20 ways to be social as an introvert

What do you do if socializing exhausts you? What if your introversion makes you or shy or socially anxious? Here’s how to meet people if you’re an introvert.

The advice in this guide is geared toward adult introverts (20’s and up). From one introvert to another – let’s get to it!

1. Find a reason to go out that excites you

Asking an introvert to go out with the sole purpose of socializing is like asking a fish to run a marathon. Why would we do that? But if you have a compelling reason to socialize, it can be more fun.

Think of the things you enjoy doing. Try hobbies that have meetups like board games, billiards, yoga, or crafting. Or sports you like to play that meet for weekly games. Or you could volunteer with an environmental group or the food bank.

Do something you enjoy that will give you easy conversation openers and a whole new circle of potential friends. It also takes some of the pain out of socializing when you have a reason to be there.

2. Prep some small talk questions

“Preparedness is the ultimate confidence builder.” – Vince Lombardi

OK, so you hate small talk. I hated small talk. It’s annoying and pointless, but actually, not really. It’s the warm-up everyone needs to find out more about each other before we dive into the more profound questions like, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”

When you meet someone new, think of a few opening questions to get to know them better. Things like:

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What do you do for a living?

What do you like about your job?

What are you taking in school?

Why did you choose {insert subject} to study?

If they don’t like their job/school, how about, “What do you do for fun?” You’re interested in them, and the more you ask about them, the more they’ll reveal.

3. Let people get to know you

People want to get to know you, rather than only talk about themselves. Think of a few things you’ve been doing or things you’ve seen that you can talk about with others. It can be books you’ve read, shows you’ve binge-watched, a car you’ve restored, or a project you’re working on.

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Doing this gives the other person a glimpse into your life, and in the process, you’ll both see if you have any mutual interests or values. If you do, the conversation will take off on the topics you both like.

Ultimately, you want to balance your conversation by learning an equal amount about your conversation partner and sharing about yourself.

4. Go out even when you don’t feel like it

First: it’s never going to be as bad as you think.

Second: you can’t improve your social skills at home alone.

Remind yourself that you can do things even when you don’t feel like it. In fact, it’s when we push ourselves that we grow the most as people.

5. Remind yourself of your good qualities

What are some good traits you have? Things like: “I’m pretty funny when I relax.” “I’m kind and loyal.” Those are great qualities in a friend. Reminding yourself of this can help you see yourself in a more positive and realistic light. And that can make you more motivated to meet other people.[1]

6. Take small steps rather than trying to change everything at once

Take small steps every day, and make sure to keep it up. Try talking to the grocery store clerk, the waitress, or the guy in line at the coffee shop. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

7. Find energy by recharging before you socialize

You’ve got a big social event coming up. The annual office holiday party, the neighborhood New Year’s party. A concert with a bunch of friends and their friends.

Before you go, take the time to recharge your internal batteries. Introverts need quality alone time to feel rested and strong. So get centered first, then go out.

8. Set realistic and specific socializing goals

If you want to improve your social skills, give yourself goals to meet – every day, week, month, and year. It takes time. The trick is to be consistent, keep trying, and you’ll see progress.

One study looked at people who want to be somewhat more extroverted. The most successful group in the study was the one where the participants set up specific goals.[2]

Before going to a party, tell yourself you are going to make conversation with five people. Once you’ve done that, you’re OK to go.

9. Look for places you can take a break

Socializing can be exhausting for introverts. When you get to an event, scan it for a place you can rest alone between interactions.

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Doing this will make sure you don’t become tired too early and want to dip out before you meet your social quota. Sound a bit hyper-vigilant? That’s OK. It’s a process, and we want to make it as easy as possible.

Is there a patio or a chair in the kitchen where you can retreat? Maybe a room somewhere off the main event. You might need a few minutes to recharge, and that’s your base.

10. Express your personality

In school, we all wanted to blend in and be part of the crowd. As an adult, you want to make choices about how you portray yourself. Why? Because it’s easier to attract people like you if you are open about who you are.

Think about what you wear and what it says about you.

I’ve found that when someone wears a unique shirt, cool shoes, or brings a funky bag, it’s a great conversation opener. Dress in a way that says something about you and tells people (if they ask) where you got it if there’s a story behind it or why you like it.

11. Comment on something someone else is wearing

The same premise as above, we’re just reversing the roles. You notice someone has those cool Vans you want to get. Or a sweater that looks so soft you could use it as a throw.

