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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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