By Soh Gek Shuen
You’re sitting in the canteen with your newly found groupmates, having lunch after a too early 9AM class. Everyone’s talking and laughing, except for one person. They listen carefully to every story and joke but contribute little to the conversation.
Trying to involve them, you ask, “Why are you so quiet?” Suddenly, all eyes swivel towards the person in question, who seems to grow flustered under everyone’s gaze. Not quite knowing what to say, they try to laugh it off and the whole group falls into an awkward silence. What went wrong? you wonder.
As the new semester begins, we find ourselves thrown into new environments, going for different classes, and surrounded by different people. For some, this is an exciting way to meet new friends. Others might be filled with dread, wishing more than anything to be amongst familiar faces.
Ever sat in awkward silence, wracking your brain for something – anything! – to break the ice? How about desperately trying to keep a conversation going, only to be met with the less-than-enthusiastic response of your groupmates? If it’s any consolation, you’re certainly not alone. Today, we equip you with the skills and know-how to worm your way into the hearts of the quietest and most reticent of schoolmates.
Find Topics of Interest
Maybe it’s the Animal Crossing Wallpaper you spy on their laptop screen, or the ways their eyes light up when you share your sudden burning desire to pick up chess after watching an episode of The Queen’s Gambit. Introverts may be quiet, but that hesitance to speak quickly fades when talking about their passions. If you notice them perking up during discussions on the latest Netflix drama, trend, or hobby, seize the moment! Be sure to rope them into the conversation and things should flow easily from there.
If the enigmatic introvert gives away little to no clues about their interests, your safest bet would be to capitalise on relatable topics such as school and hall life. After all, nothing brings students together quite like morning classes and sleep deprivation. While some might consider small talk to be superficial, it serves as an excellent conversation starter and could very well pave the way for deeper relationships.
Create a Safe Space
The standard ice-breaker questions are making their way around the table. “What hall do you stay in?” “Are you in any school CCAs?” As their turn approaches, you notice that the quietest member of the group seems to shrink into themself. Where others speak at length of their long-held interests, they give curt replies, willing the conversation to move past them.
For the introvert, being thrust into the limelight can be a punishment worse than death. Valuing privacy, they seldom feel comfortable revealing too much about themselves right off the bat. Be prepared to initiate conversation and share more information than you receive at first. Drawing out a laugh or positive reaction is also a sure sign they’re warming up to you.
As many introverts feel anxious speaking in large groups, it is crucial to create a comfortable and welcoming environment for them. You can do this by engaging them regularly in conversation and paying close attention to their needs. Non-verbal encouragement such as a smile or nod can also go a long way in helping introverts gain the confidence to speak up.
“Hey, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it today…” Your phone lights up with a text. Again? you think to yourself. Over the past few weeks, you’ve noticed a rather alarming pattern. Your friend tends to back out on plans mere days or hours prior, or leaves gatherings early, citing some errand or other. They don’t seem to dislike your company (you hope), so what could be the cause of this behaviour?
While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around others, introverts have a social battery that is steadily depleted over time. Introverts enjoy hanging out with their friends just as much as the next person, but they tend to require some time to themselves to recharge after a long day.
If your introverted friend turns down a few invites to hang out, don’t jump to the conclusion that they dislike spending time with you. They might just be feeling overwhelmed or drained. When this happens, don’t be afraid to ask them about it in private. Open communication can help in understanding your introverted friend better.
Don’t Give Up!
The nature of classes in university can make it a little harder to get to know people on a deeper level, but with a bit of effort, it’s still possible to form meaningful and lasting relationships. Like it or not, these people are the ones we’ll be in close contact with the rest of the semester, whether it’s working on projects or sharing exam tips. While you can get by keeping them at arm’s length, nothing beats the early morning blues quite like knowing that your friends will be there with you at every step of the way.
Patience breeds success. The adage rings true, especially in the quest to befriending an introvert. It might take some time to coax them out of their shell, but who knows, they might just be your next best friend!
NTUSU wishes you a fulfilling journey in forging new friendships across different schools and cultures. Our campus is a safe social environment for all, so hopefully, you’ll be able to build bonds that last a lifetime.