Introverts can be social, too.
In general, people seem to think about introverts as these shy people who don’t like to talk and think of extroverts as the more outgoing, talkative people who are the life of the party. While that can be true sometimes, it isn’t always the case.
I’ve had the introvert vs extrovert dilemma defined to me as “where a person gets their energy.” For example, two people could go to a party, talk a lot, and have a good time, but one person goes home exhausted and the other goes home ready for more. I’m inclined to say this is an oversimplification, but it demonstrates the fact that you can’t necessarily tell whether someone is an introvert or extrovert based on what you see - it’s hard to know unless you can tell how someone feels.
I myself am an introvert. I’m not super introverted, but I do have a lot of very introverted qualities. I need to force myself to talk to new people and I think about it a lot - the art of talking does not come naturally to me.
There are definitely benefits to being an introvert. I find that I’m very reflective and I have quite a bit of independence and enjoy being on my own and thinking to myself. However, there are downsides to being an introvert, too.
I’ve never resented my introversion, but it can be annoying sometimes. Being able to talk to people and feel energetic around them is a valuable life skill - mostly because if you live on Planet Earth, you’re around people ALL THE TIME.
There are ways that I’ve found help me to overcome these challenges of being an introvert. Even though I don’t think talking to people will ever feel as natural to me as some of my extroverted friends, I think it’s easier for me to talk to people than it used to be.
I’m going to share with you a few things that I’ve learned from personal experience that have helped me to step out of my comfort zone as an introvert, most of which are related to talking and socializing, which as I mentioned, is a struggle.
Disclaimer: NOT a Professional
Just because I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way of being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m not still awkward and weird and antisocial sometimes, and it definitely doesn’t mean that I’ve become extroverted in any way, shape or form.
I’m just telling y’all, this is what I’ve figured out.
There’s no better way to start a conversation than by asking a question, mostly because when you’re asked a question unless, for whatever reason, you’re ignoring the questioner, you answer. You can ask shallow questions like a person’s favorite TV show, but asking deeper questions can be good when it’s appropriate. As an introvert, you can probably relate to being a good listener, and actually enjoying listening, so as long as you have time, you can ask questions that elicit a lengthy response.
Telling stories is a great way to get to know someone. As an introvert, you may be inclined to just listen to what the other person has to say, but you’re not interviewing them, you’re having a conversation. When something they say reminds you of something that happened in your life, tell them! Stories can bring up a whole new topic of conversation and can tell the other person things about you that they didn’t know before. It helps them paint a picture of your past.
Step out of your comfort zone
Embrace the awkward, because it’s practically inevitable. If you’re not naturally super good at socializing, you’re bound to feel awkward in social situations at one time or another. Just know that it’s probably more awkward to stay in the bathroom during the entire party than to talk to someone you don’t know and seem a little weird. And even if you do seem weird, the other person probably doesn’t really care, and if they’re an introvert, too, they may just be happy that you started a conversation with them.
You won’t always be right.
One thing that I’ve been trying to do this year since we started out school online is participating in class more so that my teachers get to know me better. Sharing your ideas in class can be scary, but if you’re wrong, guess what? Nobody cares! And if your class if going slowly and nobody’s participating, everyone is probably just glad that you said something.
I used to think of a lot of things to say, but never say them out of fear of seeming awkward or of not communicating what I want to say very well. However, I’ve learned how to let go of that fear (kind of) and just say it, because more often than not it’s something of value that was totally worth saying. Never forget that you have valuable ideas that are worth sharing.
Ask someone a homework question who you don't really talk to. Reach out to your teacher if you need help in a class. Do these simple things to help you build up the confidence to keep conversing.
If these types of things don’t come naturally to you at first, that’s totally fine! Something that I think is a bit of an introverted quality is thinking about conversations long after they’ve already happened. When I fall into this trap, it helps to remind myself that it’s in the past and I’ve learned from any awkward things that happened.
When all else fails, go to the bathroom
Nobody’s going to question it. If you need an escape, say you have to go to the bathroom. Obviously, there are going to be some conversations that you can’t just bathroom your way out of, but when it’s a good option, don’t be afraid to escape through the bathroom door. Sometimes that little break is all you need to compose yourself and be ready for more talking.
Know that you don’t have to always be talking.
Like I said, introverts are good listeners. Play to your strengths, but strengthen your weaknesses. Listen, but also try to improve your talking skills. Remember that being an introvert (or an extrovert, for that matter) is a good thing and is something that makes you different, which is also a good thing.
I talk more than I used to, but I’m still fairly quiet. When I’m around my friends, I can definitely talk quite a bit, but it’s still a battle to push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t strive to be the center of attention or the loudest person in the room, I just want to push myself so that I get a little more comfortable in social situations.
Play the part
Stand up straight, smile, and look friendly and approachable, even if you don’t feel particularly sociable that day. Hiding your face behind your phone can appear rude in some settings, so just keep in mind what your body language is conveying to the people around you.
Susan Cain is an incredible author who wrote the book Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids. I read this book a few years ago and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to learn about and explore the strengths that introverts have. It helped me to realize that my introversion, a quality that I’ve looked at as a weakness, can also be one of my greatest strengths - seriously, any introverted kid needs to read this.
She also gave this TED Talk, which I found to be very informative and inspirational, and will also help you realize if you’re an introvert why the typical school environment isn’t always ideal for you when the rest of the class seems to be thriving.
This is a tip I would give to all introverts: write down what you want to say, but don’t feel like saying to people. This has been incredibly helpful for me when dealing with everything from anxiety to regret to excitement right before bed. I find that writing helps me process my thoughts and feelings in a way that talking to people or thinking to myself does not.
Don’t forget your unique strengths
Believe me, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that it would be better to be an extrovert, but I’m here to tell you that it wouldn’t be. Being introverted is a good thing. I’m not saying that being an extrovert is bad - in fact, being an extrovert is also good. We just all have our own unique strengths.
You don’t need to “fight” your introversion - it’s a part of your personality, a part of what makes you YOU. Introverts can be very reflective, hard-working people who are also good listeners - and even talkers sometimes. Don’t forget to acknowledge how important this aspect of your personality is.
Being an introvert is a strength, not a weakness. However, as with all things in life, there are benefits and downsides. Sometimes, it’s hard to talk and keep a conversation going as an introvert. It can feel like you're the only one who feels awkward at times, but just know that your talking skills aren’t set in stone, and you can get better at socializing, even if it doesn't come naturally to you. You might always prefer to stay at home and read on a Friday night instead of going to a party, and that’s totally okay. Don’t forget to challenge yourself, though, so that you step outside of your comfort zone and become stronger in the process.