They are simple conversation openers, said with genuine appreciation, that will make who you’re talking to feel good. Then follow up with a question about where they got them and if you have something similar. Maybe you have a story about it from your life.

12. Make conversation even if you feel shy

It’s entirely normal for 50%[3][4] of the population to feel mildly terrified to talk to someone new. Especially if it’s an intimidating or extroverted person. Those first few days in college or at work are full of new people and lots of first conversations. It can be overwhelming.

Sometimes you’re so overstimulated your mind goes blank, and you can’t come up with anything to say. OK, time to regroup. Focus on what they are saying; paraphrase it in your mind and then ask them a sincere question about it. This will focus your mind on the other person and not what your mind/body/anxiety is doing, which can take your attention away from the conversation.

13. Know that it’s better to say something than nothing

Ever notice how the extroverts of the world seem to say anything, and it goes over well like there was never any doubt it would? Socially savvy people typically aren’t that self-conscious. As a result, they don’t try to be perfect. They believe, regardless of what happens, they will still be liked and accepted.

So how do we get to that state of not giving a F*&%?

Start small, with people you know a little bit. Dare to say what you think, crack a joke, or be the first to tell a story. It may not always go over perfectly, but that’s OK. It doesn’t have to. Practice the mindset that it’s better to make a mistake than not saying anything at all. When you’re comfortable doing this around people you know, try it out on new people.

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14. Give yourself a job at the party

If you’re at a party and feel like you’re just standing around looking awkward, GO TO THE KITCHEN. See if the host/hostess needs help with the food, drinks, decorations, or the seating plan. Chat with the people there as you work. You’ll have your hosts appreciation, and you can then segue naturally into the party’s main room, bringing a few of the other helpers with you.

15. Get a job that increases your social skills

One of the best things an introvert can do is get a job that pushes their social boundaries. Even though it’s work, it’s also where you socialize. Sound scary? It is, but you’ll learn fast, you’ll be better at connecting with people with time, and you’ll become more confident.

What are the best jobs that will grow your social skills? Retail will have you speaking to the public regularly as you help them make their purchases, work with the other staff, and have a boss that you need to support and follow. Other great ones are waitress/waiter, bartender, sports coach, and tutor.

16. Keep up your existing friendships

As we move through our teens, 20s, and 30s, our friend groups tend to evolve. That can be because we change, or they do, or it’s just a matter of distance and not maintaining the connection.

If you just haven’t kept in touch, but you still love talking to your best friend from grade school, make sure to pick up the phone a couple of times a month to say hello, text a funny message, or send a video. It’s easier to maintain a long-term friendship than revive a lapsed one.

17. Fill your emotional bucket with regular, deep conversations

As you move through these different stages where you are meeting and making new friends, it can be unsettling and lonely. Make sure to keep strong ties to the people (old friends or family) who you can have in-depth conversations with. This will give you a port in the harbor and stave off those lonely, anxious feelings, which can make it hard for us to connect with others.

18. Allow yourself to leave after 20 minutes

You’ve been at the party for 20 minutes. It felt like an hour, but that’s OK. You helped out the hostess. You chatted with the guy next to you about his hockey jersey. But most importantly, you reached the 20-minute point, and you didn’t turn and run prior. If you’re not feeling better about the whole thing now or you can’t see staying another 20 minutes, permit yourself to leave. That was your goal. Next time, make the time limit 30 minutes.

19. Step back and be boring

You’re in the home stretch now. You’ve been at the party for over an hour. You’ve snacked at the buffet table, talked to 10 people, and joined two group conversations. You’re ready to crash. Your friend wants to stay, though. (Oh. God. Why.)

I used to feel like I had to perform and try to be entertaining when I was socializing. That made social events extra draining. Realize that no one expects you to perform, except you.

You can take breaks and sit back and listen to the group conversations around you. You don’t have to contribute, just don’t zone out. Participate in the discussions by following them and giving non-verbal cues like nodding and uh-huh’s. You need a break, take it. Or go for a walk to the patio and get a breath of fresh air/alone time.

20. Know that being introverted, shy or having social anxiety is common

In our extrovert-loving culture, it can be tempting to feel bad about being an introvert – Don’t. We’re great listeners. We give thoughtful and measured responses. We’re often the best leaders because we think before we speak and take the time to understand our staff.

Have a look at the book “Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. It’s a compelling look at why introverts, one-third of the population, are essential to society. (This is not an affiliate link. I recommend the book because I think it’s good.)

Here are our book recommendations for introverts.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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