An Introvert’s Guide To Meeting New People You Actually Want To Spend Time With
Meeting new people as an adult is hard. While it can be especially hard for introverts, the question of how to meet new people is certainly not isolated to one set of personalities. However, there is a way to meet people naturally. And not just any old randos. We’re talking about people you actually want to be friends with, bring into your professional network, and even date without swiping through 500 people.
There are millions of adults wanting to meet new people. If there are so many people who want to meet new people, why are we having such a hard time doing it? Struggling with those realities feels like a Chinese finger trap. T\But the reason we’re struggling to meet each other and form quality relationships is that we are going about it wrong. We are trying to force it. We are looking for instant gratification. We are not patient and persistent, which are key components of the secret strategy for meeting people naturally.
The concept I am going to introduce you to is Social Collision. But first, let’s lay out some basics for how to build a social and professional network.
Building a Network of Amazing People is Like Building Solid Portfolio
Building a network is like investing. When you invest $100 and you keep that $100 around for 10 years at 8% return, it more than doubles to $216. Nice. Patience pays off. But what if we’re also persistent? Each year I add $100 to the original $100. I do this for ten years by contributing $8.33 a month ($100/12 months). Again assuming an 8% return, I now have $1,664. Fantastic! Compound interest is amazing. Both patience and persistence are pretty sweet.
Well, it is the same with building our networks. We have to invest in people consistently. We cannot toss aside our old relationships for a hot, new, sparkly, relationship. Our oldest friends are the folks who we have a foundation with. They know us best. Likely, they’ve introduced us to several people, and we’ve done the same for them. Now, when investing, we know that 8% is an average return. Some years more. Some years less. You have to stay consistent and practice both patience and persistence with your relationships no matter the outcome. Your professional and social networks will compound exponentially if you do so.
We all know that diversification is a key to investing. We hold uncorrelated assets to mitigate risk. Sometimes emerging markets will be doing great. Other times the real estate market will be outperforming. The same happens with our social and professional networks. For example, friends that we have counted on for endless hours of conversation get busy with families, they move away, or they head off to graduate school. It is not fair for us to count on one friend to always be there for us at every stage of life.
Could all of our friends end up being unavailable due to life changes all in one year? Just like a market crash, this is a possibility. For these reasons, we want to diversify our networks. Fortunately for us introverts, we are adept at building rich inner lives. But eventually, we need the intimacy of friendships. That is why it is important to have skills that allow us to make new connections.
Okay, so you may be thinking, “But isn’t this all exhausting? How can we invest in our exponentially expanding network? Especially when we have demanding jobs and crying babies of our own. Now you’ve made me worry about a market crash and a friendship crash!” Well, it’s not as hard as you think. You are likely already using the method we are going to discuss. However, it is happening to you rather than you intentionally using it. Let me tell you a story about the wrong way to approach making new friends before we discuss how Social Collision works.
The Scattershot Approach
In my late 20s, most of my friends were married or had moved away. I was trying anything to make new friends. After running into an alumnus of my college at a networking event, I began to text her. One night, a first social engagement was not working out, so I texted her to see where she was. She was at a bar fairly nearby, so I stopped in. When I arrived, I realized I’d bounced from one uninspiring social situation to a truly awkward one. The girl I had texted was at a long table of people. All of those people were on a social sports team together from their law school. They were in their casual clothing. I was still in my khakis and button down and carrying a backpack from work.
I sat down at the loud table of people who were bonded over their common education and social sports team. Sheepishly, I tried to talk to the one person I knew, but she was surrounded by a strong network of people. Realizing my mistake, I made an excuse to leave the bar. Walking home quickly in an agitated state, I realized I had forgotten my bag. I raced back to get it. As I made my way back to the table, I heard a guy loudly say to the girl, “Who was that guy? Did he even know anyone here?” And whether real or imagined, my perception was that she had an embarrassed shrug of the shoulders.
My takeaway from that night was that there was something wrong with me. That I just didn’t know how to make friends. I didn’t belong. But what I realized years later was that there was nothing wrong with me — though there was certainly something wrong with my scattershot approach. While I had gone to school with that girl, she had formed relationships through her own Social Collision since college. Namely, law school. The fact that we went to the same college was not a common enough bond for me to just insert myself into her social group. Hard lesson learned.
So What Exactly is Social Collision?
Social Collision is the most powerful concept I have encountered when it comes to meeting people naturally. It is perfect for introverted personalities and takes the pressure off of us in the first few encounters with new people. As I said above, you have likely engaged in Social Collision already, but the results suck because Social Collision is happening to you rather than you intentionally using it.
