This is the third and final post about how to make friends. What started out as a simple reply to the New York Times article on the difficulty of making friends as an adult has spawned an initial reply defining communication as the most important factor in making friends, and a second reply, defining a perceived-effort model of making friends. This post will attempt to marry both posts to show how introverts can easily make friends. At least in theory.
Despite the slightly unaccessible article, I hope to have by now, convinced you that friendships are made and maintained over perceived effort, and that communication is the key to making or showing effort. One then can ask, how does one show effort to begin with?
Signalling High-Effort Actions
Herein, we enter the murky world of signalling. There can be many ways of signalling a willingness to start a friendship. For introverts, even talking in a public setting is a daunting task. I used to go to a weekly networking event for entrepreneurs in Sydney, Silicon Beach. Over time though, I stopped going, because it was very daunting and a lot of effort (and at least a beer) was required to start a conversation .
While for introverts, talking to strangers in public may be a high-effort task, we live in a very extrovert-oriented society. Attempting to talk to people will signal something, but it’s not sending the signal that it’s high-effort, especially at places like networking events, where you’re expected to talk to strangers anyway. I very quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t yield much benefits from hanging out with fellow entrepreneurs on Friday nights at Bar77, at least until I get my neuroticism fixed.
Hosting a dinner party however, signals high-effort. Granted, the actual effort put in to host a dinner party is also quite high, but there can be no mistake about the perceived effort of hosting a dinner party. Telling people you’re going to host a dinner party immediately entices questions about how difficult it is to host a dinner party (hint: it isn’t actually difficult to host a dinner party). From opening one’s home to strangers to preparing the dinner party, everything screams high-effort.
In short, by hosting a dinner party, you are signalling that you’re willing to put high efforts to do something, which in the case of using Strangers for Dinner, is to make friends over food.
At the risk of sounding like a scumbag salesperson selling stuff, Strangers for Dinner was designed with communication in mind. From the get go, Strangers for Dinner encourages participants to communicate, semi-anonymously at first before a party. Here’s a screenshot  of how the events page look like for those of you who have yet to be matched and experience it:
And from our first dinner party, we noticed a lot of the communication went on on-site despite me giving out my mobile number fairly early on. I had expected communications to move off-site early on, but people stayed and chat and gave ideas on the events page. I think that was most refreshing — in that people contributed to the event, even if just in ideas. Our sample size hasn’t been large, having merely hosted 4 dinner parties over the last two months, but prospects look good, and from the statistics, people DO communicate.
It’s my belief that this pre-party communication actually eases actual party communication for introverts. After all, the ice is already broken. Sure, there would be some awkward moments in the beginning, but this is the age of Internet dating, where pre-meeting communication is normal.
Throwing a dinner party for strangers has another added benefit of being in the comfort of one’s own home (or wherever you feel comfortable — if for example you want to throw a barbeque). Amongst the early suggestion was to have more than 5 people being matched (the safety in numbers argument). However we feel that 5 matches is the perfect number, as the human being can only hold 7 +/-2 things in working memory . It’s small enough a group to feel comfortable and not alienate yourself , and yet it’s large enough for your strangers to feel safe in.
Now, while Strangers for Dinner is attempting to solve the problem of introverts making new friends, we’re not the only solution out there. This entire premise of perceived effort and communication may be wrong. But I am interested in what works for you, my fellow introverts, so please do share them.
TL;DR If you want to make friends, I suggest doing a high perceived-effort activity, like throwing a dinner party for strangers (Strangers for Dinner helps!), and communicate with them.
-  As my partner is wont to remind me, when I get nervous around people, I start interrogating/interviewing them, throwing volleys of questions at them, which of course isn’t conducive to making friends. ↩
-  Note: this is a screenshot of an internal beta test. Your messages are private, and will always remain private. ↩
-  Miller, George A. (1963), The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, Psychological Review ↩
-  quick back-of-the-envelope calculation using graph theory says there should be a maximum of 3-ish cliques in a 5-vertex complete graph ↩