The following is an excerpt from Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids by Susan Cain, with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz.
There’s no single trick to finding a true, devoted friend. I’ve suggested a few possibilities here, but the most important thing is to keep your mind and heart open. Your next best friend could be that quiet new kid in the corner, or the loud and popular one standing up on the table in the middle of the cafeteria. And you, with your interest in deep one-on-one conversations and willingness to listen closely, can be a valuable friend to them both.
Be yourself: Don’t try to be someone you’re not, in order to impress. A true friend will appreciate you for you. “Don’t fake being an extrovert to gain friends,” advises an introvert named Rara. “One good friend is so much better than a lot of acquaintances. Even if that means sometimes you’re alone, it’s better than having to be fake around people.”
Risk solitude: Extract yourself from mean groups of people or friendships that feel toxic. As Brittany learned, it’s better to have no friends than to stay in a damaging, bullying relationship. You deserve to be around people who make you feel relaxed and yourself — whether you’re feeling happy or sad.
Join a group: This advice may sound counterintuitive to a quiet person. But a team, club, or extracurricular activity can be a great way to build new friendships. You’ll spend time with people who share your interest, and there’s less pressure to make a great first impression. “When you’re joining a class or a group that you’re going to attend regularly, you’ll be able to make friends more easily,” says Jared, an introverted boy from California. “You can get to know each other slowly and let time do the work.”
Start small: A teenager named Mitchell spent several years moving from place to place as his father, an Army officer, was transferred from one military base to another. As a result, Mitchell was forced to develop a strategy for making friends. His rule? Find one good friend first. Once he’d solidified that bond, and found someone he could truly trust, he would start thinking about branching out and building more friendships.
Team up: A teen named Teresa says that she struggles to make new friends on her own, but when she’s with one of her outgoing friends, she meets people she might not have otherwise. “I have found the best way to meet new people is by having my friends with me,” she said. “It’s a great way of being in your comfort zone while socializing.”
Ask questions: Listening is one of your superpowers, so use it when meeting new people by asking questions about them, and then asking follow-up questions that show you are paying careful attention. You’ll learn a lot about the person quickly, and as a bonus, you’ll be giving yourself a break from talking while the other person tells you his or her tales. (Just be careful not to turn the conversation into a one-sided interview! People want to hear a little from you, too.)
Empathize: Everybody feels insecure or awkward sometimes — even the most extroverted, charismatic, or intimidating person in the cafeteria. By imagining what others might be feeling, you’ll find yourself more comfortable around them.
Use your words: Remember that nobody is a mind reader. Eventually you’ll need to speak up to make sure that people know how you’re feeling. A true friend will want to listen.
Excerpted from Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids by Susan Cain, with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz with permission of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2016 by Susan Cain.