Social Skills for Introverts
Introverts tend to make extraverts a bit nervous. Introversion gives a person the resource of depth. Introverts experience a strong pull to the interior world where many well developed feelings, thoughts and imaginations live. Sometimes this need to reference internally can cause long silences, lack of spontaneity and broken contact in social dialogue.
Introverts are good at intimate one-to-one connection, but less comfortable “working the room” in a cocktail party or group situation. Extroverts can misunderstand this tendency to be judgmental or exclusive. As the introvert at the party tries to find one or two people with which to have deeper, longer conversations, s/he may forget to greet and acknowledge the rest of the group members.
Although most people do have some portion of introversion in their personalities, extroversion is so much more socially valued in our culture, that people forget to develop that side. They can call it “isolative,” “anti-social,” or “shy.” Current research has verified that both introversion and extroversion are genetically transmitted and can not be changed. However, introverts can learn certain helpful social skills, just as extroverts can benefit from spending time alone and developing an interior life.
Some introverts report a kind of social anxiety because they do not realize that it is healthy and normal to be introverted. It just requires some specific social skills to relate to the extroverted social mileu.
Below are some strategies for introverts in social situations:
Choose to socialize with people who have common areas of interest so topics can connect you.
Think about subjects ahead of time that you would like to discuss. Imagine the discussion so you can practice verbalizing. Include asking questions and offering opinions.
Get very skillful at asking questions so the person you are speaking with fills much of thesocial space with their words.
Notice that you can reference your internal thoughts and feelings while the other person is talking. Practice doing this.
“Protect” the conversation from long silences by having a few stories or questions ready to fill the space.
Comment on present moment things- what the other person is wearing, how the weather is, current sports or political news…etc. These pleasantries are solely meant to connect in non-threatening ways. Extroverts use these comments to establish friendliness. Learn to do this and respond with your own pleasantries.
Give yourself the right to exit to the bathroom or car for intermittent relief from the tension and a chance to review your goals and skills.
Let people know ahead of time that you will only be staying until a certain hour. Strategize with your partner or with yourself, reasons to leave after an hour or two. Be honest with yourself about your comfortable time span. You can always decide to stay longer, but it broadcasts rejection if you leave early with no explanation or previous agreement.
Find reasons to laugh and smile. Many introverts become serious looking as they reference the internal world during conversation. This confuses people and opens the door to people feeling judged and overly examined.
Have a few mild, funny self deprecating comments ready to use. Comments that let the listener know that you realize you are a little awkward with groups, but you find that amusing rather than frightening, allows the other person to do the same. It lets them be aware that your awkwardness is not specific to them.
Anne Allanketner LPC