For some, shyness can be debilitating, especially when it comes to meeting new people. And although there's no clinical definition of what constitutes being "shy," as it varies from person to person in degrees, research has found that 40 to 45 percent of adults consider themselves shy. So, if you consider yourself shy, you're not alone.
But it's important to remember that even for non-shy people, meeting new friends as an adult isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world. It involves putting yourself out there and, unless you're a gregarious sort who loves to be around people at all times, it can be really trying.
"The first thing that needs to happen is mindset," Jenn DeWall, millennial life and career coach, tells Bustle. "Meeting new people and being in new environments can be really intimidating and uncomfortable. It is totally normal."
And, if almost half the population considers itself shy, then you have to figure, by basic math and deduction, you're by no means the only shy person in the room. So to know that you're not the only one stepping outside their comfort zone is a place in which you can find comfort.
So here are the best ways to meet friends as a shy person, according to experts.
1. Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable
In addition to changing your mindset, DeWall suggests allowing yourself to be vulnerable. While no easy feat for some, it does allow you pull down the walls around you and let people in — there's also nothing wrong in admitting to others that you're shy.
"To be able to meet new friends we need to step out of our comfort zones and allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable," says DeWall. "If that is difficult to imagine, recall other times in your life that made you uncomfortable but you pushed through it and were able to either meet a new friend or try something new. Draw on this for inspiration."
2. Go To Meet-Ups
"Look for opportunities to meet people that will have shared interests with you," says DeWall. "Shared interests can be a great starting point for conversation and can make it easier to open up and connect."
Although it might seem obvious, sometimes the obvious is difficult to see. But, yes, going to meet-ups or any sort of groups that force you to interact with people is going to be beneficial. And, if you've allowed yourself to be vulnerable and unafraid to admit that, "hey, I'm not totally comfortable right now," the admission in itself can be an icebreaker.
3. Give Sweatworking A Whirl
Sweatworking is — wait for it — networking while working out. Whether it's a SoulCycle class, yoga, or something else, these scenarios are a great way to meet people because you're having a shared commonality. Nothing says, "you guys, we're all in this together," quite like trying to get yourself into Eka Hasta Vrksasana pose.
"When you're in the class, start small conversation," says DeWall. "It can be something as simple as asking if they have been to this class before or asking for recommendations for other class. Since you're already at the same class, you can be sure you already have common ground. Lean into that to help the conversation flow."
4. Try Bumble
You can use Bumble for more than just dating. The second-most popular app with millennials also has features for networking (Bumble Biz) or finding new friends (Bumble BFF). "Using [Bumble] can help you meet people online that have similar interests," says DeWall. "You can even start communicating online before meeting up which can help bolster confidence to combat the shyness."
5. Sign Up For A Recreational Sport
As they say, there's no "I" in "team." Because this is the case, being on a team and having to focus on winning can pull you from your shell without you even realizing it. And, team sports are actually the type of workout with the biggest mental health boost — so why not join a team?
"Most recreational sporting teams allow you to sign-up as an individual and be placed on a team," says DeWall. "The sport can be the shared interest and also a great distraction for when you might be starting to feel shy or uncomfortable."
6. Look To Your Coworkers
"If it feels uncomfortable to straight up ask a co-worker to hang out, start by asking them to get a coffee with you or have lunch in the break room," says DeWall. "There is typically a fixed amount of time at work to connect which might make it easier to push past the discomfort of getting to know someone."
You spend 40+ hours a week with these people; they're a great resource to help you meet others and overcome your shyness in the process.
7. Take A Class
As someone who has taken language and art classes, I can attest to the fact that taking a class is ideal for meeting people when you're not exactly an extrovert. I've made friends and met people I've briefly dated in these classes and I'm definitely in the 40 to 45 percent of people who considers themselves shy.
"Is there a new language you have been wanting to learn or a new hobby you wanted to try? Find a class," says DeWall. "Not only are you focusing on your own development, the shared experience will make it easier for you to connect."
Although no one is suggesting that these seven things will cure you of your shyness (which is a charming personality trait in its own right), they'll get you moving in the right direction when it comes to meeting people. "Remember all we're doing is trying; we are not married to anyone we don't connect with," says DeWall. "It's just a brief moment of time that you may (or may not) feel uncomfortable. Believe in yourself and see your value."
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