There is a word that has gotten thrown around a lot in business and career development articles lately: introversion. This word sometimes has negative connotations to it. Introverts can be stereotyped as being antisocial, stuck-up, unfriendly or painfully shy. Though introverts can be all of those things, many introverts are well adjusted, friendly, social folks who just operate differently than extroverts. To be clear: I’m an introvert.
I love solo activities like taking walks with my camera in hand, window shopping, curling up with a good book, blogging, or catching up on the latest show I’ve decided to binge watch on Netflix. Though I’m capable of being talkative, I usually prefer to sit back and observe in larger group settings. I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations where you can really delve into a given topic. I read a lot, so I usually have something to say if prompted and I love (respectfully) debating with people on topics I’m passionate about. If you have similar preferences, you may be an introvert too.
Though I have been an introvert as long as I can remember, it took me a long time to realize that the more I shape my socializing to my personality, the happier I will be. Everything really crystalized for me when I read Quiet by Susan Cain. If you are also an introvert, take small steps to move beyond your comfort zone with the tips below (P.S. If you are an extrovert, try suggesting these tips to the introvert in your life):
- Go to an event alone, or go with a friend and split up for a while. I’ve learned that sometimes bringing friends or significant others with you to networking or social events can actually prevent you from really “working” the room and connecting with new people. So, the next time you go to that networking happy hour, take a leap and go alone, or go with a friend with the understanding that you will split up to connect with others. I’ve also noticed that if you do go to an event with a friend or two, as long as you keep your body language open (no huddling or whispering), you still invite others to connect with you.
- Keep your social calendar full, but build in down time. If you only feel comfortable going out every other day or a few times a week rather than every night, that’s okay, keep your social calendar as full as you feel conformable with and be sure to build in some down time for binge watching your new favorite show on Netflix or taking your dog to the dog park.
- Make your own travel plans when going out with friends so you can leave at your leisure. This tip is much easier when you have a car or live in a major city with public transportation options. But if you can, make your own way to events and activities so you have the flexibility to hang out with friends or acquaintances as long or as briefly as you choose.
- If you opt not to go to an event, it’s okay! Just go the next time the opportunity arises. If you had a jam-packed day/week/month at work and feel drained, unless it’s a high level commitment (your BFF’s bridal shower, your mentee from Big Brothers/Big Sisters is counting on you to speak to their class for career day, your roommate’s birthday party, etc.) be honest and say you are drained and need some time to recuperate from your hectic day. Hopefully, once you explain a little about your introverted personality (if they don’t already know), your friends/family/acquaintances will understand.
- Try to schedule something fun that’s a little outside of your comfort zone each month. If you want to learn a language, go to a meet-up to converse with other people who speak the language, go salsa dancing with friends, plan that international trip with your college pals that you’ve saved for, join that running club, go to that networking event with your coworkers you keep postponing, join that kick-ball league…you might end up enjoying yourself so much that you forget your introversion altogether and just have fun.