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9 important steps for making friends if you are shy and over 50

If you are shy and over 50, you already know that making new friends doesn’t come easily. Not only have you probably spent most of your life finding it difficult to make new friends in the first place, you’ve reached an age where most people start to find their social circles start to shrink.

Talk about a bad combination!

There are many reasons to find yourself lonely once you start to get older. Quite apart from the usual suspects (divorce; death or illness of a friend or partner; relocation), once we reach a certain age, we no longer have the benefit of being automatically exposed to potential new friends because of our stage of life.

When we were studying, we met friends at school and university.
When we started working, we met friends through each new job we took.
When we had kids, we met new friends through mothers’ groups, school, and kids activities.

But once kids leave home, you suddenly find you won’t meet new friends unless you actually do something to make it happen – you can no longer rely on life sending new companions your way.

That’s hard enough if you’re an extrovert – if you’re naturally shy then it is ten times harder.

The good news is that you’ve got lots of company: almost half of all adults identify themselves as being shy. And even better, there are a number of things you can do to take the stress out of making new friends and give you the social connections you need.

I’ve spoken to literally thousands of Stitch members over the last couple of years, many of them extremely shy. After observing what has, and hasn’t, worked for them in their search for companionship, here are 9 recommended steps for making new friends for anyone shy over 50:

1. Understand your shyness

Like most things in life, the most important first step starts with understanding yourself. In this case, that means facing up to what you even mean when you say you are “shy”.

Most people who admit to feeling shy are surprised when they hear that almost half of all adults feel the same way. The very feeling of shyness makes it feel as if you are the only one experiencing it … the only one feeling awkward at a party when everyone else seems to be having a good time.

But the reality is that 40-45% of everyone you know is feeling the same way.

Many people who feel shy are actually experiencing what psychologists would say is normal anxiety in new social environments, but don’t understand that this is normal. And as a result, they have never learned to some of the coping mechanisms which help in these situations.

The internet contains lots of really useful resources for people seeking to understand and overcome their shyness. Check them out, learn a little about where you sit on the shyness spectrum, and understand why you react in certain ways to particular social environments.

You’ll discover, for example, that shy individuals are more likely to have higher activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which results in them being more reactive and attentive to the details of a social situation. That means their brains can over-react to what’s happening and stress them out!

Understanding how you react in these situations is important, as you can learn the type of environment that works best for you. Shy people sometimes think the best approach is to get out and socialize at parties, but when they find this doesn’t work for them it just leads to more isolation and more avoidance.

A good understanding of why your brain responds in a certain way will help you choose the right environment for making friends in the steps below.

2. Admit you are lonely

The terms “shy” and “introverted” are often used interchangeably, but research actually differentiates between the two.

Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but aren’t concerned about social encounters the way shy people do. At a party, an introvert might be standing on their own because they want to. A shy person will be doing so because they feel they have to be.

I’ve met lots of shy people who have tried to convince themselves they are more of an introvert, that they are happy being alone. Once they open up to me, however, they will admit they are desperately lonely.

This is always one of the most important steps towards finding companionship. Kidding yourself that you are happy alone may seem fine as a coping mechanism, but it actually gets in the way of your happiness.

The more you try to convince yourself that you’re not lonely, the more of an excuse you have for staying at home, not making a change, not doing anything about your situation.

And not making new friends.

First, admit to yourself that you’re lonely. And if you can manage it, tell someone else! Doing so is extremely cathartic, powerful, and motivating.

This can be someone you know, or it can be to someone online. Many of our Stitch members use the Stitch forums to tell other Stitch members – complete strangers at first – how lonely they feel, and it’s amazing to see how often this alone is the catalyst for great things to happen.

3. Broaden your thinking

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met one of our members who came in with a very narrow, well-defined idea of what type of companion they were looking for, and only found success when they broadened their thinking and ditched their pre-conceived notions of what type of friendship.

The reality is that companionship comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and things get even more diverse once you’re past 50.

I’ve seen members of Stitch form close friendships with people who don’t at all fit their idea of what they were originally looking for. They might be 20 years apart in age, live on the other side of the world, aren’t the gender they were looking for, are the wrong political persuasion, you name it … the message is, life is too short to reject a potential friend because you’ve got a preconceived idea of what they should be like!

