Being introverted can be tough when it comes to maintaining a social life.
So how can you socialize while staying true to your introverted side?
Here are helpful tips from 17 experts.
Recruiter, The Princeton Review | Founder, Friendship Hacks
People often assume that introverts don’t want to be social or, worse, are unable to be social. This *can* be true but is certainly not always the case.
Here are a couple of tips I would recommend for fellow introverts to master being more social. In no particular order:
Create a social game plan
Being prepared is one of the best ways to avoid some of the awkwardness that comes with being introverted. One of the biggest places where a plan comes in handy is at a social event. Introverts often disappear into the sidelines; this is not where the social action happens.
Think of any event as having zones.
Zone 1: Entry zone
This is where people enter the party or event. It might have a registration table, a place to put coats/jackets, or is just the front door to the place where the event takes place. In some cases, the host might be near this area (or at least watching it) in order to great guests. This is not a good place to be social.
When people enter the entry zone, they are often trying to get a feel for what’s going on. They look for familiar faces, scope out where important items are located (bathroom, food, drinks), and get a general feel for the event and where they fit in.
Even if you run into someone you know in the entry zone, that person won’t stay long as they move into other zones. It’s also not a great idea to stay by the host all night. Sure, this might be the one person you know and the host may talk to you all night, but he/she is also trying to give attention to everyone at the event and it’s not fair to take all of his/her time.
Zone 2: The sidelines
These are areas where people move to stay put for a minute. Examples are side tables, the food/drink line, near the bathroom, and so on. These areas aren’t great places for social activity but can be where social activity moves or potentially starts (although not ideal).
Seating or tables along the side is where people go when they are engaged. If you start up a conversation with someone, you might end up moving to that area. People typically are not interested in being super social on their way to or from the bathroom, and the food line might be a place for small talk, but not much else happens here.
Zone 3: Action zone
This is the best zone in which to start up a conversation. The action zone can vary, but is often between zones 1 and 2. You’re best bet is to be in this zone until you end up in a conversation, etc.
People leaving zone 1 often come through zone 3 after they’ve assessed the event. Now that they aren’t off guard, they are ready to be social and might even be looking for someone to talk to.
It’s the same situation as people leave the food line and look for a place to go, someone to talk to, etc. As a bonus, stay within eyesight of the host. If you notice someone is taking over the hosts time, you can come in and save the day. This person is probably unsure of where to go and is a prime candidate for a conversation. The host might also see you and offer to introduce you to someone as they come in. It’s a win-win!
Obviously, there are exceptions to these zones and some events might have zones in different spots, so you always have to keep an eye out and adjust.
Starting a conversation/first impressions
Harvard researchers Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal studied snap judgements made during first impressions. They found that snap judgements are often made within the first two seconds. We decide if we believe and trust someone even before hearing them speak!
Read related article: The 25 Best Books on Communication Skills
First impressions are part of our survival instincts. In order to make a first impression, we need to utilize hand gestures, come off as a winner, and use eye contact.
This can be one of the more intimidating parts of being social. If people aren’t coming up to you, how do you approach them. First, we must mind our first impression.
There are three steps we should consider:
Show your hands
As weird as this sounds, people who talk with their hands are often perceived as more likable. This may have something to do with older times when seeing someone’s hand implied their intentions.
Is he holding a weapon, a flower, etc. Keep your hands out of your pockets and in view. Make sure you also have a good handshake.
Read related article: The 10 Best Books on Body Language
Look like a winner
A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that a professor’s confidence was more important than his/her reputation.
This plays back to speaking quickly as it shows off confidence. We can also show confidence through our body language. Winners typically take up more space.
Think about when you are in a great mood, maybe you’ve won a contest at work or received an amazing compliment. You stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and take up space.
What about when we’re feeling small, hurt, or rejected. We slunk in and take up less space. It doesn’t mean being a jerk about it, but put your shoulders back and lift your head high. This is a sign of confidence, which is attractive.
People who are shy often lower their shoulders and put their heads down. This closes off your stance making you less approachable and shows you as less confident.
