I am a BIG introvert, but I also love to socialize sometimes. Awkward? Yes. Impossible? No.
Let me share with you how to thrive and actually enjoy socializing as an introvert. It’s hard to avoid social situations and you can actually enjoy a few social activities instead of avoiding or worrying about them.
HOW TO BE MORE SOCIAL AS AN INTROVERT.
EMBRACE YOUR INTROVERT SELF.
The first thing I want to make clear here; you are already perfect, exactly as you are. It took me close to 30+ years to come to this conclusion. Being an introvert is absolutely fine. It is easy to feel like something is wrong with you if you dread social situations. Being surrounded by outgoing friends and watching sitcoms where everyone is extroverted (yes, I don’t like the series “Friends“) made me feel as if I was totally wrong.
This is untrue. Being yourself and embracing your identity is truth. It’s a common misconception that introverts need to come out of their shell, but for me, I am happy being social in my own way. I don’t need to be the life and soul of the party.
FIND THE POSITIVES ABOUT BEING AN INTROVERT.
Do you know what I have learned about my life as a social introvert? I am a good listener. I can spot other people with similar personality traits and help them if they want it, to feel included. I don’t need multiple friendships to feel content. Just one or two close relationships go a long way. Learn to love yourself exactly as you are. We need more quiet people in this noise-filled world, anyway.
HOW TO ENJOY AND BE MORE SOCIAL AS AN INTROVERT.
SET YOUR BOUNDARIES.
Choose the events that you really like the sound of, but don’t be persuaded into saying yes to every invitation. Overstretching your social muscles as an introvert is like trying to complete a marathon with only a week’s training. Socializing for me is pretty draining, especially high-energy events like parties, family gatherings for dinner, and nights out. I need a lot of time to recover from them but to allow my head to reset and recoup after all the noise and talking.
TELL YOURSELF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN.
If you focus on all the bad sides to a party, you will go into it feeling stressed and looking out for negatives. It’s just the way our brains work. If your internal conversation shifts, you might actually look forward to it. It works the same way as affirmations. You might not believe it yet but if you keep affirming “I am going to enjoy the party” and “I am so excited to see my friend again tonight” you can trick your brain into feeling excited and go into it more optimistically. This works for me.
THINK OF SOME CONVERSATION STARTERS.
I can easily have a chat with a stranger waiting in line for a coffee, but when it’s a social event, I become an anxious introvert. Even thinking about going to a dinner with a large group will make my heart flutter. The most troublesome part has to be small talk. Does anyone really enjoy it? If you can think of a few things to talk about before going out, it might help.
Tip: What do you do is not the only conversation starter.
Have you watched any good television lately? What’s your favorite book this year? Have you traveled anywhere interesting? What’s been the best part of your day so far? What did you get the birthday girl/guy? …
BECOME COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN.
Like many typical introverts, I’ve spent many years trying to blend into the crowd. Molding myself into whatever personality I needed to be to fit in. It was too hard to just be the quiet, slightly quirky real me at a big event full of extroverts. When I was rapidly approaching 30 I had basically had enough of the pretence.
One of my BFFs gave me this card years ago and I kept this birthday card because it always reminds me it’s really cool to just be me. Even if you tell some people to go f*** off -contains irony- •ᴗ•
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
SAY YES SOMETIMES WHEN YOU REALLY WANT TO SAY NO.
Boundaries are one thing, but sometimes you really want to step out of your comfort zone. It’s pretty easy to get into a habit of saying no to any invitation, but you might miss out on meeting new friends or deny yourself the growth that comes from stepping out of your norm (comfy sofa and PJs).
You don’t need to do this every week and don’t forget to give yourself time to recover and refuel with alone time and self-care afterwards.
Tip: Make sleep a priority after any social interaction you have found draining. Have a couple of early bedtimes to let your body and mind refresh to keep any stress in check that socializing might cause.
TRY TO BEFRIEND AN EXTROVERT.
Opposites attract, or so the saying goes. I think it’s good to have a friend who is opposite to you. One of my good friends is a self-proclaimed mega extrovert and we get on really well. She teases me out of my comfort zone and I help her chill out when she needs to. She is also very on the pulse with everything that’s going on, especially on social media. It’s a good partnership.
THINK OF DIFFERENT WAYS TO BE SOCIAL.