We’ve talked about this before when it comes to romance, but it’s equally true of friendship as well.

4. Become a joiner

You’ve probably been given this advice many times already, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Joining in to activities around things you are interested in is one of the best ways to make new friends.

If you’re shy, however, this can seem like bad advice. Many shy people will say “I don’t do groups”, and ignore this recommendation because they are picturing the sorts of social environments they haven’t enjoyed in the past.

But if you keep reading you’ll see that the type of group you join has a big impact on whether they end up being successful for you.

If you go in with the right approach, you’ll find that joining in activities around your interests will work for you no matter how shy you feel.

This is why activities and interests are such a big part of the Stitch community: there is really no better way to get people to meet like-minded companions. Whether it’s Stitch or some other community, get started and join in today!

5. Look for acquaintances first

Best friends don’t suddenly materialize the first time you meet. Think about it: most of the best friends you’ve had were people you had to get to know first. Sometimes it took months before you were close; sometimes it took years!

Looking for a deep friendship from the get-go is a sure-fire way to be disappointed. Real friendship takes time, so set yourself some realistic goals at first.

In fact, if you just remind yourself that you’re just seeking to make “acquaintances” first, you’ll give yourself a much greater chance of success.

And if you persist in doing things together regularly, you’ll start to find the barriers to friendship start to slip away. With some people, you will discover that this means you’re destined to be nothing more than acquaintances. But for some, with enough patience, openness and honesty, you’ll discover the deep and lasting friendship you were looking for.

6. Discover your inner leader

It may seem strange to recommend being a leader to anyone who feels like an introvert, but this is actually one of the most important steps in this entire list.

Many introverts assume they should leave the organizing of activities and events to extroverts. After all, those crazy extroverts love meeting new people, they’re always organizing parties!

But that’s exactly the problem: extroverts will organize the sorts of activities that they enjoy. That will mean the sort of events that shy people really struggle with, such as large groups, big social gatherings, and so on.

Not only are these the sort of events that you (as a shy person) don’t enjoy, they also don’t necessarily attract the sort of people you are hoping to meet.

The reality is that most shy people will be much happier meeting cool, interesting friends in a low-key environment, centered around things that interest them.

Most of these potential friends feel exactly the same way you do about big social events, which means you are lowering your chances of ever meeting them if you just leave the organizing to the extroverts.

When I talk about being a leader here, you don’t need to picture suddenly becoming an extroverted activity organizer. You just need to feel comfortable suggesting the sort of low-key activity that you would enjoy. There are plenty of other people like you out there – remember that 40-45% of people feel just like you!

7. Volunteer

If you’re not comfortable suggesting or organizing an activity in your community, then why not try volunteering? Donating your time to a worthwhile cause is actually a great way to meet like-minded people, without the social pressure of feeling you need to make small talk or impress anyone in a social environment.

You will often meet very interesting people who care about the same things as you.

And if not, then you’ve at least got the satisfaction of having done something good for the world!

8. Travel

If you can afford to travel, then going on a trip with other people with similar interests is a great way to make new companions. This is actually one of the reasons we made travel such a major part of Stitch: most of our members tell us that the one thing they would love to do but don’t have anyone to do it with is travel.

There are plenty of group travel options available these days, ranging from adventure tours to luxury cruises, all with an element of getting you to meet your fellow travellers. There is no better way to start a new friendship than to experience something unique with them.

If you’re shy then you’d be best to choose some of the companies which cater to smaller groups, and ensure that everyone on the trip gets the right amount of “breathing space”.

9. Join Stitch

It’s only natural that I had to include this one, of course: if you’re over 50 and looking to make new friends, then you really should join Stitch. We’ve built a community whose sole purpose is to help anyone over 50 find the companionship they need.

That’s why Stitch includes so many of the items I’ve listed out above. Travel, volunteering, activity suggestions, interests, groups of all sizes. Some of the activities and events on Stitch are great for extroverts, but the best thing about the community is how it caters for the other half of the population too. If you’re even remotely shy, Stitch is a safe, welcoming community and a great place to start your search for new friends.

Come join us today!

