and most inventive world changers are introverts: Emma Watson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and J.K. Rowling have redefined their fields while also valuing time away from the spotlight to create. These achievements have been realised with both time spent alone and teams of valued people who believe in the work.

If you want to make friends in the big city be courageous about connecting with others over the passions that you share. Seek out your team. Most introverts aren’t generalists, they like pursuing specific passions. If you like the uke, find a uke group. If you’re into painting, join up with an art class, if you’re into coding find a coding group. The most important thing here is to find physical groups, not online groups.

TIP 2: Take a breath and power through

For introverts, it may seem easier to be alone. Doing new things and meeting new people often brings up various anxious impulses such as the need to throw up, collapse or run away. If you experience this type of internal resistance, try to remember that this reaction is a fear of change and you need to take action to grow. Make your new adventures more about discovering what you love and meeting interesting people may just be a fringe benefit.

Remember that because you’re inventive you deserve opportunities for expansion and, who knows, you may even meet people that totally get you. It’s worth it and these impulses will subside as you become familiar with the new. 

TIP 3: Give your screen a break

The online world is a tantalising one as it provides a platform for connections to be made around specialised subjects whilst removing the need for face-to-face interaction. It satisfies so many of an introvert’s perceived social needs that it’s almost been custom built just for us.

However, the benefits fall apart quite quickly when you consider our history as a species. The UK has had around 25 years of the internet and only around five years with the speeds we now enjoy. Homosapiens have existed as physically social beings for about 300,000 years and physical interaction and connection have been integral to our survival and to the formation of a brain primed for social interaction. Humans have experienced attachment to the online world for a minuscule period of our existence as a species.

study released in 2017 found that if you spend over two hours a day on social networks, your chances of feeling socially isolated are twice as high. So we can’t just flick this physical social drive off; physical interaction is part of our make-up.

TIP 4: Connect with places that make you feel more like yourself

You’re in London, one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world. It’s time to seek out places that help you to connect with who you are. Be bold, go on adventures and ask a new friend to come with you. Find the places that make you feel like you’re home.

Here’s some inspiration for your London adventures – see if you can tick them off your list:

  • London is full of quirky cafes. Shop around and find your favourite one. To start you off there’s a cafe completely dedicated to cereal, if that’s your thing.
  • London also has some of the world’s most famous parks. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has the world’s longest tunnel slide and Hampstead Ponds at Hampstead Heath has a great community of hardy year-round swimmers.
  • Try one of London’s many beautiful public libraries. The Senate House Library is believed to have inspired the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. You’ll find a reading room with leather sofas that’s perfect for some time out with your favourite book. 

TIP 5: Find a home environment that makes it easy to connect

When you choose somewhere to live, you are also making choices that will impact your ability to meet people. A co-living environment like The Collective is designed to cater to personal space as well as providing easy opportunities for meaningful connections. This means you can tap into social time without having to put yourself out too much and then tap out when you want some me-time. Friends can be made over a cook-up or a card game. You meet people around every corner, in a variety of spaces.

London is a big and exciting city but it is also full of people who want to meet you. It’s time to get out and find them!

What even is an introvert, anyway?

Whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or something in between we are all looking for friendship and acceptance. A person who appears extroverted might just be someone who also likes to draw alone in their room. An introvert may become the life of the party if the party is centred around the things they love. If we adopt the attitude that we can all relate to each other in some way then we’ve got an even greater chance of having some mind-blowing experiences with people who can surprise and love us in a multitude of ways.

Here’s a little further reading, from Susan Cain: “Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.” From Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking