If you’re like the vast majority of Introverts, you’re comfortable in your own skin and couldn’t imagine being any other way. You’re happy with the way you are and view your introversion as a positive characteristic. Nevertheless, you would probably like to know how to be more social as an Introvert, because there isn’t an Introvert alive who doesn’t have at least some regrets about opportunities for socializing they’ve let slip by.
Every once in a while, and maybe more often than you’d like, your introverted personality will prevent you from widening your circle of friends, or from enjoying all the potential benefits an existing relationship can deliver. It happens not so much through conscious choice, but through ingrained unconscious reflexes that can keep you more isolated than is either necessary or desirable.
The good news is that you can break out of your self-imposed shell, if that is what you really want to do. You can definitely learn how to be more social as an Introvert, and here are a few recommendations that can get you started:
Don’t trap yourself with negative self-judgments or preconceived notions
Too often Introverts talk themselves into believing they are more shy, awkward, or socially unprepared than is actually the case. They develop fixed and negative ideas about their lack of social skills, and those preconceptions prevent them from trying to make friends even when opportunities to do so arise.
This mindset is self-sabotaging, and you should try hard to cultivate its opposite. You should anticipate success, rather than failure, in every social environment. You have the potential to be as sociable as you’d like to be, once you get past the idea that you have a rigid personality with unchangeable traits. Knowing how to be more social as an Introvert requires having an open mind about the possibilities, so you don’t sabotage your efforts to be more social with a defeatist attitude.
Watch Extraverts and see how they do it
One way you can learn how to be more social as an Introvert is to observe Extraverts in action, to see if you can uncover some of their secrets. People with extraverted personalities spend many years perfecting the art of conversation, and if you pay close attention to what they’re doing and saying you might notice some things that can point you in the right direction, socially speaking.
This doesn’t mean you should try to mimic Extraverts word-for-word or gesture-for-gesture. That wouldn’t work for you, since you won’t be looking for as much interaction as the typical extravert. The idea is to pick up just a few tricks of the trade, so you can apply them selectively in contexts that make sense for you.
Find others who share your interests and will appreciate your company
Classes and clubs offer you opportunities to meet people who have the same interests and passions as you do. Depending on your preferences, you can sign up for a class or club to practice or learn a sport, discuss cultural interests or attend cultural events, learn how to cook or speak a foreign language, or a thousand other choices that will immerse you in a specialized social environment with people who will understand your opinions and references.
The key is to take a class that teaches you something you’ve always wanted to learn, or to join a club that sponsors an activity you know you will truly enjoy. When you’re in your element, socializing will come naturally since you’ll have plenty of ideas, insights, and experiences that you’re just dying to share.
Make sure your body language makes you seem approachable
If you’re like most Introverts, you may be inadvertently sending off signals that suggest you’re not interested in socializing. You may do this with your body language if you adopt an appearance that suggests you’re unapproachable. A blank expression, a lack of eye contact, crossed arms and legs, a slumped posture, constant fidgeting, and excessive social spacing are just some of the signs that suggest you’d rather be left alone.
You can send the opposite message if you so choose, by changing your body language to suggest openness and sociability. This means a friendlier expression, frequent eye contact, uncrossed arms and legs, an erect posture, and staying close to people and remaining calm and still in their presence. Even if only one or two people in a particular social setting notice the cues and decide to approach you, that could be enough to turn an anxiety-inducing event into a fun time filled with pleasant conversation
Don’t overexpose yourself to parties and other overly active social environments
As an Introvert, you’ll likely do better at small and more intimate gatherings than you’ll do at parties, conferences, or large-scale celebrations or events. You won’t feel drained and overwhelmed by all the hustle and bustle going on around you, and you’ll feel far more comfortable initiating a conversation with someone when the environment is calm and peaceful.
If you try to expand your social life in a crowded or noisy place, your chances of success will be minimal. Introverts need tranquility to function, and when you find yourself in a relaxed setting, it will free up your mind and enable your efforts to be more social. You’ll be at your sharpest when you’re at your most comfortable, and that will make it easier for you to initiate or join thoughtful and interesting conversations.
Be curious and empathic
As you contemplate potential social interactions, one of your biggest concerns may be your lack of experience in social environments. You likely never developed the habit of initiating conversations with a lot of different people in a variety of settings and situations, and therefore your social comfort zone may be relatively limited.
So how do you break free from your social isolation if you lack broad conversational experience? One of the best ways to get a discussion started is to open with curiosity and follow it up with empathy.
Discovering how to be more social as an Introvert means finding out how to make meaningful connections with a wide range of people, and the most reliable method for doing this is to ask them about their lives and their opinions. People will almost always respond positively and enthusiastically when you do this. And when you demonstrate empathy, which means sympathizing with their struggles and taking delight in their successes as you hear about them in real time, they will quickly identify you as someone worthy of getting to know.
Stay in the conversation and out of your own head
You can put yourself in situations where social encounters with new people are highly likely or even inevitable. But that doesn’t mean a more active social life will come easily or automatically. The conversations you start or join won’t last for long if you can't perform effectively, which essentially means keeping the conversation going and making sure it goes in a direction that makes it interesting for all participants.
Unfortunately, Introverts too often retreat into their own thoughts during conversations with other people. They reflect incessantly on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, judging and critiquing their own performance in real-time. This excessive self-awareness interferes with social effectiveness, because it keeps them focused on themselves more than on what the other person is actually saying.
If you want to become more social you have to break this habit if you’ve developed it. Good communication is only possible if you concentrate completely on what the other person is saying and respond to it naturally and spontaneously. In social environments you must silence the inner voices and get out of your own head, this is the only way your innate conversational skills will ever be able to emerge.
Some final thoughts on social media
Social media sites, and the Internet in general, obviously provide many opportunities to reach out to other people, opportunities that didn’t exist just a couple of generations ago. In the virtual universe you can exchange messages about your personal lives and interests with anyone anywhere in the world, and you can even argue with them about politics or other contentious topics if that’s what you enjoy.
But virtual socializing isn’t the same as in-person interactions, meaning it isn’t as rich or emotionally fulfilling. It lacks some of the vital elements that help form lasting bonds between people, and if you try to use social media exclusively to create a more vibrant social life, you are likely to come away disappointed.
If you’re trying to learn how to be more social as in Introvert, it would be a mistake to rely on the Internet too much. Virtual interactions can supplement in-person interactions nicely, but they cannot replace them completely. Ideally, if you do have Internet-based relationships, they should be hybrids that combine virtual messaging with face-to-face meetings and shared outings. That way, you’ll get the best of both worlds and you’ll be using the Internet to broaden your social horizons in a totally constructive manner.