Introverts unite... separately in our own homes. Or in small groups for limited amounts of time. I am an introvert and I am all about those introvert memes. There are times I crave connection with other people, which is why I love retreats and conferences and intentional girls nights. There are also times I need a break from even my own family or close friends.
Four years ago I went to my first non-school-related conference. Beforehand I wrote up 10 introvert tips for thriving at a conference. I guess I underestimated my introversion. There was a point during the second day when I couldn't get to my room fast enough, I just needed to take a breath not surrounded by people.
I've since been to a few retreats and conferences and even helped host some small gatherings. Each time I feel like I get a little closer to finding my groove in thriving around people, while nurturing my deep need to be alone and just think. Or write or read or whatever.
The first weekend of November I'm going to the Business Boutique in Nashville. There I'm finally going to meet my mastermind girls in person! Yay! You can "meet" them here: Alysa is a designer with passion for authentic relationships (Kitchen Fellowship + Passage Hill Studio), Merritt is a writer and a new, yet natural podcaster (Merritt Onsa), and Michaela is a teacher resources creative and my sister-in-law (We Heart Edu).
We met through a Facebook group now 3 years ago and have been meeting every other week on Google Hangouts ever since. We are so excited to get to hug each other and have full conversations outside of our 90 minute mastermind meetings.
I'm excited, but I also remember the pressures of social gatherings start to press in and overwhelm my introvert self--even when I'm with people I love in a place I want to be. I'm remembering what I, as an introvert, need to make the most of that people-filled weekend in November. Here are those 30 tips I've learned for introverts like me trying to live well in a world full of people.
1. Know what type of introvert you are.Over my lifetime of introversion, I've learned that introverts actually come in different shades. There's the outgoing introverts that come across as welcoming and friendly, but still need quiet time alone to recharge. There's the more stereotypical introverts that need alone time and don't really thrive all that well in large groups or social interactions. And there's introverts like me that need lots of alone and quiet, but also love plenty of opportunities to grow and connect with people--just no small talk, please. Not everything said about/to introverts is true for all types. Know where you struggle as an introvert and where you thrive, and find support or community accordingly.
2. Know yourself and how to talk about yourself.Beyond knowing what type of introvert you are, know basic things about your likes and interests, and own it. This might sound a little trivial, but it can go a long way in sustaining small talk in group gatherings. Think ahead about how you can answer questions about your job, your hobbies, and your family. People wouldn't ask if they flat-out didn't care, so take some time to make it interesting. The more specific, the more likely the conversation will naturally continue.
3. Know how you connect with people best.Introverts need people too, but how? One-on-one with a close friend? Socializing with a group? Going to bigger events? That's kind of up to you to figure out. I connect best in a smaller group and even one-on-one. Large groups are fine as long as we're listening to a speaker, and I don't connect well in restaurants. I keep those things in mind when I decide what to say "yes" to and how to plan my own gatherings.
4. Choose social engagements carefully.Since introverts tend to naturally limit social engagements, it makes sense to be proactive about which ones you're actually going to attend. Instead of saying yes to everything (or no to everything), be careful that you're leaving time and energy for the types of connecting that you personally need in your life. Making an appearance isn't as important to me as showing up where I can benefit or connect somehow.
5. Dress comfortably.I've learned I feel more laid back, approachable, and even friendly when I'm comfy. That doesn't mean I have to wear sweats everywhere I go, but I pay attention when something I'm wearing makes me fidgety or makes me feel like I'm trying too hard. I'd rather wear something true to me and be able to forget about it so I can focus on the people around me. Know your style and what makes you comfortable, then wear it with confidence.
6. Turn off your phone.Phone's are many of our addictions, partly because they're a safe place to put our attention when we feel uncomfortable or awkward. When I'm in social settings, I've got to resist the urge and just keep my phone put away in my purse. Social media and text conversations can wait until I'm not with people In Real Life. Try it. Next time you're in a group or even with a friend one-on-one, turn your phone to vibrate or turn it off completely and focus on the people in front of you. The people you're with will appreciate your attention.
7. Show up to social engagements early, or at least on time.Nothing shuts me down quite like entering a room full of chatting people and having no idea where I fit. I try to show up early and snag an empty seat to adjust to the crowd as it grows, or be able to jump into a conversation before everyone's paired off. I actually learned this tip from a Parenting magazine--they were suggesting taking your shy kid to a party early to help them get comfortable before everyone else showed up. So I started doing it and it works. There's lots of things I could have learned as a kid, that I'm instead learning now.