When we think of being social, it often brings up images of parties, dinners, and big events, but these are not the only ways to be social. Look at your inner circles. If you have worked on finding like-minded friends, then they might think the same thing. Would a walk, coffee, and talk in the countryside be better than a wine bar? What about suggesting an outdoor-only playgroup? Those noisy village halls can get quite intense. Think of how you would like to be social, then take some steps to achieve this.
THINK SMALL STEPS BUT OFTEN.
Want to know a secret? Often, the best way to overcome a fear is to expose yourself to it in a small way, but frequently. My old therapist introduced me to this many years ago when I became extremely scared of eating out in public (I have lived with anxiety for most of my adult life). She told me to get out there as often as I could manage, but just in small doses. A quick coffee and a muffin, a slice of pizza with a friend, etc. Small steps. They worked for me. You can use this in several ways. If you really dread social events, then just attend one or two but leave very early, short exposure to your fear but big gains to your confidence.
BE KIND TO SOMEONE ELSE.
Kindness is the most underrated of all qualities. No matter how awkward you might feel, someone else will feel the same (or possibly worse). One of the best introvert skills is to notice another introvert in the room. Why not show them a little kindness? Compliment their clothes, ask them a question (nothing too serious, though). You might make someone’s day a little easier and you never know, you may have just found a new friend.
EYE CONTACT OR NOT?
You probably have heard how important eye contact is. Eye contact means you are listening and paying attention, and that you find the person engaging. It develops a connection to another human being. BUT eye contact can be SO HARD for shy and introverted people like you and me. Don’t feel you can’t communicate if you struggle with eye contact, just take the pressure off. Look directly at someone whilst talking but give yourself space to look away (but slowly if you can), make facial gestures that allow you to nod or close your eyes briefly, or look at a spot close to someone’s eyes and not directly if that is too hard for you.
KEEP CONNECTED TO EXISTING GOOD FRIENDS.
When you move area or start a new job it can be quite tiring meeting new people. Sometimes it takes too much energy to keep all the small talk going as you navigate your new circle. You still need a good old deep conversation from time to time with your old friends. A small group of close friends or family where you can be yourself in a supportive environment and fill up that emotional tank.
CHILL OUT AND JUST LISTEN.
If you have burnt through your social energy for one gathering, then just sit back and relax, and let someone else talk. Extroverted people love a captive audience and we are brilliant listeners. Let them do what they do, talk, and you do what you do, listen. Enjoy the break and give yourself a pat on the back for getting out and through another party.
KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Social anxiety is a pretty common mental health struggle, so don’t feel you are alone. If you simply find the thought of any social interaction, speak to your doctor for some advice and possibly a referral to a mental health specialist who can give you more intensive help and support. Don’t suffer alone.
GOOD BOOKS FOR INTROVERTS.
If you are anything like me, curling up with a good book won’t be a challenge for you, so why not try one of these? Deepen your understanding and awareness of life as an introvert and why we are pretty amazing.
The perfect confidence boost for all the introverts out there. Susan takes the time to explain how introverts and extroverts brains are and points out how modern society underestimates the power of introverts. This book will make you think about your quiet side in a new and more positive way.
The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside our Hidden World (Jenn Granneman).
The guide to being an introvert, for all the quiet beings out there and for those who love them. This manifesto will guide you towards understanding, owning, and thriving through your introverted qualities.
The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World. (Marty Olsen Lany).
This book aims to dispel common myths and judgments about being an introvert. There’s a good chance it has nothing to do with being shy, timid, aloof, or lacking good social skills. It provides tools and examples to improve communication and confidence whilst being true to yourself.
This book resonated with me. I needed to ditch the idea that to be a success in business, I needed to be loud, pushy, and out there. Beth Buelow is a professional coach. She shows introverts how to love and utilize their natural gifts and deal with challenges that arise like the avoidance of self-promotion. Nobody dislikes talking about themself more than an introvert. Quiet the inner critic and follow that dream.
Ready to get out there and start enjoying being more social? Apply the tips you have learned here. Take baby steps and give yourself breaks from being social as often as you need. Remember the social needs of your friends, colleagues, and family don’t have to match your own. Go at your own pace and find a balance that suits you to create a healthy social life. For me, that still includes plenty of duvet days with a movie and a hot chocolate.