An Introvert’s Guide to How to Be More Social

more social

“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.”

– Joseph F Newton

If you met me today, you’d probably see a happy, smiling girl chatting with a bunch of people around her. I bet, hidden beneath this social butterfly, you’d never recognize the quiet, shy girl I used to be…

Being an only child with an introverted personality is an interesting experience. It taught me how to feel great on my own, to appreciate my own space and allowed me to have lots of fun. I was always more introspective than others; I read and practiced drawing a lot and even built my own world inside my head.

The world inside my head became so unique and special that it was difficult for me to let others in. But at the same time, I missed other people and thought it would be easier for me if I were more social…

Is the world tailored for extroverts?

Yes it is. It’s definitely easier to be a confident person who knows how to express your feelings and say directly what you think.

My grandmother used to say: “Be nice and polite; people will notice you and your values.” That’s not true at all! If you want to achieve something at school or at work, you have to know how to represent your values well.

The social capital you build from your social connections is often much more valuable than your degrees. It’s worth incorporating some extroverted character traits because being social and a good communicator can open many doors and simply make you happier.

I’m an introvert and I like it. I really appreciate time alone and would prefer getting stabbed over revealing the serious stuff happening in my mind. But at some point, I made an effort to change and open up a bit towards other people, which was a nice change.

I don’t know when I started being known as a person who enjoyed hanging out with all sorts of people, from various backgrounds, ages and subcultures. Going alone to a party and talking to strangers while travelling solo is not an issue for me anymore.

It took a lot of practice and mental work to become more social.  It’s not a process that’s accomplished overnight. It’s a process of enriching your personality and takes place in many small steps. But I’m sure that becoming more social is possible for everyone. Here are seven keys to becoming more social:

1. Start small

Don’t try to suddenly take huge steps. To become more social you need to learn how to expand your comfort zone, slowly. If you have a tendency to do things alone or with an old friend, just try going a step further.  Go to a place where there’ll be plenty of people you don’t know well.  Don’t sit in a circle and talk to only the people you know. Use parties or meals with friends as an opportunity to talk to people who are in your circle but you don’t know well.

2. Chat with strangers

Master chatting with people you’re unfamiliar with so you can speak to people who you actually want to get to know later. Coming over to talk to a pretty girl at a bar or going into a circle of unknown people and inserting yourself into the conversation requires advanced social skills. You might never be an accomplished conversationalist without trying small things first.   Find your own way to approach strangers and open your mind to them.

You can come up with a variation of the method I developed when I was a kid. My teacher suggested that I ask random people what time it was. I thought it was for fun but now I see that it was a simple exercise to teach social skills. Just asking people about the time quickly went into much further conversation and so I advise you to try the same… Chat with a taxi driver, passengers seated next to you on a train, or a shop assistant. You can ALWAYS say something more than “hi” or “how much does it cost” or “thanks.” Talk to a person waiting with you in a queue or with a barrista who is making your coffee. Ask when the bus is coming, or say that there are so many people here today. Whatever matches the situation and is said in a friendly way with a smile will be great. You’ll be surprised by the positive effect!

 3. Don’t get overwhelmed by those who speak too much

Do you know the saying “barking dogs seldom bite?” Don’t let yourself believe that people who speak too much are the only ones who have anything really important to say.  I sometimes think that people who speak loudly and talk a lot must think of their voices as some music we all must hear, unfortunately… Never let yourself believe that people who speak too much have more to say, because it’s usually quite the opposite. Really chatty people are usually by no means the most interesting people in the world. I’m sure you have at least as much as they do to say.  It’s high time for you to believe that you do too!

4. Learn to act like likeable people do

If you want motivation for becoming more social you need positive feedback from others. There are certain things all likeable people have in common. Try to incorporate some new ways of communication.

  • Smile a lot. There’s no person in the world who doesn’t like an honest smile. If you’re not used to it, train in front of the mirror everyday.
  • Speak loud and clear so people don’t have to struggle to understand what you’re saying.
  • When people talk to you ask them questions and follow the conversation. It’ll pleasantly boost their ego, because everyone needs to be listened to.
  • Ask people for advice. They love to feel validated and important.
  • Ask open questions so the conversation doesn’t get stuck on “yes” or “no” responses.

 5. Don’t be afraid of silence

Introverted people usually like silence. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Once you accept the fact that during your interactions you may experience silence, it will cease to be awkward.

6. Don’t control yourself all the time

Many people need alcohol or drugs to become more sociable. Why is this?  Are they becoming different people? No! They’re simply eliminating the block inside their heads that makes them control themselves all the time.  Switch off this auto censorship because it’s useless. Other people are usually less judgmental than you think. They could really care less because they have their own issues. Simply enjoy being with people, without questioning everything you’re going to say a million times.