8. Sit next to someone.When I enter a nearly empty room, I'm tempted to snag an empty table. This backfires when we all avoid sitting next to people because we're sure others have someone else coming to sit with them... then we all end up by ourselves. If all of us introverts made the effort to actually sit with each other, we could have small groups of conversation rather than segregated awkwardness and quiet. If I'm not already planning to meet with someone, I'll make sure I find someone else to sit with.
9. Ask questions.Depending on my mood and the situation, sometimes I get around people and all that runs through my head is, "I have no idea what to talk about... just say something Trina!" Enter a few go-to questions or conversation starters. Depending on the person or the scenario it could be asking about where they grew up, what's challenging or exciting in their lives right now, or about their family. Being interested in other people is more important than being interesting, and leaves a longer lasting impression.
10. Offer others grace.Even outgoing and extroverted people have areas of weakness or "off" days. Just like I want people to be patient and understanding with my initial reservations, I want to offer the same grace and understanding to others. I won't hold it against other people if they seem reserved and anti-social.
11. Take care of yourself.When I'm tired, my mind goes blank and I struggle holding a conversation even with people I know well. Rest, hydration, nutrition are all important, especially before I'm going to be around a bunch of people. If I'm travelling or at a longer event, drinking lots of water and eating well prevents headaches and other negative side effects that would hinder my ability to interact well with others. Fighting my introverted nature can take everything I have, so it's best to keep other physical discomforts out of the equation.
12. Use mood-boosters appropriately before gatherings.It's true, caffeine makes me chatty and Emergen-C makes me feel more alert, and I have definitely intentionally caffeinated or Emergen-Ced before having to be around people. Use what's normal for you. Just keep it "appropriate." Too much caffeine (especially for longer events), makes me dehydrated giving me headaches and backfiring on its original intended use. And social interactions shouldn't depend on you being otherwise drugged or intoxicated--that's a sign of a more serious problem.
13. Pray. And stay open to the unexpected.My devotional life is a huge factor in finding peace in social gatherings. When I notice my mind is somewhere else, prayer can be so helpful in bringing me back into the moment. Sometimes that means accepting when I leave a gathering without having made any real connections. Or even stepping beyond my norm to start a conversation or meet someone new.
Some of my favorite social moments are when God has helped me to speak up when I am otherwise inclined to be silent. Either making introductions, starting a conversation, sitting with someone I don't know, or even offering help to a stranger. Prayer has been a tremendous help in taking full advantage of opportunities to converse and connect with other people against my normal tendencies to not.
14. Use your senses.I'm all about doing whatever I can to get in the right mindset for a social setting. In addition to dressing comfortably and eating right and staying hydrated, this also means using my other senses to get ready. That might be listening to energetic or light-hearted music. It could also mean using scents that energize or uplift me, like citrus or mint. That can be done with essentials oils (I diffuse them or add a drop behind my ears), or it can be done with mints or gum. It really can be the little things that make a difference.
15. Welcome a little nudge.I'm not usually super proactive about making people-time happen, so I try to pay attention when someone else makes an effort. If I can't meet up with a friend when they invite, replace a simple "no" with a plan to schedule another time. Or when someone invites me to something, say "yes" sometimes even if it doesn't sound like my cup of tea. I'm a part of a local bloggers group because I showed up at a local gathering where I didn't know anyone. That little nudge opened lots of great connections and opportunities.
16. Be the outgoing one.I've been learning to not assume everyone else is "the outgoing one." There are others like me that used up their outgoing energy just to show up. I'm not always ready to reach out, but I try to notice when someone is sticking to themselves. When I can, especially when I'm feeling extra energetic or friendly, I make an effort to at least say hi.
17. Know how to regroup.I admire people that can maintain a busy schedule and fill free-time with people. I, however, need a break. Whether I'm going to a busy conference or have a full week, I have to find ways to sandwich my people-time with alone-time. During a conference, that might be skipping a session I don't care about to nap or write in the hotel room, or taking a longer bathroom break to find a quiet corner or walk around. During a busy week, that means setting aside pockets of time that I can enjoy some quiet to read or write or do nothing.
18. Offer yourself grace.I likely won't be 100% through an entire multi-day conference, and that's okay. I may not meet a bunch of new people or have a bunch of interesting things to say off the cuff, and that's okay. I might need an extra dose of quiet to get through a people-filled day or a busy week, and that's okay. Offering myself grace means I can leave social interactions without the weight of what I should have said, and instead celebrate that I showed up.
19. Plan time to fully recharge.Whether it's at the end of a busy day, a people-filled week, or a busy conference, I need to give myself room to be alone in the quiet and recharge. This might happen in the evening after I put the kids to bed or on Sabbath afternoon when the week is over, or putting off my to-do list at the start of a week to recover from a busy weekend.
