An introvert’s guide to being social

Nerd

Fact: I was voted most awkward by my track teammates… but in a good way? (Star Wars shirt courtesy Molly McCormick)

Socializing comes easier to some than it does to others. Many of us are introverts on some level, so fluttering around parties and meeting new people isn’t exactly fun. It’s actually really nerve-racking.

But just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we don’t need friends. Plenty of us shy-types thrive in social situations when we’re with a small group of people we know well. The trouble is forming this tight-knit group, especially since we’re no longer crammed into classes or dorm rooms with other people. Our forced friendship days are over! Aside from work, of course.

So what is the modern anti-socialite to do? Well, kids, you’re just going to need to suck it up and be uncomfortable. Go to places where other people will be (yes, live people!) and fake being social, no matter how awkward and embarrassed you may actually feel. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

Here are a few handy tips, from one introvert to another:

If you’re invited, go

As tempting as it is to spend a Friday night sitting on your couch and catching up on Glee, it’s better for your social life if you actually go to events you’re invited to. Not all recent grads have friends that invite them places, so consider yourself lucky!

You’ll only know one person there? You have nothing to wear? You think you were invited out of pity? Who cares! You wouldn’t skip a job interview for any of these reasons, so don’t skip out on potentially making a friend or two.

On a more important note, if you’re invited and don’t go, eventually the invitations will stop. So don’t blow it.

Don’t be a stage 5 clinger

You go to a party and only know one person, so naturally this person will become your security blanket. I used to do that. I still do sometimes–it’s a hard habit to break. But if you’ve ever been the other person–the security blanket–then you know how annoying this can be.

Aside from being irritating, attaching yourself to one person makes you seem like an entity of that person. Be your own person! Go ahead and say hi to the few people you know. Hang out with them long enough to be introduced to more people. But then start branching out.

Even if you do something idiotic, at least people will remember you as “Lauren, the girl who introduced herself to me twice” instead of “Robbin’s friend.”

Put your phone away

I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in high school. I didn’t get a texting plan until my senior year of high school. I didn’t get a smartphone until this past December. In other words, my phone isn’t an extra limb, but it is for plenty of people out there.

Phones have become the go-to of uncomfortable situations. “I feel dumb because I’m hanging out by myself. But if I go on Facebook or look at old text messages, I’ll look like I have friends.” Actually, you’ll look unapproachable. No one wants to try making conversation with someone whose eyes are glued to her phone all night.

Unless you’re expecting a call or text message or whatever the kids do these days, put your phone somewhere else.

Your arms are part of your body–chill

For some reason, I have never figured out what to do with my arms when I’m talking to people. If I cross them or have them touch each other in any way I’ll look insecure. If I put them on my hips I’ll look weird and poke people with my elbows. If I put them at my sides then they’re just hanging there like monkey arms. Maybe back pockets?

Or maybe I’m overthinking this whole thing.

That’s what us introverts do, you know, we overanalyze social encounters. So tell your brain to take it down a notch. And if this whole arm thing gets to you, too, grab a drink. Even if it’s water it’ll give you something to do with those damn arms of yours.

Silence isn’t deadly

You’re having a conversation with a stranger, neat! Then the conversation stops. Silence. You start feeling extremely uncomfortable. Maybe you laugh awkwardly or say something like “so…” You try to think of something to say and a few questions come to mind but you can’t seem to decide which one to ask. Then the person you were talking to starts talking again. Oh thank God. That was the worst 15 seconds of your life.

Silence is a natural part of every conversation. When it happens, don’t panic! The lull is never as long as you think it is. If a conversation starts to die, start inching toward different people. Situations like this only become awkward if you think they’re awkward.

Eye contact, and smile!

The key to meeting new people is being approachable and remaining approachable. It’s easy to start a conversation with good eye contact and a friendly face only to start looking down and wondering what your cat is up to a few minutes into it.

Even if a conversation is painful, don’t think about how excruciating it is. You will physically start to invert as soon as you start thinking about how you’d rather be anywhere else. Remain positive. Fake confidence. Fake a smile or two. It sounds cheesy, but if you keep this up you’ll eventually start feeling more confident and the smiles will become real.

You can ask cliche questions, really

Making conversation is the most painful part about socializing with people you don’t know. What the hell do you talk about? If drinks are involved, things get easier because you start to relax and become less inhibited. But if there’s no alcohol, or if you’re waiting for a little alcohol to kick in, conversations can be rough.

It’s OK to use conversation starters that seem cliche. Talk about the weather. Ask where they’re from. Ask what they like doing (as opposed to what they do… this can be a touchy subject for 20-somethings). As far as corny or cliche questions, nothing is off limits when you’re trying to get a conversation started.

Be the inviter

Great, you went to some parties and survived! But don’t just sit around, waiting for the next invite. Take the initiative to contact some of the people you’ve met and invite them to get drinks, ice cream, what have you.

This can is rough for introverts, but that’s why texting and Facebook were invented! The situation becomes less intimidating when you can write out an invitation and read the response. As long as you’re making the effort to see these people again, I’ll allow it.

What do you do to overcome social anxiety? This is a tough subject; I’ll take any advice you have to offer!

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7 thoughts on “An introvert’s guide to being social

  1. The arms thing cracked me up! I think another thing to remember is that you are not the only shy/introverted person there. If you concentrate on being friendly and smiley and chatting not just to make yourself seem confident and fun but instead to put other people at ease it can take some of the pressure off yourself!

    • Excellent point! That’s very true–there will definitely be more than a few introverts trying to forge ahead in social situations. I think I feel most at ease in social situations when I’m helping put someone else at ease.

  2. I was laughing and nodding all the way through this post (and I LOVE the photo, byt the way!). I like metamorphocity’s advice a lot, and I’d also add “pick your battles.” As a bona fide introvert, in some social situations I am totally uncomfortable, such as weird cocktail receptions in which I must figure out how to juggle a napkin full of food, a drink AND hold a conversation. Uh, no. So I skip those. But I do attend social events that will allow my introvert self to feel comfortable by giving me plenty of opportunities for 1-on-1 conversation – such as intimate dinner parties and hanging out at a restaurant with friends. I guess I don’t try to be super-social; I just try to be “me-social,” as in, be as social as I can be while staying true to me. My real friends understand that just fine. πŸ™‚

  3. Haha, thanks! Oh my, yes, having too many things to hold onto is definitely another problem. Or being at fancy parties with unfamiliar food and having to wait for someone else to try some so you know how to eat it.

    I love your “me-social” comment. That is a good thing to bring up. It would be really draining to go to every single social event possible, so passing on certain situations is a good idea as long as you’re not passing on everything. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Good stuff Lauren. I’m used to be an introvert but have shed my shell. Two hints people love to hear there name. use it often ( helps you to remember it also) And dont worry about your arms. When I’m talking to someone I look like a bird in flight at times when I’m really fired up.

    • Haha, thanks! That’s a good point about the names. People do love hearing their names, and it will help you remember their names better. I usually forget about a minute after hearing it πŸ™‚

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