“Introvert” is the new buzz word. Everywhere you turn these days someone is touting the benefits of being an introvert. Think you are one? Perhaps. Many of us are and it can be difficult to deal in an in-your-face world of networking and self-promotion.
How do you know if you’re an introvert? A few signs could be that you don’t enjoy small talk; you’re exhausted after group activities; networking makes you feel like a poser; you feel alone even when you’re with people; you enjoy downtime and need it to recharge.
There are other signs too, like not wanting to answer the phone, preferring instead to text or email, preferring to give a talk in front of 100 people and dreading the small talk mingling after.
Most likely, if you’re an introvert, you know it. But how do you survive those times when you just can’t avoid being surrounded by strangers? Here are 10 ways to get through those stressful times.
1. You must take breaks.
The singlemost important thing you can do to help yourself deal with a large group of strangers or people you are not yet comfortable with is to take breaks. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, run out to the car to “get something,” or get a breath of fresh air. It’s important to take five or ten minutes and give yourself a chance to compose yourself, gather your thoughts or psych yourself up for the next round of small talk.
2. You need to learn the tricks of small talk.
If you know a little about the people who will be at an event you’re attending, then do your best to make a mental note of a few likes and dislikes. If you’re at a car collector’s meeting, it’s likely you can start off a conversation with almost anyone by saying, “What kind of cars do you collect?” Or keep a list of potential topics close at hand (in your head). If you don’t know anything at all, eavesdrop a bit. Listen to what others are talking about and chime into the conversation. At least participating in the conversation will get the event over faster than if you just sit in the corner.
3. You should take on a job.
The best way to deal with large groups, particularly strangers, is to take on a job at the event. Cook something. Move the chairs and tables. Pick up the trash. Get a camera and make yourself the official photographer. Be the bartender. Having something useful to do is the best way to participate without having to generate small talk or approach people unnecessarily.
4. You must expect change.
The last thing an introvert wants to hear is that more people are coming, the venue has moved or the date has changed. Expect things to change and be flexible. If you anticipate that something will go “wrong,” it will make you better able to deal with it when it happens.
5. You must recognize the shutdown.
It happens to introverts all the time. You’ve been at an event for a while and you really start to crave crawling behind the couch and disappearing. This is the shutdown. When it starts to happen, take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation.
6. You should drink coffee.
Yup. I said it. Actually, Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking said it. “Coffee will deliver you from self-doubt. It gets you excited about new ideas and helps you ignore the chorus of judgers inside your head. It propels your thinking and helps you make connections between seemingly unrelated things. Hence, the saying that ‘a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.’”
7. You should go to evening events.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that peaks during the morning. Attending events in the evening keeps your nervousness down just as your stress levels are reaching their lowest levels of the day. Decreased cortisol can help you cope with stressful situations better.
8. You should bring an extrovert.
Know a friend who is extroverted? Probably. Most introverts tend to find extroverted friends. In fact, if you’re headed to a large gathering, it’s likely at the behest of an extrovert in your life. Bring this extrovert with you and they can introduce you to people, get chatty and help you stay away from the buffet table alone.
9. You must stand confidently.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist suggests taking on high power poses such as standing tall with your legs spread and your hands on your hips. This stimulates testosterone and cortisol and can help you feel more confident in a room full of strangers.
10. You should team up with another introvert.
Is there someone else lurking along the edges of the conversation? Find this person, make eye contact and start a conversation. Perhaps you can introduce each other to other people in the room and get each other going on a night of extroversion.
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