Frequently moving as part of military life means a having a constantly rotating social circle. For introverts like me, this can be the most daunting part of Army life. Pack up all of our things and move halfway around the globe? That’s a piece of cake compared to the awkward getting-to-know-you dance that happens once I get there.
It’s not that I don’t like people. Quite the opposite, I love people and I especially love my fellow military spouses. Socialization just exhausts me. Like many introverts, I like one-on-one visits with genuine interactions.
When my friend Kimberly invited me out a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t type my emphatic “yes!” fast enough. Good coffee and healthy food paired with my friend’s brilliant outlook on life? This was exactly the type of face-time I’d been craving lately.
During our visit, I brought up how I consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool introvert and we chatted a bit about how that works in our military lifestyle. Over the last 13 years, I’ve cultivated a few strategies that help me build my support system quickly while staying within my comfort zone.
Participate in “mandatory fun.”
I’ve always used the built-in social circle of the Army to my advantage. The unit that we’re affiliated with has always been a source for friends and acquaintances. We all have the shared experiences to draw upon and, despite being vastly different people, we can all find some common ground. Admittedly, the thought of an FRG meeting doesn’t sound fun, but the meet-and-greet aspect is how I’ve met some of my most cherished friends.
Just RSVP yes.
Few things make me as anxious as attending a party. For me, small talk with people I don’t know well is a recipe for awkwardness. Despite my flawed delivery, I always meet someone I can connect with later on in a more comfortable setting. Follow basic etiquette (always RSVP, express thanks for the invite) because your hostess might be your next BFF.
Volunteering is a huge part of military culture. As spouses living near a military installation, the volunteer opportunities are practically endless and there is a system in place to support you while you put your talents to work. People who share a common passion for the same mission naturally gravitate towards each other. This has always been my go-to strategy to meet new friends.
Attend structured group events.
Unlike parties, a structured group event allows the introverted military spouse to participate without feeling the pressure to schmooze. Some typical examples include classes or seminars, church, group fitness classes or meetups, spouses’ club luncheons, or playgroups. Before or after the event is the perfect, brief time to meet some new friends without the same pressure as a party. Exchange numbers and meet for a laid-back coffee later.
How do you meet new friends when you PCS?