20. Reach out once a day.This is something I have to make more of an effort on since I spend my days at home working and caring for kids. My aloneness can become too much, so I'll text a friend or send a Facebook message to plan the next girls night or write a card to somebody. A little bit everyday means I'm making an effort to continue growing my relationships even when I'm alone at home. And those little check-ins are usually what lead to getting together when the time is right.
21. Smile more. A lot more. And say hi.It's taken a while, but I finally realize how little I smile especially when I'm uncomfortable or in a new social setting or with people I don't know. I think I'm smiling and trying to be friendly, but what comes out is more of a grimace or even just a neutral face. So I've really got to work on smiling, as awkward as it can feel. A little wave and saying hi helps, too.
22. Celebrate progress.I didn't talk until I could do it in complete sentences. My dad would call me their mute at church and people believed him. I was painfully shy as a kid. I've made huge progress to not always being lost in the back of the room but actually finding a niche of leadership and public speaking. And I know I still have huge progress ahead of me. I'm not aiming to become an extrovert, I'm aiming for growth that makes sense for my strengths and weaknesses and making the most of it all. And celebrating little milestones of progress along the way.
23. Use your introvert powers.There's benefits and challenges to every personality trait. Being an introvert doesn't only come with a bunch of challenges surrounding people. It can also come with ability to listen well or ask good questions, it can come with a thoughtful word of encouragement, or the ability to think through a problem or offer rational solutions. Think about your strengths as an introvert and make sure you're using them.
24. Read books that validate.Last year I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (affiliate link*) and it changed how I think about being an introvert. I finally realized more of my strengths and what I need, and that it's okay to be this way.
25. Quiet your mind.As an introvert, my brain is always on. Sometimes in order to relax and make the most of my downtime, I need to spend a little of that time quieting my mind. That might include doing a "brain dump" into a notebook where I just write out whatever's on my mind and can usually leave it there, or realize if there's something bothering me that my brain is trying to work out. Or it might include meditating or using mantras to refocus my mind on positives and truth and more calming thoughts. It can help to do this before a social gathering, too, so that I can focus on the present conversations rather than be distracted by whatever's going on in my head.
26. Quiet the internet.The internet and things shared on the internet have always made me feel a little preoccupied and busied my mind on things that I see online whether I wanted to or not. Just as I have to be choosy about when and with whom I spend my limited people-energy, I also need to be careful on wasting this people-energy online. Because constantly reading other's thoughts and opinions can be just as exhausting, or maybe even more exhausting, than if they were here face-to-face. I aim to login set times each day--not logging on until after noon and aiming to log off between 8 and 9 at night. I try to have a purpose to be on, and not scroll without a purpose. It's hard to keep it in check, but it's worth it for my own energy and sanity.
27. Practice kindness.Even if I don't feel like meeting new people or starting small talk, I can at the very least practice bold kindness. Holding a door open, saying thank you, giving a compliment, offering to help. Kindness matters more than trying or pretending to be naturally outgoing--it's just not going to happen. But kindness is always an option.
28. Try life behind-the-scenes or on a team.When I was 12 I was on a puppet team at a local church. I know, hold your laughter. It really was such a growing experience for me at a time when I was feeling socially awkward and out-of-place. We put on big shows with props and black lights and I was one of the lead roles. (Yes, of a puppet show. Okay, fine, go ahead and laugh about it.) It was so great to be a part of a team and not stress about whether I was outgoing enough. I've since learned that there is almost always a behind-the-scenes team of people to join. There is always a place to help--show up early or volunteer ahead of time. Being a part of a smaller team and having a helping role can really ease the social pressure.
29. Change your handwriting.Have you ever had your handwriting analyzed? It's pretty incredible what shows up about your personality and interests in the way you write. What's even more incredible is the way changing your handwriting can have an impact on changing you. Not your core personality, but things like being a little more friendly or positive. I don't know much about handwriting analysis, but for an example, back-slanted writing shows reservation and forward-slanted writing shows a more outgoing nature. If your writing is back-slanted, make a conscious effort to move it forward. Moods and depression show in handwriting, too. If changes in how you write could show positively in your life, why not give it a try? I know it sounds like voodoo, but I've seen it to be true for me.
30. Borrow God's eyes to see yourself.He made me the way I am, introverted and all. And, as Jess wrote in Wild and Free, I have no reason to believe what He has made is bad.
Wishing you the best in living well in this world full of people. Know yourself and be yourself--that's the best you can do.
new? start here...
31 days celebrating three-oh
*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks.