How to Go from Introvert to Extrovert
If you’re an introvert, how do you balance the introvert and extrovert parts of yourself, such that you enjoy both types of activities equally, rather than looking forward to one and dreading the other? If you’re very introverted, you may undervalue the positive role people can play in your life, such as knowledge, friendship, growth, laughter, and so on. The optimal outcome is to strike a balance between the two and become an ambivert, or someone who enjoys social interaction and solitude equally.
1. Stop undervaluing extroversion. Spending time alone and with people are equally important. You don’t have to give up the introvert activities you enjoy. In fact, when you balance them with more social activities, you’ll probably find them even more satisfying. After several nights of being around people, you might really look forward to a night by yourself to read, meditate, write, etc. And after lots of time alone or with your family, you might find yourself itching to go out and be around other people. Introversion has its benefits, which you’re probably already familiar with, but have you thought about how your life could be more fulfilling if you included more people in it?
* Enhance your career – By networking, you have more job opportunities available to you, and you’re more likely to get a position that gives you the experience and/or package you prefer. Whether we like it or not, there’s some truth to the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
* Find your soulmate – If you have trouble meeting someone who’s compatible with you, then expanding your circle of friends will increase the probability of meeting that special someone. And when you do meet him or her, social skills will help you tremendously in turning an acquaintance into a relationship.
2. Envision the type of extrovert you’d like to be. If you find the extroverted people around you shallow and perhaps even annoying, why would you want to be more like them? You wouldn’t. Maybe your vision of an extrovert is an in-your-face salesperson who only wants to build a shallow relationship with you so they could sell you something. But you needn’t choose such a limited vision for yourself — you’re free to form your own vision of a positive way to be more extroverted. You can be an extrovert who builds genuine relationships with intelligent people you respect (as opposed to random, shallow socializing).
3. Find the right social group for you. Why would you want to spend more time with people you don’t like? If becoming more extroverted means spending more time with people you’d rather avoid, you’ll have no motivation to do it. Again, you’re free to break this pattern and form a social group that you’d love to be a part of. Consciously consider the types of people you’d want to have as friends. There’s no rule that says this has to be your peers or co-workers. Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond the most obvious peer group and hang out with people from different ages, neighborhoods, cultures, countries, etc. You might find the variety to be a lot of fun.
4. Develop your social skills. One reason introverts shy away from social activities is that they don’t feel comfortable because they don’t know what to do, especially if the unexpected were to occur. Being able to start up a conversation with a stranger AND feel completely comfortable doing it is a learnable skill. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Embrace the fact that you’re a beginner, and don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t need to be shallow and manipulative about it, but genuinely build these skills because it will greatly enhance your life. One approach you might find extremely effective is to ask the other person how s/he got started in his/her current line of work. 80-90% of the time the person will say something like, “Well, that’s an interesting story….” And you might genuinely like hearing these stories. A small basic set of social skills can go a long way because you’ll get to reuse them every time you meet someone. Approach your social abilities the way a student would approach a class, or an athlete would approach a sport. Do your homework, give yourself assignments, and test yourself until you get it right:
* Look approachable
* Introduce yourself
* Have a great conversation
* Ask someone out on a date
5. Take your social life offline. Online socializing has its place in your life, but it’s a pale shadow compared to face-to-face, belly-to-belly communication. Voice and body language can communicate a lot more than text, and emotional bonds are easier and faster to establish in person. You don’t have to do away with online socializing, but don’t allow it to crowd out meeting people locally. If you do that, you’ll only cause your interpersonal skills to lag further behind. Instead, see if you can use the Internet as a starting point for real life friendships. Many introverts have no trouble socializing online. In that environment they’re able to play from their strengths. But you can also use your strengths consciously as leverage to branch out into more face-to-face socializing. If you use forums, for example, focus on local ones and search for opportunities to meet up offline.
6. Join a club. It’s old advice, but it still works. The advantage is that you’ll find people who share similar interests, which makes it easier to build new relationships. One good club can fill your social calendar. If you join a club and find that it’s not right for you, quit and join something else. You may go through a number of local social groups that just don’t resonate with you (too boring, too slow, too disorganized, too many alcoholics). But one good group is all you need.
* Join or start a book club. This is a great way to turn a solitary activity into a social one.
* Join a band. If you play an instrument or sing, find a group you can harmonize with. Not only will you meet them, but if your band gets really good, people will introduce themselves to you.
* Join Mensa. Having trouble finding people who can hold a conversation with you? This might be your ticket to friendship.
7. Think of relationships in terms of what you can give, not in terms of what you can get. If you seek to build new relationships based on mutual giving and receiving, you’ll have no shortage of friends. Identify people with whom you’d like to build a relationship, and start by giving. For instance, geeky knowledge is actually a tremendous strength when it comes to socializing because there are an awful lot of non-geeks who’d like to understand geeky stuff better, and you can explain it to them in ways they’ll understand. Think about it: What can you bring to a relationship that will be of benefit to someone else? When you figure out what that is (and it’s probably many different things), you’ll have an easier time attracting new friends into your life.
* Being introverted is not the same as being shy. An introvert genuinely enjoys solitary activities more than social ones, whereas someone who’s shy stays away from social situations because of fear and anxiety. If you’re someone who wants to talk to people and socialize but feel paralyzed, or if you don’t feel self-confident, you’re probably grappling with shyness. Take a look at How to Overcome Shyness.
* Your desire to help people can kick start your social life, but don’t let it define you; strive for mutually beneficial relationships, where both parties give and take, rather than one person doing all the giving. If you’re the kind of person who has trouble saying no, you might want to read:
o How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
o How to Break the “Nice Guy” Stereotype
wikiHow The How-to manual that you can edit