Pay special attention if you like to get on your phone in these situations. Yes, it gives you something to do, but most of us put our heads and shoulders down, which gives off that less confident and less approachable vibe. Leave your phone in your pocket!
Eye contact helps build trust and intimacy. Studies have shown that even complete strangers can feel connected after only moments of eye contact.
Now it’s important to know what to say. Do you know what the number 1 conversation starter is? It’s “Hi.” No need for a line, just say hi.
Combine that with something about the event and you’re golden. “Hi, I’m Will. Have you known Staci (the host) long?” – “How long have you been a part of (group throwing the event)?” – “Is this your first time at (location)?”
From there, I recommend diving into big talk as opposed to small talk. One thing you can do to really stand out in a conversation is to break conversational norms.
Try to find unique talking points to create memorable conversations. This means thinking outside of the box and avoiding those boring questions and topics. Asking questions they may not expect to hear, but that still help find similarities.
For example, instead of asking what someone does for work, ask them about exciting projects they are working on or how they got into their field.
To be interesting, be interested. In his best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes,
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Often, people want to brag about their accomplishments or carry the conversation in hopes appearing interesting. Being more interested in others makes the bigger difference.
These means have a genuine curiosity.
Pay attention to the other person and ask questions, even if it’s just asking to be told more about a particular story, experience, etc. People love to talk about themselves, so let them and it will make you appear more interesting.
People like people who are like them; people look for similarities. Upon meeting someone new, we often ask them where they’re fun, what they do, where they went to school, and so on. Once we learn the answer, we try to draw a connection.
Maybe we have a cousin who went to that particular school or how you vacationed in their hometown. This inevitably happens because we are looking for similarities.
Donn Byrne, a personality and social scientist in the 1970s, found that we are typically drawn to people who show greater degrees of similarity to us. When we have similarities with someone else, we make other assumptions: we share values, the other person understands you better than others, etc.
To be more interesting, we can’t necessarily wait for opportunities to find similarities to present themselves.
We should, instead, search for similarities through the questions we ask. Inquire about what the other person is about, what they like, and how they think: then, search in yourself for some way to make the connection. We can also create similarities.
This includes mimicking people’s tone, rate of speech, or body language. If you can create or find similarities, you will come off as more interested and connected.
Think fast. In 2015, William von Hippel discovered that speed of thought and dialogue was directly related to the perception of a person’s charisma.
Being quick ends up being one of the highest-rated aspects of interaction. Charisma, contrary to belief, isn’t perceived by accuracy or intelligence, but by how quickly someone takes action.
People tend to have a natural attraction to those who appear to think on their feet. With this in mind, it’s better to speak first and to even be the loudest, even if you have nothing to say. This seems counterintuitive, but it works.
It’s easy to be soft-spoken, slow to respond, etc. when you’re introverted. Sometimes we even worry if we’ll say the right/wrong thing and hold back to be more accurate in our speech. The good news is that you’ll be forgiven for inaccuracies so long as you’re quick.
GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder, Psych Point
Socialize with activities that you enjoy
Being introverted can be tough when it comes to maintaining a social life. Introverted people are often seen as shy or nervous, but that is not necessarily the case. Introversion does not mean shy or nervous in social situations, but because of this misunderstanding, it can be especially difficult for an introvert to socialize.
Read related article: Best Books for Introverts
A great method to socialize while staying true to your introverted side is to socialize with activities that you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy reading joining a book club is a great way to build a social circle. If you enjoy playing a game or sport, then check out some teams or meetups to join.
It is also helpful to ask questions. If you are one who does not enjoy small talk very much the idea of it can seem grueling. The tough part is that while grueling, it is often necessary for building relationships.
Being open to asking your partner in conversation questions can be helpful because it keeps the pressure off of you and keeps your conversational partner engaged.
Giuseppe Del Giudice
Professional Life Coach | Registered Behavioral Specialist, Real Potential Coach
One way to increase a social-introvert is to spend time with friends of friends
It’s all too easy to spend time with people you already know, but a bit more challenging with those you don’t know.
An introvert can try these 3 steps:
- When in a familiar crowd walk over and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.