Try meditation. It may sound counterintuitive for an introvert to do something that’s seemingly an even more isolated activity but this really helps get you out of your head. Just sit down, set a timer for 15-minutes, close your eyes and take slow breaths into your stomach. As you do this, you’ll notice that a lot of random thoughts will invade your mind – things you probably haven’t thought about for years – but that’s okay. Just become aware of those thoughts and try letting them pass (thinking of nothing).

Doing this will clear your head of excess thoughts that permeate your subconscious mind. This will greatly improve your ability to be in the moment when talking to others, instead of filtering your thoughts.

7. Find a hobby that’s social

Find people in your area with similar interests. Do you play guitar? Maybe you should check out an open mic night or the musician’s classifieds. It’ll be easier to expand your social circle with people who share your passion.

You should definitely consider joining Toastmasters (there’s a club in almost every city). It’s a club of regular people who come together 1-4 times a month to practice public speaking. The topic of your speech is totally up to you and the people in the clubs are very nice and polite, so if you have stage fright, you can be sure there won’t be any harsh feedback, because everyone’s there for the same reason. This might be a big step for some introverted folks, but it’s definitely worth the work!

People who like similar things as you are easier to get to know. Try socializing more of these people, whoever they are, because they might have a similar sensitivity etc.  So, what are you waiting for now?

Go and smile to someone! 

Photo by The Next Web Photos

27 thoughts on “An Introvert’s Guide to How to Be More Social”

  1. Great post Sarah. I am certainly an introvert and find that it often takes a lot of energy for me to be social. But definitely one step at a time and when you make it a game to chat with strangers, it kinda gets fun, as you experiment with opening conversations. : )

  2. I really enjoyed your article. Being an introvert myself, it was easy for me to relate to all of your points. I would never want to lose my “introvertness” because it’s allowed me to have a deep insight of myself. A result of the introspection though is that I’m now driven to better understand the world around me. In my effort, I’m feeling the anxiety you spoke about overcoming. I’ve been toying with the idea of meditation but I’ve been procrastinating. After reading this I think I’ll give it a try tonight. Thanks for the honesty.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I’m an introvert also and I’ve found that making small talk with strangers really helped me be able to express myself better. Chatting to the person in line behind me in the grocery store is good practice for when I go to a social event that would normally make me nervous. I like that you included that tip because it works for me and people don’t usually mention it.

  4. It’s great to read your post on introverts, because there are a lot of us around. While It’s definitely easier to be an outgoing person who oozes confidence, introverts are important to society as well. I was pleased to read that you enjoy being an introvert. I particularly like your Key No2, Chat with Strangers. This is something I do and I feel better when I break the ice every time I go out. It’s a simple, but effective way to be a little outgoing. But I’m still myself. I’m not trying to be someone else. On behalf of the many introverts, thanks for your ideas. (jenna)

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I’m an introverted person and im at phase of my life where I actually want to meet new people and expand my social cricle. I did try here and there at the night club. Just that I never approach people and I wait for people to approach me. So this actually helps me and I kind of have an idea of where to start. Thanks again!!

  5. Your post reminds me of my teenage years. I just couldn’t relate to my peers. I hated parties etc.!

    I had success by starting small too. I would look for the person in a party who was a wall flower. I thought that they must feel as unconnected as I and we could both work to make conversation happen.

    I think being introverted makes you a good listener. Outgoing people like talking, so…. I would play the part of a talk show host. ha! With a little practice I think anyone can learn how to ask questions that get other people to talk about themselves or their interests.

    This worked for me, maybe it will work for you :-)

    Rob

  6. Great advice! Being an introvert is perfectly fine, however, being held back by shyness can sometimes feel like a handicap. I know because I was there. Working on it one day at a time made a tremendous difference within a few months. Hopefully everyone gets to that point of comfort!

  7. mahavir nautiyal

    Nice post. Introverts are generally deep persons who are well aware of their strength and foibles. They, however, also give the impression of being arrogant and self-centred, even though it may not be true. It is, therefore, better to break out of one’s confinement and step into social circle. It is likely to add to happiness and acceptability. Remaining cloistered is a virtue in a monk but still people expect him to talk and spread his message- Buddha like. We are social beings after all.

