As an Introvert, it isn’t always easy to meet new people. There’s a lot of pressure that makes Introverts uncomfortable — making small talk, the fear of appearing “too quiet” and the expectation to engage when you may feel too drained to do so are a few of these.
While you can’t force yourself to be more extraverted, Introverts can learn some easy hacks to make first impressions go off without a hitch. These small tricks aren’t hard to incorporate into your routine, whether you meet new people regularly or it’s a rare occasion.
Read body language to interpret the impression you’re making
Introverts are great at reading other people’s body language. Why? Because they are highly observant and have a tendency to analyze everything. This means they can quickly see and interpret the subtle clues in people’s body language. Don’t pretend you didn’t notice the head tilt, that smirk or the eyebrow raise and use this to adjust your approach!
Since Introverts know how body language reflects the impression they’re making, they can practice adjusting their own body language to make a great first impression in return. Many Introverts have a tendency to cross their arms in front of their chest or avoid eye contact. These habits can make you come across as unapproachable or insecure. Remedy this by adopting some body language tips for Introverts — smile more, keep your eyes open, maintain eye contact and maintain a straight and welcoming posture to avoid appearing closed off to others.
Don’t listen to your inner critic; harness your inner voice for good
Yes, Introverts have a loud (read: deafening) inner voice, which can be a strength or a weakness. When meeting new people, many Introverts worry about how they come across and this critical inner talk can distract them from engaging effectively. Instead of worrying about how you look or speak, focus on being present. Look people in the eyes and tell your inner critic to take a hike.
You’re thinking, sure, this sounds easy, but it isn’t when the pressure’s on. So here’s a tip—give yourself a pep talk before a big meeting or engagement. Turn your inner critic into your public relations representative, aka a positive force that highlights all your strengths and good points. Use positive affirmations to tell yourself you’ll make a great first impression. It’s as easy as telling yourself you’re going to do great. Negativity will beget negativity. The more you make this a habit, the easier it will become.
Ask questions and employ your listening skills
Introverts are good listeners, so lean into this when you meet someone new. When you ask someone how they’re doing or what they love most about their work, turn on your hyper-attentive listening skills and really focus on what they’re saying. Then, it becomes easy to ask a follow-up question, proving you’re engaged and active in the conversation. The other person will laud your conversational skills, even if you didn’t do much of the talking.
Embrace your authenticity. Don’t put up a front
Introverts might think they should behave a certain way based on societal expectations but, most of the time, people you meet can tell when you’re wearing a mask. Instead of trying to fit your behavior into an extraverted box, be yourself. Most Introverts have difficulty pretending, anyway, and your prospective boss, new colleague or date will appreciate seeing the real you. After all, your authenticity is what makes you shine.
(Did you know there are four types of Introverts? Knowing which type you are can also help you lean into your authentic strengths when making first impressions.)
View small talk as a treasure map, where the “X marks the spot” is the buried treasure of deeper conversation
Small talk is uncomfortable for Introverts, but most relationships start with some level of it. So think of it as a necessary means to an end. If you engage in some small talk, you’ll eventually get to the nitty-gritty of the conversation.
Conversely, if someone asks you a question that may steer the conversation away from small talk, swim to the deep end—but make sure you only do this when appropriate. For example, discussing deep family matters or personal affairs can be off putting if you're just meeting someone. Stick to the basics of your deep conversational topics—the analysis of sports, art or music are good examples. Keep it interesting, but avoid divulging too much information or veering into topics that make you feel uncomfortable.
Embrace your observational skills to uncover potential talking points
Introverts are master observers, so use this skill to your advantage. What does their outfit say about them? If you’re in their office, do they have telling photographs or hobby memorabilia? It’s easy to keep conversations afloat if you can uncover details about the person you’re meeting.
For example, if you’re on a first date, you might notice your date’s wearing a vintage outfit or piece of jewelry. From there, you could ask them if they’re interested in antiques or history. The same goes for meeting a potential boss for an interview. Do the photographs on their desk prove they like to play golf? Ask how their last golf game went. These simple conversation tidbits show them you’re interested in knowing what makes them tick without being too personal. People enjoy discussing their interests, so this is an excellent way to break the ice.
Give compliments, but avoid overdoing it
As an Introvert who loves to throw compliments around when I’m struggling for words, I can confirm complimenting someone you’ve just met usually brings lightness and ease into the space. But here’s the caveat—don’t offer too many compliments or give one you don’t mean. People can tell when you’re insincere and you don’t want to give a first impression of insincerity.
On meeting someone, I try to find something I genuinely like about their outfit or look as soon as I see them. It’s easy to do if you hone your observational skills, and when you mean the compliment, it may even endear this person to you. Plus, if you’re in a formal setting, such as on a date, it shows you recognize the other person put effort into their outfit or appearance.
Try finding a common interest
It isn’t always easy to determine someone’s interests right away, but you can include a simple question in your “meeting a new person” routine that will make it possible. Forget the weather— try an icebreaker question like asking what they do for fun or how their weekend was.
Often, a question like this will bring up an unexpected answer that uncovers a mutual interest. This will make it easier to skip the small talk and discuss something you both enjoy. For instance, when an interviewer asked me what my hobbies were during a job interview, the energy was instantly more friendly when we discovered we both shared a love of theater arts.
Wrapping things up: Overall, stay positive
First impressions matter, but if you struggle to create what you believe is your “ideal” first impression, don’t beat yourself up over it. You can learn to incorporate the above tips to aid you in your meet and greets. The most important thing to remember is to be yourself and stay open to the experience of meeting new people. At the end of the day, it isn't your fault if someone misinterprets you for someone you are not. All you can do is bring yourself to the table and be friendly and willing to put yourself out there. When you put positivity in, you’re probably going to get positivity out.