- Tell the person your name: “Hi my name is Giuseppe I was bored and you looked bored too so I thought I would introduce myself.”
- Ask the person for their name “May I ask your name please?” When the person answers say, “That’s a nice name, what brings you to this event, party, outing etc. tonight?”
Step 1: allows you to break the ice
Step 2: Saying your name opens up communication lines
Step 3: Sharing and exchanging information increases your affinity with the person so you can potentially share similar experiences.
Why do you share your name first? All too often we “Jump To Conclusions” because we are mind-reading and know what the other person is thinking.
Instead of going to find out what the person is thinking to resolve your query. By communicating with each other you found that “Jumping To Conclusions” was false!
Founder, Sam’s Social!
Recognize that you are not alone
Being social when you are introverted is a tough thing in today’s age. There’s a lot of tools out there to help you but many of them only take you part of the way. It leaves someone in this position short. The solutions they find that don’t necessarily get them to their end goal.
Interaction in real life today also doesn’t help a person who may be introverted.
Our primary focus is with our device or the task at hand. It has become more difficult to strike up a conversation when people are constantly engaged and don’t open up a window for new interaction.
And this shows. Loneliness studies have become more prevalent! A May 2018 study conducted by Cigna and UCLA found that 46% of those studied felt lonely some or all of the time.
So the first thing to do – is recognizing that you’re not alone! This is a problem and it needs to be dealt with!
The next thing you need to do is break the mold! This is a tough thing to do. You have established a way of handling things that you are comfortable with and you like the result.
Take it the next up. The optimal situation is to engage with someone you have some rapport with. Break that mold by suggesting something fun that you two would both do anyways. It’s a good trick to doing new things that you will still be comfortable with.
Another thing you can do is to find an online environment that breeds new friendships in real life.
Find a place where this is the focus and the thought of interacting with someone new in real life is accepted. Contacting someone that is not looking for this interaction may have a detrimental effect as your attempt can make you feel like you did something wrong. You need to be set up for success!
I don’t necessarily recommend onetime or infrequently occurring event functions based off an interest. The focus tends to be on the interest and after the interest, there’s no relatable factors between you and the people at the event. Leagues, activities, classes, or groups that meet regularly give you a chance to develop that rapport over time to allow you to break that mold!
And the biggest key is knowing these three things and combining them. There is a problem – I’m breaking the mold to do new things while still being comfortable – and I’m going to an environment where I can be setup to have success. The last step is being diligent. Failure is part of anything in life, but applying this cycle and putting in that little extra effort can change your life.
Licensed Professional Counselor | Owner, J Cody Higgs Counseling LLC
Find a balance
Being an introvert isn’t inherently a bad thing. Some people function great as introverts, and they’re completely comfortable with it. However, for those who want to speak to others, to be more social, to make more friends, but find themselves having a difficult time with that, there may be more things at work.
On the other hand, maybe your introversion works fine for you 99% of the time, but every now and then, you have to get out to a work party, or to a huge, packed wedding with tons of people. You probably want to somewhat enjoy those situations – or at least make them easier to go through than scraping your fingernails across a chalkboard.
Social anxiety is more common than a lot of people realize and can definitely come off as someone being introverted or just not liking other people.
Some people may get really irritable when they have to be in a new social situation or big group of people. Others may become hysterical or break down crying. Still, others may sit in the corner and try their best to avoid communicating, or they may look perfectly fine, followed by going home and falling asleep from the energy suck that an afternoon out with intense anxiety can cause.
Introversion is a different thing. It may be simply feeling more comfortable without overloading the social aspect.
Lots of social situations may be really energy consuming. Some people just prefer a little more solace, and that’s just fine. Some of us prefer beef, and some of us prefer broccoli. It just is what it is. Sometimes, introverts have to be in situations where that call for the need to be more extroverted.
So how do you deal with either of these – social anxiety or simple introversion?
For social anxiety, there are a host of mindfulness techniques you can do, including meditation, breathing, muscle relaxation, and so on. In the case of social anxiety, the process often involves figuring out the “why,” and working through some of that.
It’s not uncommon to take steps toward being involved in more social situations, but some people just all of a sudden go “It’s all good. I went to a school dance/work party/family reunion this weekend, and it was awesome!” and that’s just how it goes.
