[There is an interesting conversation to be had about the recent status upgrade of being an introvert and the host of pro- and anti- and “staaaahp claiming special snowflake status!” introversion articles. This is not that conversation. Premise required for this article: Some people have more trouble doing social things, including conversations, than others, and would benefit from ideas for decreasing the work of maintaining friendships.]
For the most part, these are ways to maintain friendship and have social time with friends and acquaintances in less emotionally exhausting ways. They assume that invites like “let’s get coffee/have lunch/get dinner together!” are flinch-inducing.
1. Conversations while walking.
It is an agreed upon rule that people do not make eye contact while walking and talking, which allows them to avoid that lamppost, that small child, and the little puppy wearing clothes and booties. (Let’s all take a moment to appreciate that during the winter, small dogs wear shoes to keep their tiny feetsies from becoming frostbitten.)
Anyways, another benefit of keeping your eyes ahead is that there’s far less pressure to emote in exactly the right way, maintain eye contact, or do many of the other things that can make social situations feel like work.
2. Other physically exerting activities.
I know, it’s not as ‘normal’ feeling to ask someone to go to a trampoline gym with you, or suggest that you hang out by going to place with a bunch of ping-pong tables. But these all have the advantage of obviously including a component of spending time together without the more mentally-taxing aspect of having to hold up your end of conversation as intensely as getting coffee together requires.
3. Plays, TV shows, movies, trivia nights.
I think I originally got this idea from Leah. It has the added complication of sometimes reading as a date (and being a great date idea!) when proposed at the beginning of a friendship. On the other hand…you have a plan for spending social time together, a topic to talk about, and an obvious start and end point.
n.b. I suggest that when picking the to-be-watched TV show, play, or movie, it be something that either:
1) neither of you has seen or has a strong attachment to as the Best Show/Play/Movie Ever
2)both of you have already agreed is the Best Show/Play/Movie Ever
It kills the mood when you feel as though potential!friend is hovering, waiting for you to fall passionately, fan-fiction-writingly in love with their favorite show. And while I’m sure there are perfectly nice people who don’t like Into the Woods or Chicago or West Wing (maybe?? I kid, I kid.) it’s going to be harder to recall that they exist in the moment, and harder to avoid ending the hang out on a sour note. Pick something new to both of you! If it’s terrible, you have a story about shared misery and can throw popcorn at the screen together. If you disagree about its merits, debate them without feeling like its a referendum on your taste in media!
4. Fidget toys.
It’s not an uncomfortable silence, it’s just that you need to devote a lot of attention to these pesky buckyballs for a second! Playing with your phone during social situations is often considered rude, but having something to toy with usually passes muster. My house keeps a box of different things around, puzzles and the like. There’s also massage or silly putty, spinner rings, worry beads, and Rubik’s cubes.