How to socialize like an extrovert
As a longtime introvert who has come to relish her introversion, I see some serious benefits to my introverted ways. As a writer, I also have a thing or two to say about them. So, upon reading Dorothy’s fab post 4 Easy Things You Need To Be Doing To Advance Your Career, I was brimming with ideas. I shared them with Dorothy in the comments, and she invited me to write another guest post on the topic.
Thus, this post on socializing was born.
If you’re an introvert hungry for the benefits of socialization, you can totally pull it off! And the great news is, you don’t have to change anything at the core of who you are. Actually, you can socialize like an extrovert, as an introvert!
Make Extrovert-Inspired Comments
Getting anywhere in business (or any situation involving more than one person) requires communication. We can pull this off, but there will be times where our input will be imperative and we absolutely don’t want to share it — speaking up in a group.
Speaking up has the potential to be so painful and awkward. The potential just grows exponentially for every coworker seated at the meeting table. If we don’t have the familiarity with our coworkers or the right relationships, then our comments can go ignored or overlooked. I say save yourself the embarrassment by using questions.
Why use questions instead of comments?
(1) It will save you the potential embarrassment of misunderstanding
(2) It will provide clarity that is needed by other coworkers as much as yourself, and
(3) It sets the stage for your point by stressing the validity of what you’re about to say.
For example, rather than saying, “We could do yada-yada to address that issue.” Try asking, “Could this create an issue with yada-yada?” If everyone is in agreement, then you can follow up by sharing your idea. Your ideas will still be subject to loopholes and unforeseen implications, but regardless, you’re making a valid point based on a valid issue.
This demonstrates that you have the ability to forecast problems and think up solutions. Even better? By posing a question, you’re initiating a discussion among the whole group. Sparking this dialogue with your idea may be the only contribution you need to make. That could mean no more talking required! And yet you’re making a crazy valuable contribution. This is how an introvert plays smarter instead of harder.
Create An Extrovert-Worthy Network
Introverts feel awkward talking, and this is where an introvert’s best friend comes in — Questions! But not just any old questions. Introvert-specialized questions…
As introverts, we tend to be suckers for in-depth and thoughtful information. Instead of having a conversation about dreadfully boring topics like weather, sports, and work, we can initiate chats that go beyond this. By asking thoughtful and provocative questions, we can spark a 30-minute conversation that we may only contribute 4 or 5 sentences to. And all the while, we’ll be gaining information from this person that peaks our interests and garners our genuine attention.
People love to talk about themselves, their lives, and their interests. Use this to your advantage while taking the chance to gain the great insights and ideas people have to offer. We may have to deliberately find something to take interest in, but this gets pretty easy when we genuinely listen to people and care about getting to know who they are. This can lead to some fantastic relationships. And all you have to do is be true to yourself and do what you do best.
Create A Chat-Friendly Environment
So, one of the biggest reasons that conversations are awkward is because they’re so…. awkward. It can be really hard to have a conversation because of department layout, dog-walking schedules, table and seating placement, and the break room setup (Why are the paper towels always between the coffee and the toaster oven?). And this isn’t any easier when we’re trying to have conversations with people we never see outside of the library reading zone or the work bathroom hallway.
Whether we want to yuck it up at home, at work, or in our neighborhood — we can make socializing a whole lot easier. Work and community relationships can be enhanced by creating chat-friendly events using hobbies, important initiatives, education, recreational activities as the basis for the gathering. It can be as simple as dog walks or neighborhood ice cream socials, or as detailed as quarterly workshops and regular initiative-inspired meetings. What matters is getting out and getting people together.
Meeting with people sounds intimidating, but it’s pretty easy to get people talking when they’re comfortable and doing something they know or enjoy. Create an atmosphere with close and comfortable seating (think living room), hands-on activities, snacks, special privacy zones, and variances in lighting, and this will help make your meet-and-greet a breeze. The only hard part is finding a way to keep people filled in on what’s going on (but there’s always an app-loving extrovert for that!).
Give Updates To Self-Promote
Self-promoting can be so awkward and superficial. But once again, we can be rescued by an introvert’s best friend: Questions.