Read related article: How to Get Rid of Social Anxiety?
As far as people who are more introverted, there are some simple steps to take. Take care of yourself. If you know you have a big event on Thursday night, you don’t have to force yourself to go out to another event on Tuesday.
Also make sure you’re getting plenty of rest, eating well, and doing things that help you to feel good so that you can go into those big social events feeling as good as you possibly can. Trying to pick out one or two things that you may enjoy from a social activity can be useful, too.
In the end, it’s not great to be all the way on either end of the spectrum. It’s not the healthiest thing to lock yourself in the house every single day and cut off all human communication.
You also shouldn’t feel that you have to be out and with other people all the time, either. There is a lot to be said for being comfortable with being with yourself. We need that as humans.
There is a balance. Maybe yours is 50/50. Maybe it’s 70/30. If it’s 99/1, it may be a good idea to look at what you’re getting out of that.
Co-founder, Dear Content
Step out of your comfort zone
As all introverts can probably relate, I’m not one to have 50 good friends I talk to when I’m faced with a dilemma but one or two close friends that I may or may not even approach for advice.
And as an introvert who would opt for snuggling in bed with my Kindle on New Year’s Eve instead of mingling at a countdown party, I’ve had my fair share of experiencing pangs of guilt for turning down party invitations with half-truths (especially when the clock strikes 12) and yet, at the same time, knowing I made the right and comfortable choice.
But humans are naturally sociable creatures and even introverts will crave some sort of social interaction with strangers once in a while.
I’ll also admit that there have been many occasions in which I enjoyed myself at a social setting after having been dragged or blackmailed into going. I eventually came to realize that the reason I was, unintrovertedly, enjoying these gatherings was that most of them came with an element of self-improvement.
When I was learning Spanish, I knew how important it was to expose myself to the language as much as possible. Conversing with native speakers would help tremendously. So I forced myself to participate in the free language exchange sessions organized by spirited extroverts on Meetup and Couchsurfing. (Sidenote: It was through one of these exchanges that I met my extremely extroverted Chilean friend who would eventually be the cupid of my current relationship.)
And as a co-founder of a content marketing agency, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and participate in networking sessions. These have all been very rewarding social experiences for the introvert in me. And the knowledge gained and relationships formed on have more than made them worthwhile.
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel a sense of dread thinking about having to mingle. But knowing what I’ll learn and how others can enlighten me are great motivations for stepping through that door and into a social setting.
I’m currently learning German and while I’m still not quite at a level where I can hold a proper conversation, I will be looking up language exchanges online as soon as I’m able to. And I know I’ll be looking forward to and dreading these sessions at the same time. But I’m confident I’ll come out of them having learned tons of new things and if all goes well, maybe even look forward to the next one.
Health and Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
Schedule time to be social
Since it doesn’t come naturally to you, you need to make time to be social. It should be at least once a week where you text friends and just check-in. It can also be a chance for you to text new friends that you want to see again. It may seem like a lot at once, but it’s just that one time during the week. It will prevent you from feeling guilty that you aren’t keeping in touch with your friends.
After you checked in, you’ll be relieved that you don’t need to do that again for a whole week. You’ll also need to make a habit of meeting new people once a month. Whether that be joining a club or interest group that meets once a month. You don’t need to find a new club every month. Choose one and commit to it.
Bring an extroverted friend
If you get invited to a party that may get a bit rowdy for your comfort levels, bring an extroverted friend to tag along. They’ll understand that you don’t want to talk to everyone and can introduce you to people that you may want to connect with.
Your extrovert friend won’t leave you and will be great at telling others your accomplishments. Make sure you have a separate ride home than they do because they’ll most likely want to hang out longer.
Author, Build Your Dream Network
Keep your mind occupied and hands busy if social interactions raise your anxiety level
Volunteer to work at events. The mundane task of handing out nametags? You’ll meet everyone at the event and can have brief introductory conversations too if you handle that job.
Sign-up for a community service project. Working alongside others who share the same “giving back” values is an easy and meaningful way to be more social.
