Everyone needs a friend, or at least one person who will pick you up at the airport or pay a ransom to a Nigerian prince.
Making new friends is never easy. However, there are ways to make the process easier. Here are just a few that don’t require paying someone to say, “No, those jeans definitely don’t make your left buttock look big.
Take initiative – You’ll never know if that perfect stranger you spot on the subway could be your best buddy unless you step forward and invite him hiking on the Appalachian Trail for a week.
Smile – A beaming grin will make you appear approachable. And even if it doesn’t lead to a burgeoning friendship, it may at least get you a good reference for some excellent psychotherapy.
Be a good listener – People appreciate an empathetic ear – as well as a sympathetic nose and a compassionate eyebrow.
Join a new club or organization – Just because a group is being monitored by the FBI doesn’t mean you won’t meet a lifelong friend at its yearly Aryan Resistance Barbecue.
Be open about your flaws – Sooner or later, someone will appreciate the fact that you’re a middle-aged man still living with your parents.
Be curious – People love to be asked questions. For example: “I noticed your name tag reads ‘Big Penis Parksdale.’ Is your middle name ‘Penis’?”
Try a new activity – Some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet belong to Greek Orthodox fire walking clubs.
Step outside your comfort zone – Delivering a TED talk about losing your virginity to a pretzel kingpin from Königreich Romkerhall may seem like too much sharing, but how else are you going to meet other people who lost their virginity to someone from Königreich Romkerhall?
Be enthusiastic – You can’t imagine how many people will want to know more about you by simply screaming at the top of your lungs, “OH GOD, YES, SUPERSIZE IT!
Be yourself – Unless, of course you can be a more interesting version of you.
If someone can read tea leaves or Tarot cards, should we assume they can also read a rental car agreement?
Never go to a discount therapist who shows you his perspiration stain and asks, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”
Think twice about returning to a restaurant that charged you extra for the Heimlich maneuver.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) should never be used for parking violations, and certainly not for failing to pick up your small dog’s poop.
Has this ever happened to you?
Have you ever thought a stranger is talking to you, only to realize they’re actually talking on their phone? If you’re like most people, you immediately feel embarrassed. But look at it this way: In all probability, you are a more interesting conversationalist than the person on the other end of that call. In fact, had that person been calling you, you probably would have let it gone straight to voicemail. Because, if they’re not calling to talk about last night’s orgy and networking meetup, you can’t be bothered.
Frank and I have been together for two years. We’re your typical extrovert/introvert couple. He’s gregarious. I occasionally make eye contact with my cat. I prefer to socialize with a few friends – by few I mean in numbers from zero to Frank. Frank prefers rubbing shoulders with the Mormon Tabernacle choir.
Last week I made reservations at a small intimate restaurant à deux. Frank invited a pack of cousins, five of whom belong to a “Deliverance” renenactors club. I’ve never been a devotee of one-tooth banjo players, but I couldn’t bring myself to say no.
This happens all the time. Frank always insists we socialize as part of a mob. (I’ll save our evening with the Gambino family for another question.) I love him dearly and want this relationship to work. How can I convince him to respect my need for solitude and shorter conga lines?
Mobbed in Manhasset
Introvert/extrovert relationships can be a mixed blessing. I once dated an extrovert who wanted to have a three-way with me and my inner voice. This same extrovert introduced me to the amazing world of group rates.
A loving and thoughtful extrovert can help you emerge from your shell and broaden your world. But stand up for yourself. Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be an introvert princess warrior. Frank sounds like a keeper. Tell him how you feel and tell him to keep his friends at a distance.
Mindy Menorah, Ph.D., LCSW, PDF is a licensed, bonded, and insured couples therapist. For 23 years she was the official Osmond family mediator.
I’m an extreme introvert. How extreme? I’ve yet to make eye contact with my goldfish.
I was recently required to attend a cocktail party hosted by my employer. It was the kind of social gathering I avoid like a plague, the kind of plague in which I don’t know the other plague victims.
To help survive the evening I enlisted the assistance of an amateur hypnotist friend who claimed he could get me to act like an extrovert. Unfortunately, he thought it would be funny to transform me into an extroverted monkey every time someone said the word “strategize.”
Aside from one small incident when I hurled my feces at the VP of Sales, the evening went well. I even approached and flirted with our new intern from Uzbekistan. She speaks little English and found my outgoing simian airs enchanting. We’ve since been dating regularly for two months.
Here’s my dilemma. Continuing to speak and act like a monkey hasn’t been a problem. Continuing to speak and act like an extroverted monkey has. It takes so much energy and is exhausting. I like this girl and don’t want to lose her. What do I do?
Going Bananas in Birmingham
There is nothing wrong with going ape for a girl, even a girl who can’t tell the difference between a human and another mammal. But in the end you have to listen to your inner primate. You’re an introvert and will always be an introvert. Give your Uzbeki intern a chance. If she loves you as an outgoing monkey, she may come to appreciate you as a solitary, thoughtful chimpanzee.
Andy Brightman is a former CIA intelligence officer. “To Hell and Back: My 35 Years in Cubicle 289D” is his recently-published autobiography.