Thursday, October 24, 2019

An Introvert's Guide to Socializing

“Blessed are those who do not fear solitude, who are not afraid of their own company, who are not always desperately looking for something to do, something to amuse themselves with, something to judge.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Us introverts thoroughly enjoy our own company. We don't achieve this state of contentment through  simply talking to ourselves. Instead we develop and curate these things called hobbies and thrive inside our own heads. Our minds are an intricate mess of colour as we address others in shades of grey. Meanwhile, our more outgoing counterparts constantly seek human company and conversation. They find this company in social situations that turn many introverts off. Huge parties or even meeting new people and making plans to see absolute strangers. None of those are things that an introvert will readily partake in. We need some convincing and often times, guidance. 

So you're an introvert and/or socially awkward. Sometimes fear of missing out (or FOMO, as its more popularly referred to) pays you a visit and outweighs your desire to curl up with a mug of herbal tea. You won't let one small personality trait stop you from attending a school dance, will you?  Ultimately, we all need human company. We're social creatures! Without further ado, here it is: 'An Introvert's Guide to Socializing'. 

Step one- purposefully make plans with your more fickle friends or the ones that have strict parents, step two- rejoice when said plans get cancelled, step three- crack open a box of green tea sachets and say you tried. 

All jokes aside, it can be very difficult to step outside of your comfort zone and into a social event, especially if you deal with social anxiety. The following strategies are there to help you build up the courage to chat with a new person or text back and RSVP. 

TIP #1
Extroversion is the dominant personality trait so it's likely that you're friends with a social butterfly or two. Start building your confidence and testing the waters through making more plans with these friends and seeing where that leads you. Draw off their energy. Who knows, maybe some of their openness will rub off on you? At the very least you'll have gained a lot of valuable practice and possibly come up with a handful of tips of your own.

TIP #2
On the subject of using your friends to help you in your exploits, try to ease yourself into large group meet-ups by having a friend accompany you. If all else fails you can tag along with them and give people a smile and nod every once in a while. They won't know that you're actually playing the Rocky theme song in your head. 

TIP #3
Maybe part of the reason why you never make it out of the house is because you're the aforementioned fickle friend. Start initiating plans yourself so you have less room to cancel. When you ask your friends to see a movie you feel more of an obligation to pull through than you would if you were asked to participate. Making plans also leaves you in control and gives you the opportunity to create an ideal atmosphere where you'll feel comfortable. Build the situation around your preferences and you have a much higher chance of  being able to sit back and enjoy yourself.

TIP #4
Set small, short term goals for yourself. Walk into a party and aim to introduce yourself or start up a conversation with a certain number of people. Eventually you might be able to increase your target quota. This sounds daunting but as I previously mentioned, exploiting your extroverted friends' social skills is a viable option and effective method. Say "hello" when they say "hello" and sit down when they sit down. As the old saying suggests: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. 

TIP #5
Introverts prefer to ask questions rather than answer them. Extroverts are the opposite. They love talking about themselves. Silence can be awkward when shared with someone you don't know very well or have just met. Take advantage of these 'puzzle piece' type traits and ask whoever it is you're talking to a bunch of questions. One of them should lead to a common point that you also feel comfortable discussing. Don't delve into their relationships with their parents just yet. Perhaps you could ask them where they bought their shoes? Regardless of what they have to say, your excellent listening skills should help you pay close attention and feign interest.

TIP #6
Introverts shy away from social situations because of how unpredictable these environments are. Filled with a host of variables and independent factors. We want 'x' to result in 'y'  when it could just as easily result in 'octopus'. In order to address this problem try and prepare yourself as much as you possibly can. Memorize a few conversation starters, practice your smile in the mirror, set aside a trendy outfit, etc. The biggest variable? The people who are present. You can't control their actions and what they say. Best to go in having accepted this and knowing that your conversations aren't going to flow as smoothly as the ones you had with yourself.

TIP #7
Take breaks. There's no shame in going outside to get some fresh air. Allow yourself time to recharge in order to avoid spontaneous combustion. Sometimes you need to give your eyes and ears a break from the sensory overload that is a 'social', or mixer, or party. 

TIP #8
Find people who are just as awkward and uncomfortable as you are and introduce yourselves to them. Odds are that you'll be able to bond over your collective awkwardness and possibly even some similar interests.

TIP #9 
Have an excuse ready so you can make a safe exit. Some errand to run or prior commitment you forgot about. It's best to be prepared so you don't end up blurting out something along the lines of, "I need to shave my turtle...goodbye". Your seemingly genuine excuse will also stop you from hurting the host's feelings. 

TIP #10
Chin up, shoulders back, and swing your arms. It's what I say to myself when I'm feeling out of place and insecure. Those three gentle reminders improve my posture and make me look more confident.  Fake it till you make it, right? If you seem confident and carry yourself well people will be drawn to you which will eliminate your need to introduce yourself and start a conversation. There's a strong connection between our emotions and the way in which we display them, especially when it comes to facial expressions. While you're at it, you might as well fake a smile and potentially calm your nerves. 

It all boils down to the fact that introverts require deep, meaningful relationships to achieve a sense of fulfillment. Introversion is not a hurdle to overcome or a flaw that needs to be fixed. Its a personality trait. Unfortunately, unless you leave your room occasionally and make an effort to socialize you'll be unable to forge these relationships. There are some real diamonds in the world. Hopefully these simple, albeit quirky, tips will help you find them. 

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