Become a mentor. Being social doesn’t always need to involve cocktail parties and making small talk with strangers.
Find impactful ways to help others – and you’ll find yourself being more social than you ever imagined.
Vania Nikolova Ph.D.
Head of Health Research, Run Repeat
Plan and don’t do too much at once
I meet with small groups of people and introduce new ones at a slow pace – one at a time. I try not to meet too many new people at a time because I shut-down.
I don’t force myself into big events with a lot of strangers, that overwhelm me and I need a huge recovery period after them. If I need to go to big events, first I check who I know, try to make contact beforehand and secure some support at the event. If I don’t know anyone, I try to bring a friend or my husband. If this is not possible, then I have some support on the phone.
Also before the event, I make a plan – what are my goals, who do I want to meet, who are they and how to make contact.
So, the main thing is – plan and don’t do too much at once.
Laurie Endicott Thomas, MA, ELS
Find people who are worth spending time with
For many introverts, the question is not how to become more social. It is how to find some people who are actually worth spending time with.
Being introverted is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the people who are regarded as introverted are actually very bright and very serious people. They don’t necessarily dislike spending time with other people.
However, they dislike wasting time in shallow, meaningless interactions. As a result, introverts will probably end up with only a few friends, but those friendships will be deep and meaningful. The challenge for an introvert is to find other people whose friendship is worth cultivating.
Probably the best way to do that is to get involved in doing some important, meaningful activities that involve some other people.
Gifted people, in particular, are likely to be introverted. Gifted people tend to have both an intellectual and emotional intensity that alienates many “neurotypical” people. Also, gifted people may be bored or irritated by things that interest ordinary people.
So even if a gifted person can “pass” as a “regular” person in a social setting, such as a visit to their in-laws, they may find the act to be stressful and exhausting and simply not worth the effort. Sometimes, introverts need reassurance that it is okay if they don’t spend time with people who are cruel or simply shallow.
Introversion/extroversion is just one aspect of personality.
Author, A Year of Living Kindly
We feel better about ourselves and our environment when we extend kindness
While introverts aren’t necessarily suffering from social anxiety, there is research into social anxiety that offers some great suggestions for those who consider themselves introverts.
The research, conducted by Jennifer Trew of Simon Fraser University and Lynn Alden of the University of British Columbia, revealed that engaging in acts of kindness reduced levels of social anxiety and social avoidance.
Their subjects who were tasked with performing acts of kindness reported lower levels of discomfort and anxiety about social interaction than people not given that directive. The researchers concluded that acts of kindness countered negative feelings about social interactions and also created positive perceptions about social events.
My own observations—after studying kindness for more than four years—reinforce the notion that we feel better about ourselves and our environment when we extend kindness, and we also expect better reactions and results. Thus, we are less fearful of social situations.
I have observed, also, that when we are engaged in kind acts, our attention is on the act or the person who is the object of our kindness, and we are less self-conscious. If someone who is uncomfortable in social situations enters them with the intention to seek opportunities to be kind, they would likely be diverted from their own feelings of insecurity.
It may be as simple as approaching someone who appears to be alone or uncomfortable and starting a conversation. Focusing on alleviating that person’s discomfort will lesson our own.
Jen Oleniczak Brown
Identify why you want to be social
A lot of our students are introverted, and we use improv-base thinking and improv principles to help people feel more social in an authentic and sustainable way – and not in a way they head home and curl up in a ball for hours afterward.
One of the first bits of advice we give: be sure to identify WHY you want to be social and WHAT does success look like.
Are you going to a party? A bar or restaurant? A networking event? Is success meeting everyone in the room or simply meeting two new people.
In improv, you have to clearly identify your wants in a scene, otherwise, that scene will go nowhere, and you’ll be trapped talking about things that are very superficial. Same is true for real life: if you aren’t identifying what you want out of a situation, and why you want it, you’ll never feel successful.
The next biggest starter item: ask people questions about themselves.
People LOVE to talk about themselves. It actually activates the same areas in your brain that are active with sex and cocaine – pleasure centers. By being a good listener and paying attention to what someone is saying in front of you, and asking questions that are truly inspired by curiosity, you’re forming connections with individuals instead of ‘working the room’.