16 thoughts on “9 important steps for making friends if you are shy and over 50”

  1. Terrific article Andrew. You cover all the bases. I’m a big supporter of Stitch and I’ve never considered myself a “joiner.” The great thing about Stitch is that people can use it any way they like, individualizing their participation.

  2. Yvonne D. Matthews

    I would like to join Stitch. I live in an isolate area and people in this area love to spend their week ends playing cards and drinking beer. I feel left out. Phone use is huge in this area, too. I do not like to gossip on the phone since I have an 11 year old child, although I am 64. I want to travel and meet new people.

  3. I would like to join Stitch but am unsure about paying to join as I live in rural America. I want to meet people and am a true introvert (INFJ). Advice?

    1. Hi J,

      I just got back from our big global get-together in Monterey just over a week ago, and we had attendees from all over rural US. One of the attendees was Community Champion Regina, who lives in a town of 3000 residents. She is one of our greatest advocates as she’s been able to make deep connections with lots of members, from all over the community. It was a real celebration of the power of bringing people together.

      One of the discussion topics actually was how Stitch caters to introverts, as we have more than our fair share of people who identify as such. One of our members spoke to me about how she initially felt she didn’t fit because she wasn’t loud and opinionated, until she realized that the community gives her lots of ways to connect that don’t require her to “put herself out there” as much as she thought.

      Why don’t you sign up and create a profile, and then once I know a bit more about you such as where you live etc, you can reach out to us directly from within Stitch (there is a “Contact us” menu item which opens a direct chat with me and the team) and we can talk about what we can do to make membership work for you?


  4. I have two children who have left the nest and I miss them very much. The few friends I have don’t live near me. I don’t have any friends in the small community I live in. I am shy and very lonely and long for a friend to talk to and do things with. I have joined a few groups but have not met anyone yet. I am afraid that I’ll be lonely the rest of my life. How does someone like me join a group like Stitch?

    1. Hi Ann,

      Please don’t be afraid, the first step in making change is to recognize that you would like things to be different! It can take time, but it’s really worth it in the long run.

      I don’t know where you are located so I can’t say if we have an active community in your area yet, but if you sign up to Stitch, then please feel free to send us a message (using the “contact Stitch” menu inside the site) and we can talk to you about what to expect from the community in your area.

      Stitch Community Founder

    2. Hi Ann
      I read your post, and it could have been me. I too have two children both just left for college and i too am sad and lonely. Having raised them mostly myself, the man i was seeing up and left me once the kids were gone, so i am heartbroken and lonely as well. I don’t have a lot of women friends i was so busy with my family, but now i long for that kind of friendship and it is hard when you are over 50. Anyway, i send you my support and know you are not alone.

  5. I’m not shy or anything like that. I’m not interested in anything but learning how to meet people my age. All my friends are the age of my kids. It has not been 3 months since my husband died. I literally want just to meet people and make friends…for free. I tried one site, and literally got a younger man displaying himself. I let him…and explained how unimpressed I was… cause I was. Just wanted to meet new folks…but can’t resist some fool’s challenge either. Anyone know how to do so? Safely that is. I can deal with jerks, but don’t want to.

  6. Sandy Kirkpatrick

    Hi. I am recently going through a divorce. I am lonely needing someone to talk with and do things with. My name is Sandra

    1. Hi Sandy, Helen here, been witth my man since 1979. at school together, we have 2 children age 32 and 33, split up in 2012 cannot get over it, It was quick and unexpected i am still ‘reeling’ absolutely in a mess. With someone now but to be honest its only for company i adore my husband but he has found someone else and is happy . I got divorce papers through 14/2/2018 I couldnt believe it. The man who loved me for 33 odd years gone!!! I will never get over it i love him with all my heart sometmes i have to pretend he is dead because my heart cannot believe he left me. I’m Helen from Lancashire 56yrs young

    2. I’m in a similar situation.married for 26 years together for 36 .Now living with elderly parents. I never thought we Would be Apart from being age 16. my wife lives with the adult kids and I don’t see Them much

  7. Hi.I am Alphonso..I live in nyc.
    Don’t have many friends and know when it comes to women,I am saying something that deflects their interest in me.Been alone for most of my life and closeness is rare .I know I love women but I am 52and don’t know what to do!!!

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