Growing up I was always the shy girl. I hid behind my mom long past the age at which that’s socially acceptable and I spent my first full month away at college crying myself to sleep every night because I was lonely and intimidated. Other girls (and now, women) can be scary. But shy girls don’t have to circle the social drain trying to revitalize old friendships that don’t work anymore. Here are some surefire ways to create solid new ones that will last:
1. Admit that you’re shy. It takes guts, but it’s actually a great icebreaker. Upon meeting an interesting colleague on my first day at a new job, I fumbled my words terribly. My cheeks burned and then I looked at her (not at my feet) and said, “Sorry. I’m really nervous.” Honesty shows that you’re real. Two years later, I count her as one of my closest friends.
2. Get a cool colleague alone. Work is a great place to find friends with similar interests — or at least, similar schedules. But nose-diving into an office clique is terrifying. Be strategic to get an appealing, could-be friend alone. If you have a question she can answer, go for it. Say “hi” in the elevator. Shy-girl silence can make you seem stuck-up, even though the opposite is true.
3. Don’t buy into the office gossip mill. If you find yourself having coffee with that colleague you befriended, avoid the temptation to go with her down the rabbit hole of trash-talk. Don’t be intimidated by the other team members she describes as difficult or narcissistic. She might be right and she might not be, but you’ll do better to find out on your own.
4. Use your kids as bait. Stay-at-home or work-from-home moms have to put more effort into finding adults to talk to. Get out in nature or go to the mall. Use your children as an excuse to approach other moms with humor and empathy. A good old-fashioned eye roll and the declaration that you’re both ready for a nap is a great ice-breaker when your toddler has a meltdown. Try and remember that odds are, this woman is also open to new pals.
5. Give a compliment. This rule got me through the rest of college (after that first awful month) and landed me some great friends, including the one who would later be my maid-of-honor. If I walk into a gathering where people are interacting and I don’t know anyone, I scan the room. I look for someone who is not in the middle of a conversation and I pay her a compliment. “I like your skirt” works. I might not have made a best friend based on a fashion choice, but I’ve pushed myself out of the comfort zone, and that’s a great start.
6. Use the Internet and social media. Meetup.com is a great resource that gets you out of the house and links you with potential friends in your area. Social media can be a good place to meet mom-friends, too. Always make sure to meet in a public place, and don’t go in blind. But through the various like-minded mamas I follow on Instagram, I’ve actually met two incredible women with babies very close in age to my own. Shy girls typically have an easier time being bold online; take that friendship “IRL” and reap the benefits.
7. Join a class. It might be the oldest trick in the book, but shy girls struggle here. I’ve lost plenty of cash losing retainers after dropping out of various classes. But now that I’m a mom, I force myself to do at least one class with my baby, and one without, per season. In addition to kids’ music class, I go to Pilates twice a week without her. That class is extra fun, because I’m not defined by my mom status. My husband had to walk me there the first time, as I was a mess of nerves. But three weeks in, I found my voice and some friends in the process.
In female friendships as in anything else you’ve gotten through, sometimes you’ve just got to bust through the shy-girl thing and find your inner confidence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to shrivel up and disappear, or actually cancelled and missed out on something fun because I couldn’t face the social anxiety. But now that I’m somebody’s mother, it’s more important than ever to dig deep and find that confidence within. Shy girls might take longer to get in the mix, but everyone knows we are loyal to the end. That’s a quality any bold babe would love to have in a new friend.