  8. Really great post Sarah!

    Being introverted was something I struggled with quite a lot with as a kid, but it’s something I’m much more accepting of now. Like you said, starting slow is key. A lot of the time we want to make big changes all at once (be it in our behaviour or with our diet), but rarely do things work like that. Making small, incremental changes is often much more sustainable, and better in the long run.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Luke

  9. Deciding to get stabbed vs reveling whats going on in your mind? That made me laugh. This was some good advice and I particularly related to number five about silence. When ‘trapped’ with someone I used to feel weird about the long silences I created by not talking much. Eventually I accepted that silence between two people is okay and now it don’t bother me. And if it bothers them, well then they can talk and I’ll listen. Win win.

  10. Good tips, Sarah. Another tip I like to give people is to focus on the other person more. Nervousness is really just intense self-focus, where you judge your every move. So, if you focus more on the other person you’ll get out of your head and be less self-conscious. Plus, people like it when you pay attention to them.

  11. Hi Sarah,
    These are great steps towards breaking out of your comfort zone!
    You mentioned one of the easiest and most underrated steps, and that is to simply SMILE :)!

    I always tell my students that this easy step is a certain way to leave a positive impression in a finite time frame.

    My readers always mention that the “awkward moment of silence” can seem somewhat intimidating when new to networking. To them and to your readers I would tell them fear not and seek to become the care taker of the conversation.

    A moment is only awkward if you make it awkward.

    When you care for the conversation, you use a lull in conversation to bring new joy to it. Focus your energies on making other people feel secure and your conversation will thrive.

    Once again thanks for posting this enjoyable read!

  12. Small talk with strangers…gives me creeps :-) I would really like to try but how to start – literally, how to open conversation? And what to talk about?
    (I was just reflecting – I fly very often and recently I counted that I have been on 600 flights in the past 10 years or so. That means sitting next to 600 strangers. Number of people I had any conversation with? ONE! (He started :-) I sure could use some inspiration here!

  13. Verlit’s comments reminds me. Breaking the ice with strangers while travelling on long flights is the hardest thing. You do not know what exactly interests the other person. The long silences get on your nerves! In the initial stages, I used to doze off or pretend to be busy with the on-flight magazines. Gradually it dawned on me that the stranger sitting next to you is also travelling to the same destination as I was! I would casually inquire with the person sitting next to me [with a smile] where he lived in the city and how lonely or safe was it reach at this time of the evening [generally on late night flights]. This opened up possibilities of conversation. Or else I would drum up some excuse of opening luggage racks and apologizing hoping that this will lead to more conversation. I am glad that these experiences are now behind me as I no longer travel that frequently.

  14. Great post and very nice tips about how to be more social. Thank you Sarah for the wonderful post. I like the #4 tips a lot as I can relate. One of my best friend is very outgoing and has a lot of friends. She smiles a lot, her voice is loud and the most thing I admire her is that she is very funny. Every time we have a friends gathering, she will share some funny joke with us. I think good joke or story can break the ice sometime.

  15. Min Myat Paing

    Sarah, thanks for sharing. I feel like I am so secure after reading this because I perceived people judge less than I think. I observed that the main distraction to make feeble on society is I always have a personal assumption for people criticism and expecting or trying to be perfect. I have the tool to break the ice by now and I will make it happen. Promised! Thank you again and love you!

  16. Wow! It’s really nice to read there has been lots of people in the same situation as I am. I am a really shy and introverted, one of my frights is speaking in public, I can feel I am running out of breath.I also never accept invitations to go out or other activities because I am scared of What will I say or How do I need to act, etc. But to be honest I think I have had enough of that and want to definitely make a change. Thanks for those great tips! I will try to keep and set my goals. Specially to have fun in a good way.

    1. True… Speaking in public is a whole struggle and it feels like hell. I also thought I was the only one suffering from this and also that I can never truly change. But as you said, I’ve had enough too. I’ve been working on myself and opening up too. This article is really of great help to people like us. So I hope you do practice this. Good luck as you fight for a better you.

  17. Nice. I’m actually the only child to my parent and this kind of made me build walls rather than bridges. I am not ashamed to say that I’m an introvert because I want change. Thank you so much for this. While I won’t only read this, I’ll also make sure to practice it. Thanks again.

    1. Amazing post. I also thought that i couldn’t change so i stopped trying. I like the post on starting small. I relate to it because i used to start big, it would look awkward, i’d lose hope and completely stop. But now i believe baby steps is the way to go.

  18. If I remember correctly the writer Gabriel García Márquez has said/written once: “No one will remember for your thoughts”. I love this quote.

  19. Hey, quick question wat do u guys do when u are out with your friends and suddenly your minds is blank. You dont know wat to say and have nothing to say
    (How to not make it akward)

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