Your phone is buzzing again and a notification lights up the screen. Without thinking, you flip the device over, hiding the message. You don’t need to see it to know what it says. The weekend is here and — you’re 90% sure — that was a friend inviting you out for drinks. There’s just one problem: hanging out in a crowded bar tonight is your personal hell.
For the naturally Introverted among us, socializing can sometimes feel like a chore. But make no mistakes about it, that doesn’t mean you have to lead a solitary life. In this guide, we take a look at why Introverts socialize differently and how to make that work for you.
What is an Introvert?
Chances are, you’re familiar with the terms ‘Introvert’ and ‘Extravert.’ The words have been around for decades and are often used as shorthand for certain personality traits.
Originally coined by the 20th-century psychiatrist Carl Jung, the theory goes that an Introvert is a person whose interest is directed inward toward their own feelings and thoughts. Their energy gets zapped by too much stimulation, and that can make them less than eager to socialize.
On the other hand, an Extravert is someone whose attention is directed toward the outside world. We’re talking about the naturally gregarious amongst us. A typical Extravert would be someone whose social calendar is filled up months in advance, because they get their energy from being around others.
Before we go any further, we should note that these terms are not clean-cut. Few people fall entirely into the Extraversion or Introversion camp and can flex a little in certain situations. However, if you score highly on the personality theory created by Briggs and Myers for Introversion, you may sometimes find socializing challenging.
Why Introverts May Appear Less Social
Picture a stereotypical Introvert: The wallflower who spends their time alone in their room reading or playing games instead of with friends. On the surface, this person may appear to be less social than their Extraverted counterparts. However, looks can be deceiving.
“Introverts are not worse at socializing than Extraverts, they just do it differently,” says Hope Weiss, LCSW at www.HopeIsThere.com. “It takes more energy for an Introvert to socialize than an Extravert. While an Extravert receives energy from being around other people, an Introvert’s energy is depleted from being around other people.”
So, while Introverts do need social connections, they tend to find being around people for too long draining. Rather than leaving a party feeling energized and excited, Introverts may leave craving some quiet time by themselves to regain their energy levels.
“Because Introverts tend to recharge their personal ‘batteries’ more effectively with alone time, they tend to seek out ways to reduce social time,” explains Sandra Wartski, Psy.D.
Of course, having less social time is not the same as having no social time. The truth of the matter is that we all need strong social bonds to be mentally healthy and happy. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ amount of socialization — we’re all individual in our needs.
“Human beings are social animals, and we are hardwired to attach to people,” explains Wartski. “Although we know that social connection is vital for our wellbeing and that attachment is critical in terms of human development, humans do vary in terms of the level of socialization needed.” Figure out how much interaction you need to be content.
Tips on How to Socialize for Introverts
Ready to get your social juices flowing? If you want some pointers to help you along the way, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at the following expert-backed tips to socializing:
1. Make time to recharge after socializing
“We live in an Extraverted world. It’s important to embrace being an Introvert,” says Weiss. “You will then not push yourself to be something that you are not. Understand and validate your need for downtime. It’s okay to not be the party queen.”
If you’ve got Introverted tendencies, you know the drill. When you’ve said your goodbyes, the urge to take a quick nap is strong. There’s nothing wrong with that. Quit trying to fight your natural instincts. Listen to them instead. Schedule in some much-needed ‘you’ time.
“It’s important to have some time after socializing to regain your energy,” suggests Weiss. “This involves spending time alone or with someone who understands your need for quiet after the socializing experience.” It’s never a bad idea to have a game plan.
2. Don’t "fake it until you make it"
When you’re out of practice, the idea of socializing may have you paralyzed. Age-old wisdom will tell you to “fake it until you make it.” However, putting on a show and attempting to be whoever you think others want you to be is a recipe for social disaster.
“Be authentic,” says Dr. Caleb Jacobson, PsyD, clinical psychologist and host of the popular Sex Therapy Podcast. “People are not going to like you just because you act like someone else. Nor will they remember you if you simply imitate someone else.”
“If you really want to impress other people, and be a person that others want to be around, you need to be true to yourself,” he continues. “This will attract people because there is a sense of sincerity that makes people comfortable and relaxed around you.”
3. Unleash your inner curiosity
Let us let you in on a secret: people love to speak about themselves. When you’re meeting a new person, shine the spotlight on them and get them talking. Not only will this approach help the conversation flow, but it also takes the emphasis off you if you’re nervous.
“If you ever watch talk shows you’ll notice that the hosts never run out of things to say to the people who are guests on their show. Why is this? Because they act curious about the person, they ask them a lot of questions,” says Gayle Weill, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. “I know that a conversation is very similar to a tennis match — one person hits the ball and then it’s up to the other person to hit the ball back. “
4. Go for quality over quantity
Do you feel overwhelmed with all the coffee dates, catch-ups, and lunches out? If you’re missing out on rest and relaxation, you’ve likely overextended yourself. Trying to book in too many social activities will leave you feeling exhausted. Cut that out immediately.
Focus on quality not quantity. “Decide on the number of social interactions you will have per week,” says Weiss. “You will notice over time how many feel like too much or not enough. You can adjust this based on what is going on in your life. There may be times when you need more alone time if you are feeling stressed in other parts of your life.”
5. Try to calm your social fears
More than seven percent of Americans have experienced social anxiety disorder in the past year. You may want to seek out therapy to manage your anxiety symptoms. However, if you are simply feeling nervous about socializing, look into ways to calm your fears.
“Do some self-reflection,” suggests Weill. “Consider what exactly it is that you are anxious about. If you worry you’ll be judged by the other person. Remember the importance of feeling confident and feeling good about yourself.” And, if in doubt, get some help. “Seek therapy if it’s a lack of confidence that is making you anxious about meeting people.”
6. Hang out in small groups
If the idea of a massive party makes your stomach turn, don’t panic. No rulebook says you have to throw yourself into the deep end of socializing. In reality, many Introverts tend to prefer smaller settings so they can create strong one-on-one bonds with closer friends.
“There is often greater intimacy and more authentic, deeper conversation in smaller gatherings. The Introvert being able to create an atmosphere which is more aligned with their strengths will allow there to be more ease, comfort and fun,” says Wartski.
As an Introvert, socializing with friends and family doesn’t have to be a trial. Should you find that these hang-outs leave your battery on the low side, simply make the time to recharge. You don’t have to out-socialize Kim Kardashian to build strong connections with the people that matter. Integrate regular social plans into a routine that works for you.