Updated July 17 2019
I’m writing to you today because I want to tell you how much I appreciate – and understand – you. (Confession: I’ve been in an introverted, busy and highly creative place these last few weeks – hence this update.) After being in your shoes for a bit, I have a few thoughts and ideas that might help you “get back out there” and converse and connect with greater effectiveness, ease, and confidence. So here goes.
- Give yourself some credit and believe in yourself. I have numerous friends who are introverts. (I’m half introvert myself – officially an ambivert, which is a bit of both introvert and extrovert.) I have many introverted friends, and I regularly meet with, speak to, and coach introverted clients. Introverts are some of my favorite people! One gentleman I met recently at a conference was possibly one of the most charming and beautiful souls in the crowd. (The extroverts were getting loud, and honestly it was too much for me.) My new introverted friend’s biggest issue? Self- confidence. Despite his low opinion of himself, I found him pleasant, engaging, and authentic; three traits that are very attractive when it comes to conversing. This charming man told me that one of his biggest challenges was finding things to talk about with others; finding common ground and shared interests. That said…
- Begin and grow conversations through the use of carefully -curated questions. To help my friend get to know those around him and feel less stressed, I gave him some ideas for conversation-generating questions. (You can also do an online search to find more ideas.) My advice: start by asking about the obvious things you have in common. In this case it was being a conference attendee. “What made you decide to attend this year?” “Where did you travel from?” “You grow up there?” “How did you end up there?” “You like it?” “Tell me something about yourself…” “What do you like best and least about conferences ?” “What do you hope to learn while you’re here?”
- Be a present and attentive listener. I also advised him that, when at a loss for something to say, remember people always find a good listener charming. (I know. This can be exhausting to an introvert, especially when someone begins talking your ear off, gets rowdy or aggressive, or the topic just isn’t interesting. Here’s a post on how to graciously escape a conversation that’s boring you to tears: Your New Escape Plan. )
- Find an energizing tribe. It was clear my friend needed to find and build a tribe of friends who shared his interests. This would help him see how energizing and fun socializing can be. (Eureka!) How to do this? I advised him to seek out and attend events (or join groups) where people who shared his interests gather. Like to read? Join a book club. Enjoy gourmet cooking? Take a cooking class. Relish the outdoors? Go on a group hike or other outdoor adventure tour.
- Just because seclusion and social safety feel good, please don’t linger there. I understand that your natural state – the places where you are most comfortable and where you recharge your battery – are in solitude or with people who make you feel comfortable. I’m in that space right now – working my way out of it. It’s awesome that you know that about yourself! But please don’t isolate yourself too much. It’s deadly for your health, well-being, your relationships (you become a needy and tedious bore!), and your career. People will forget about you. What’s easy and comfortable isn’t always what’s best.
- Stretch your social wings a little. Create some goals for yourself, such as attending at least one or two social events a week, making a handful of new connections, or calling friends you’ve not seen or spoken to in awhile. This week, ‘ve been reaching out to my dearest friends as a warmup. I have missed them. Next week, I’ll look to deepen some connections with people I find fascinating, but don’t know very well. Then, I may get a little crazy and attend an event where I will meet NEW people! Whooo- hoo!
- Be courageous and optimistic. Consider the possibilities and opportunities that await you, and I bet you’ll find that it’s a refreshing change and an inspiring one.
- Please stop using your introverted tendencies as an excuse to neglect your social responsibilities. Hey, I’m not a math whiz, but I know that I have to balance my checkbooks and do some basic number work in order to function in my daily life and run my business. Some things you just can’t avoid. Same goes for networking skills and social graces. If these are your weak areas, you know where you need to do some learning and place some effort. No more whining: “But I’m not a people-person..” (Hey! I know a great book that would help you!)
- Don’t let your shyness be mistaken for haughtiness. Did you know that your introversion, shyness, and any other hesitancy to introduce yourself or talk to others can make you seem unfriendly, snobby, or even full of yourself? It’s true. When you are among people, especially at a networking or social event, it’s actually your duty (according to social etiquette experts) to greet those who are in your immediate proximity and to introduce yourself. It’s not about how you feel in others’ presence; it’s about how they feel in your presence.
- Don’t be That Guy / That Gal. I’ll be honest and say that the only thing worse than conversing with someone who talks too much is being with someone who seems aloof and disinterested and doesn’t hold up his end of the conversation! And staring at your phone when someone is talking you? Please!! If you’ve leaned on your introversion (or phone) as an excuse for not learning or using social skills, it’s time to change that. Humanity and all it’s rewards, gifts, and pleasures awaits you.
- Worth repeating: some of the most lovable and popular people on the planet are introverts! Personally, I find introverts charming, funny, deep, intelligent, creative, interesting, and humble. Again, they are good listeners and wonderful advisors. When they have something to say, they’ve often chosen their words carefully. The phrase “still waters run deep” describes the experience. They are good observers and they balance the energy of the lively and sometimes overwhelming extroverts in the room, providing a beautiful oasis of calm and refreshing conversation (or silence). As an ambivert, I find this wonderful.
- Here’s to you, my introverted friends!
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