How to Nurture Friendships *And* Make New Ones As An Adult

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How to Nurture Friendships And Make New Ones As An Adult

Posted 29 January 2024 by
John Hackston
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7 min. read

For many of us, the COVID crisis marked a discontinuity in our interpersonal relationships. We could still communicate via Zoom or other platforms, but often something was missing, and sometimes it’s been difficult to get that back. To rekindle existing friendships, and also make new ones, it helps to be aware of our interpersonal needs, and of how the difference between what we show and what we actually want can present a confusing picture to others. That's where knowing more about the FIRO and your MBTI can come in!

Understanding Interpersonal Needs

We all have needs and motivations around other people, such as the need to belong, the need for influence and control, and the need for intimacy, but we're all different in how important these needs are to us. Relationships can falter when we assume our friends have the same level of need as we do, or when our interpersonal behavior confuses them. The FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) framework is a useful tool for understanding interpersonal needs. It looks at three aspects:

Why You Might Be Confusing Your Friends

Crucially, the FIRO assessment looks at both the extent to which we show or express each of these and the extent to which we want each of these. For example, let’s suppose someone scores high on how much involvement they express, but low on how much involvement they want. They will come across as very outgoing and sociable, enthusiastically getting other people to join in with the activities that they set up, but they are likely very choosy about which invitations they accept from others.

Other people can find this confusing, or even hurtful, and this can harm relationships. But if the individual realizes how they behave, they can explain this to others or modify their behavior. Or take someone who has the opposite result — low expressed involvement and high wanted involvement. They want to be included but their natural tendency is to wait for others to do the inviting. In the post-COVID world, they may need to change this aspect of their behavior in order to form new friendships. Of course, for many people what they express matches what they want, but that isn’t the case for everyone.

Forming New Friendships: Extraversion And Introversion

Once you have a clear picture of your interpersonal needs, you can start to figure out which are (and which aren’t) being satisfied, alongside which of your relationships satisfy each need.

When you're starting new friendships, this will help you to realize what you're looking for. But to get at how you might go about forming those relationships, then also knowing your personality type is really useful, in particular your preferences for either Extraversion or Introversion.

In the MBTI framework, Extraversion or Introversion is all about where you get your energy from, and where you focus your attention.

People with a preference for Extraversion tend to focus their attention on the external world, while those with a preference for Introversion focus on their internal world of thoughts and feelings.

It’s important to remember that this is a preference, rather than a prescriptive, rigid blueprint. Extraverts do have an inner life, and can spend some time on their own, though this will sap their energy after a while. Introverts can and do enjoy spending time with others, though they may then need to go away and quietly recharge their batteries by themselves.


If you have a personality preference for Extraversion, it’s likely that you enjoy meeting others and are happy to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with people you’ve never met before. So at face value, making friends shouldn't be an issue. But it’s important to remember that not everyone is the same as you are. If you want to make friends with an Introvert, or keep that friendship alive, here are some suggestions:


If you have a personality preference for Introversion, it’s likely that you have a set of close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances. But it can be useful for one or more of this select group to be an Extravert; this can open doors and help you meet new people. Here are some tips that might be useful:

Identifying your interpersonal needs, having the language to explain them to others, and understanding Extraversion and Introversion are a good starting point in forming and maintaining friendships in this post-COVID world.

John Hackston is a chartered psychologist and Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company where he leads the company’s Oxford-based research team. He is a frequent commentator on the effects of personality type on work and life, and has authored numerous studies, published papers in peer-reviewed journals, presented at conferences for organizations such as The British Association for Psychological Type, and has written on various type-related subjects in top outlets such as Harvard Business Review.