Digital Marketer, Health Labs
#1 I plan out my time.
This sounds simple but it’s actually what makes the biggest difference, I plan ahead and know what my social calendar looks like pretty far in advance, and then I schedule alone time to recharge before spending time with other people.
This could mean eating a meal alone, giving myself an hour of just scrolling through social media, taking a walk, taking a nap, or watching a tv show while sipping some coffee. Just 30 minutes of mindful alone time before an event can make a world of difference.
#2 I remind myself that human interactions are not a try-out.
I exhaust myself the most simply by hoping that other people will like me. I used to walk away from talking to someone and think, “okay, how did I do.” I’d watch their micro-movements and gauge based off of body language how much they were warming up to me.
Meeting new people should really not take this much effort! It’s good to be self-aware, but over-valuing someone else’s opinion of you will devalue your opinion of yourself.
#3 I let go of negative energy that I pick up from other people.
This isn’t as mystical as it sounds, I promise. I’m a very empathetic person. I pick up very quickly if people around me are having a bad day or not enjoying themselves. It’s very easy for me to feel these emotions through other people, and then hold onto them, and carry them with me.
Learning to zone in on the people around me who were happy and relaxed was a crucial step in me becoming a more social person. I accept that I can’t brighten everyone’s day, and I focus on matching my pace to the people around me who are enjoying themselves.
Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L
President and CEO, Rehab U Practice Solutions
I think a big reason introverted people feel uncomfortable in social situations is that they simply don’t want to have to think about making conversation with strangers.
What do you say? What topics do you choose to talk about? How long should you talk about it?
These questions can begin to build and cause anxiety in someone who considers themselves an introvert. One of the best ways to combat this is to simply focus the conversation of the person you are speaking with.
Ask them what they do for work, interesting projects they are involved in, their last trip or vacation. As you engage with more and more people, it will become painfully apparent to you that most people love to talk about themselves -not in an egotistical, self-centered way.
People just tend to find it easy to talk about what they’re involved in, their passion projects, life events, etc.
If you can get your conversation partner talking about something meaningful to them, 2 things happen:
- The conversation begins to flow much more naturally than if you were picking random topics or questions from the latest self-help article.
- The person you are speaking with will generally make a real connection with you. They will feel appreciated, engaged, and will enjoy talking with you.
Founder, Ramsey Voice Studio
Take singing lessons
Matt Ramsey, head vocal coach, and owner of Ramsey Voice Studio, noticed a huge difference in the sociability of his more introverted students after they’d been taking lessons for a while. Matt shared one student’s story: “One of my students is a very introverted computer programmer for whom English is a second language.
After a year of lessons, I noticed a huge improvement in his ability to communicate both musically and verbally. It has been great to see him ask more questions and even challenge me one some concepts as he gains more confidence. He says that singing has improved his life about 10 times!
Personal Finance Blogger, Vital Dollar
Know what types of situations and settings you’re more comfortable
The biggest key for me is to know what types of situations and settings are more comfortable and more natural for me.
I’m an introvert, but I’m much more comfortable in small groups than I am when I’m surrounded by a lot of people. In bigger groups I totally withdraw myself. Since I’m comfortable one-on-one or with a few other people around, I try to choose social activities that will put me in those types of situations.
In college, I avoided big parties or major events in favor of things that involved smaller groups of people, even if I didn’t know some of those people. I think if you know the types of settings that make you comfortable, and you find the right social activities that are a good fit for you, you can have a healthy social life even as an introvert.
Kevin Lindon Ryan, MA
Creative Marketer | Founder, KLR | PR
Make time for yourself
I spend hours with friends or colleagues during the workday or weekend, but I make time for me. On a work day, that means taking lunch early in the break room by myself or leaving the office to find a quiet, low-key spot to rest, relax, and recharge for 30 minutes to an hour.
When I get home, I chat with my housemates, sometimes for hours, and then go straight to my room for time alone. I find that social media allows me to keep in touch and build relationships with friends and colleagues without the tiring overstimulation from too much socialization.