Questions help us out by giving us the chance to update people without appearing hungry for praise or risking an out-of-place comment. It also gives us the opportunity to expand our network. If someone else has done something similar to what we’re working on, then we can lead to self-promoting by first asking this person about their ideas or experience. By them sharing their thoughts, you have the chance to expand on the conversation with the stories and challenges of your present projects.
This method of self-promotion is great because it gives acquaintances and colleagues the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences. This gives them a very rare chance to feel valuable and listened to. This is an incredibly empowering offering to people. Supporting them in this way will enrich your relationship with them, and that’s going to lead to some outrageous perks and connections. And the benefits only get more amazing when you find value in the things they share with you and genuinely care about what they’re sharing with you. What’s there to lose?
Understanding Skills And Development
A lot of people feel ashamed for their introversion, and they feel like there’s something wrong with them. If this is you, then do yourself a favor and ditch the shame. No one should ever feel guilty about having introverted or extroverted tendencies.
For one thing, our ways are due to a result of “nature” as well as “nurture.” As a longtime therapist and creator of Specialized Family Therapy LCSW Maurice Heidish explains, children go through crucial periods of development. Be it reading and walking, or socializing and giving speeches — we develop skills in steps and stages. And we can’t move on to intermediate or advanced until we have mastered the bare-bone basics.
This means we can’t just magically shift from crawler to runner. Or, in our case, from reserved to flamboyant socializer. And while our inability to change overnight may feel depressing, this is actually a great thing. As we practice different actions and behaviors, our brain will slowly build new neural networks. The more we practice, the stronger these new networks become. With enough practice, our desired behaviors can become an easy and automatic response. So don’t ever get down on yourself! The brain has the ability to build any skill or behavior. It just needs practice!
Un-Introverting The Introvert
We introverts don’t need to change our ways because there’s something wrong with us. We like what we like, and that’s just how it goes. But we can actually make ourselves less of an introvert by piggybacking off our introversion. We can develop extroverted traits without denying ourselves our beloved introverted ways. We just have to build the skills and practices that will give us the efficiency and satisfaction that we crave.
Consider our elementary schools. It used to be that math was only taught in one way: a teacher droning away in front of the class while drawing symbols on a chalkboard using a meaningless and confusing formula. Come to find out, this isn’t effective. Some kids have managed to squeak by with it, but it’s well recognized now that this not the way to teach. Some students are more visual, while others are auditory, and others are hands-on. The best teaching approach isn’t the one that works best for the teacher, but the approach that best fosters a student’s learning. Thus, our schools have swapped out memorization and ruler slaps for the methodology of differentiated instruction.
We may never be students again, but we can see this same situation in our adult lives. Everyday life has us interacting with various people, situations, and places. If we want to be effective in how we take these situations on, we need to be able to differentiate our approach according to what works best. Sometimes we can be quiet and thoughtful. Other times we’ll be better off asking questions and making comments. Then there will be some situations where <gasp> initiating and maintaining a lively conversation is in order. Yeah, we may feel uncomfortable at times, but when we can focus on being and giving our best, the awkwardness doesn’t matter so much.
There you have it fellow introverts! We don’t need to change who we are to give our best in life. Actually, we need to be exactly the person we’re itching to be. But in being ourselves, we should always be building new life skills so that we’re constantly building better lives and becoming happier people.
The things we love about introversion are exactly what we need to build these skills. Whether we like new information, deep conversations, contemplation, discussing and exploring ideas, or whatever — we can network and socialize by expanding on our cherished introverted needs. We may have to tweak our ways to pull this off, but we will never have to change what makes us happy.
Ash “Asha” Stevens is a writer who doubles as a wannabe nutritionist, philosopher, psychologist, and shaman. When she isn’t writing her soul out on the web, she’s listening to the great minds (or great comedians) on YouTube, soaking up sunshine, dancing in her living room, or having yet another fascinating conversation with herself (she gives excellent advice, you know). Check out her blog, or find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!
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Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleashing your professional potential. Introvert Whisperer