Life, to me, is all about human connections.
No, it’s not so much about the “professional networking” aspect or building a social media network full of fans and promoters. Even in our increasingly tech-laden world, it’s those pure, totally uninhibited, simply “human” face-to-face connections that mean the absolute most in life.
There’s something so unique and special about the bonds we forge over laughter and smiles, as well as those shared over tears and during moments of adversity when communities unite to overcome sorrow.
However, if you’re more of an “introvert” like me and not a Type-A, extroverted personality, those human connections feel a bit tougher to come by. I’d rather listen that talk, ask questions than rattle off answers. It takes some real courage for me to enter a social setting that I’m unfamiliar with, or especially (gasp!) a social scene where I don’t know anybody else beforehand.
Are you the same way?
No matter the extent of your social skills, introverted personality, or even if you deal with social anxiety in certain situations, I’ve assembled some of the easiest and most effective tips for introverts — provided by introverts, themselves! — from across the web and Twittersphere for you to try out at your next networking event or at the local watering hole this weekend!
1. JUST DO IT!!
“I have to force myself to get out there. It’s hard to do. But I join organizations, talk to business people… Engaging people first through social media has helped make the transition to real life interactions easier: It sets up a wonderful comfort level.” calkundra, on Twitter
Honestly, what would we do without the wisdom of Nike’s infamous catch-phrase? Simply force yourself to step outside of your comfort zones. You can even use social media like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to facilitate face-to-face connections in a way that provide an initial level of familiarity and comfort with new people.
Did you know that modern scientific and psychological studies prove that when you interpret difficult, uncomfortable situations as “challenges” and “adventures,” we are better able to cope with stress and anxiety?
Get creative and push yourself to extend your boundaries. View each interaction, and each new social setting as a unique challenge, opportunity and adventure to meet new and wonderful people — who knows who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn, and what good could come to a stranger’s life thanks to your friendly smile.
2. RELAX, GET COMFORTABLE
“Warmth. Getting relaxed as possible prior.” playwithamy, on Twitter
Outside of using social media to get yourself more familiar with people who will be in attendance at upcoming networking and social events, you can even visit the venue itself to get familiar with the “lay of the land.” I don’t know about you, but I get all sorts of flustered when I get lost heading to a new venue or struggle to find parking for my car (or, in Boston where I’m currently living, figuring there’s a good chance of getting ticketed and/or towed!).
Watch a funny movie or TV show ahead of time, too.
Your happy, smiling, fun-loving state will carry over into the event and help you radiate with attractive, positive energy and invite new people to approach you for conversation.
3. SET SIMPLE GOALS
“Speak to one stranger per day! Trust and embrace the unknown!” outwardnick, on Twitter
Focus on setting simple goals. Meeting one new person every day — or even just one person in any social setting — helps to build your confidence, gather forward momentum and create a sensation of steady growth within you.
You can meet just one stranger per day, can’t you? :)
4. GET HELP FROM YOUR (OUTGOING) FRIENDS
“I think having at least one very extroverted friend helps. When I’m with mine, you’d never know how shy and introverted I am.” aprilsmithma, on Twitter
This is an awesome bit of advice. Who are your most outgoing, social friends? You can “ride their coat-tails” and tag along with them to events you might not otherwise feel comfortable attending, and begin meeting new people through their naturally extroverted personality.
Don’t feel intimidated by your friend if he or she woos the room and you feel like you’ve taken a back seat or are hiding in the shadows. Remain confident and smiling. You can even ask your friend outright for help meeting people — they will happily oblige.
I use this strategy myself!
5. EMBRACE THE NERVES
“Be scared, uncomfortable, and do it anyway. Stretch boundaries slowly, desensitize one awkward situation at a time! :)” jwitcraft, on Twitter
You’re nervous? Good. You’re alive.
Like any skill, socializing takes practice. I’ve gotten better and better at it over time, and in spite of your nerves, stretching your boundaries step-by-step will help you grow to become pretty good at witty banter and that typical back-and-forth of conversations when meeting new people.
6. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU
“Focus on the other person. Asking ppl about themselves & being interested makes them think you’re a great conversationalist. :D” cordeliacallsit, on Twitter
I personally LOVE this tip. In any uncomfortable situation, an introvert’s best strategy is to simply take the attention off yourself by asking questions, becoming invested in the words the other person is saying, and deeply listening to their stories.
Take the attention off of yourself by making your interaction with someone about them and not you, and you won’t feel like you’re buckling under the pressure of “putting on a show.”
This technique will also make you feel more comfortable to open up yourself and get familiarized with the group of people with whom you’re spending time.
7. DROP THE ‘INTROVERT’ LABEL ALTOGETHER!
This tip is my own!
Personally, I’m really not sure when I “finally” realized I was an introverted personality. But if the decision was an “either/or” between introvert and extrovert, it’s not like I had much of a choice, anyway!
I’m not sure that it makes any sense to completely reduce our deeply complex personalities to such a black-or-white, introvert or extrovert, one-or-the-other label: one that ingrains an idea within our own minds of our personal skills, talents, abilities, and — equally as powerful — our perceived limitations.
Truly, each of our individual personalities (combined with our unique living experiences) should remind us that each of our personalities represent one of “one million-shades of gray.”
Just drop the “introvert” label and remind yourself that every person is really in the same boat as a human being looking to share those same unique and special human connections with others.
After all, that’s what life is really about.