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10 Things Introverts Can Do to Survive When Surrounded by Strangers

10 Things Introverts Can Do to Survive When Surrounded by Strangers

“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Michelle Kennedy Hogan

Michelle is an explorer, editor, author of 15 books, and mom of eight.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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