If you have kids, who are you friends with? Your kids’ friends’ parents, of course. I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to who can’t stand this situation. Their kid makes friends with some other kid, and now they are stuck at a boring playdate with a couple they really don’t like. The same goes for work colleagues. They all become friends because of Social Collision. But for many introverts (and other personality types), we don’t want the main source of our relationships to be from work. It isn’t healthy or professionally wise to broadly share personal details at work, anyway. Further, what if we were fired? All of our relationships would be sourced from one area beyond our control. We need to diversify.
But the reason you default into these relationships is that they are easy and natural. They just happen. I run into this mom at swim practice five times a week. She seems okay. My kid plays with her smelly kid for some reason. I guess we’ll be friends. Or, I see Jim at work every day and we have that in common. He’s really the only guy I have any sort of consistent interaction with. I guess I’ll talk to Jim about my shitty marriage. He’ll commiserate with me over a drink. And off we go. This is Social Collision used ineffectively and passively.
How to Use Social Collision Used Intentionally
Okay, so no more of that BS. Life is too short to hang around with people we don’t enjoy, or to let our kid choose who we are going to be friends with just because he and his new BFF sneezed on each other at the beginning of the school year. We need to be intentional about it. For example, I used to take my dog to the same dog park every day at about 6 PM. The people there sucked! And so did their dogs! They were tired and stressed out from the day, and their dogs were wild from being cooped up all day.
So I changed it up. I went to the dog park at 7 AM every day. We went over and over in every weather condition constantly for weeks. You know what happened? I became friends with five people who had some of the same values I did. We made our dogs’ exercise a priority and we woke up early to ensure it happened. That was enough to find other commonalities. Believe it or not, I got to know some of these people’s families. They became my friends. I went out on two dates with a woman in the group, and we remained friends long after.
Be consistent and go to the same place day after day, but do it intentionally. That is how Social Collision works.
How Do You Apply This to Your Life?
You apply this just like the above.
Say you have a favorite bar. You are more introverted and like intellectual pursuits and live music. When should you go to your favorite bar? On a Friday night when random people from the ‘burbs crowd the bar? Or when there is a live musician on a slow Monday night and a trivia night on a Wednesday? Let me tell you, if you go to that bar on those nights for a month consistently, you are going to meet people who enjoy live music and like intellectual games. I guarantee it. But don’t put pressure on yourself to meet people on the first visit, or even the fourth.
This is a much better starting place than a random Friday night at your favorite bar, much less a random bar on a random night (scattershot approach). Social Collision is really just a fancy term for going to the same place over and over at the same time. Doing it with intention is thinking about why the people are there, why you are there, and whether those “whys” create a recipe for potential friendships.
Try this at the gym, a social sports league, a coffee shop, a lecture series, a fishing hole, a salsa bar, a church, a temple, wherever. You’ll meet people naturally. Social Collision is not about being a solo. Remember our investing example. Going to a Crossfit class knowing one person will likely produce quicker gains compared to going alone. Arriving with three people will produce an even bigger network. But like starting by investing small or starting with an inheritance, the concept works either way.
Social Collision on Your Turf
Okay, so now that you know how to be intentional about Social Collision, I’m going to tell you the real secret of the whole concept: you can orchestrate social collision on your turf, and with your rules. How? Let me give you an example.
I had a friend who lived in New York City for a while, who liked creative people. He was also fairly introverted, so going out to random clubs of New York was not optimal. He supercharged his social network by hosting dinner parties. As the host, he controlled the environment and the type of people who showed up. He wanted to meet creative people, so he started with inviting some photographer friends he knew, who naturally knew other photographers, who also had friends who were in film production, entrepreneurs, actors, etc. These consistent Thursday night dinner parties exploded his social network with the type of people he wanted to meet.
Dinner parties, book circles, investments clubs, poker games, and, yes, play dates all give you control on your turf. But be consistent and intentional.
Meeting new people as an adult is one of the most difficult things that we experience as we grow older. Social Collision is the best concept I know of to meet like-minded people naturally. I’ve made friends on adult hockey teams, at the dog park, through Crossfit, and social sports leagues. All of them have the same components of showing up consistently at the same time with the same people with shared interests. With these ingredients, you can’t help but make strong friendships in an ever-expanding network of diversified yet like-minded people.
The FIIntrovert’s goal is to help 1,000 introverts reach financial independence through his blog. Extroverts and ambiverts are welcome too, but he knows they didn’t need a special invite. When he’s not writing about personal finance and career advice, he enjoys making his wife jealous by spending copious amounts of time with his dog, consuming non-fiction, playing guitar, and skiing.
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