What social life problems can women expect to face in their 20s and 30s?
Over 6 months, we asked 249 women to rate how motivated they were to improve 21 different areas of their social lives.
When we compared the results between different age groups we made 7 surprising findings that we present in this article.
Why are these findings new and important?
This is the first time women’s social life struggles and motivations have been tracked in such detail. It gives new insight into women’s challenges that previous research missed out on.
SocialPro has 55 000 female readers per month, and we wanted to know what struggles they face in their social lives. Women are traditionally underrepresented in studies.(9, 10, 11, 12). We found no previous studies on women’s social life struggles. This motivated us to raise awareness about the topic.
We looked at what percentage of women chose “Very Motivated” for each struggle. We then compared age groups to find differences.
Learn more about how we conducted the research here.
Social life struggles women face as they enter their early 20s
In the diagram below, you see the changes in what women struggle with before and after the age of 18.
A longer bar means a bigger change between the two groups.
As we can see, the bars stretch more toward women in the age group 18-23. In other words, women are more motivated to improve these areas after 18.
Let’s look closer at some of these findings.
Finding #1: Women struggle the most to find like-minded friends in their early 20s
Women entering their 20s are 66% more motivated to be better at finding like-minded (compared to women at age 14-17).
Why this could be:
In our early 20s, we start wanting more out of our relationships. In our teens, many were content to have someone to watch movies with and have fun with. But by our early 20s, we crave deeper connections with therapeutic qualities.(3)
When we transition from adolescence to early adulthood, our personality develops and changes. This personality development also affects our relationships.(4,5)
When we start losing some of our childhood friends because of college/work/relationships, it becomes more important to find new friends we can connect with.
Recommendation based on this finding:
If you’re about to enter your 20s, be prepared to reach out of your ordinary friend circle to find like-minded people you can connect with. We’re more likely to find like-minded people in groups related to our interests.(6) Ask yourself what you think is fun and interesting, and look for meetups and groups based on those interests.
Psychologist Dr Linda L Moore comments
Once individuals leave high school and/or college, the “traditional meeting ground” — where there is much in common with the people you encounter, the chance for social connection changes dramatically.
Other than the work environment, the groups of people who are more like-minded are not built into the environment. They must be created, orchestrated, energetically pursued. So if work environments don’t provide connection, the majority of young people have to use their own creative “juice.”
Finding #2: Women entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends
Women at age 18-23 are 69% more motivated to better keep in touch with friends than women at age 14-17.
Women entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends
Why this could be:
18-23 is the typical age to go to college and meet new people or start new jobs. These changes of environment makes keeping in touch more of a challenge.
As our personality and interests evolve and we form a new social circle, we lose touch with some friends in our old social circle.(1)
Recommendation based on this finding:
If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, be prepared that you might lose touch with some of your old friends.
Invest time in getting to know new people. Join groups that you are interested in. Take chances to socialize. In other words, practice being outgoing.
Do you have old friendships that you cherish? Make a conscious effort to maintain those.
You don’t need to meet physically. A monthly call can maintain a friendship.
Psychotherapist Amy Morin, LCSW comments
During a major transition, such as the transition from school to the workforce, many women are likely to find it more difficult to keep in touch with friends. It takes much more effort to stay in touch with friends when you’re entering a new phase of your life and your friends are busy with other activities.
The increased isolation can take a toll on women’s mental health as social activity provides a positive buffer against stress.
Finding #3: Women entering their 20s change the way they date
Women become 16 percent LESS motivated to improve their conversation skills with someone they’re attracted to. At the same time, they become 37% MORE motivated to improve their dating skills.
At first sight, this looks like a paradox.
Why this could be:
In our teens, it’s common to find our romantic partners in our close proximity (School, free-time interests, etc). We develop crushes on these people and want to improve our ability to talk with them.
In our 20s, we want more from our relationships, romantic, and platonic. To accomplish this, we need to look for partners past the close proximity.(7) This builds motivation to improve our dating skills.
Recommendation based on this finding:
There are several ways to succeed with dating challenges. We recommend this TED-talk by the award-winning author Amy Webb.
Behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings comments
Just at the moment women become more serious in their intent to have a meaningful relationship, rather than just casual dating, they often find that they are less motivated to improve their conversational skills with someone they are attracted to.
This lack of motivation can be attributed to a period of transition between wanting to make an impression and get on with people in our ‘awkward’ teens and feeling that we shouldn’t have to still be working on that when we are in our 20’s.
From my coaching experience, this motivation to improve their conversational skills kicks back in for those women who are still single in their 30’s alongside a desire to improve their dating skills.
Social life struggles women face in their mid-20s to mid-30s
As you can see, the diagram leans slightly to the right. This means that women’s social life challenges continue to grow a bit as they move into their mid-20s and 30s.
Let’s look at what this means.
Finding #4: After their mid-20s, women struggle LESS to keep in touch with friends
In Finding #2, we saw how women in their early 20s are very motivated to keep in touch with friends. However, women in their mid 20s to mid 30s are now 30% less motivated to do so.
Why this could be:
Age 18-23 is a tumultuous time: New interests, schools, jobs, and friends makes keeping in touch a bigger challenge and a bigger priority.
For many, the age 24-35 is the time of settling down: A full-time job, stable relationships and families.
Recommendation based on this finding:
It can be dangerous to let a partner or close family fulfill all your social needs, if it means forsaking other friendships. According to this survey each new romantic relationship makes us lose on average two friends.
Consciously make an effort to keep in touch with friends, even if you don’t feel as motivated to do this as when you were younger.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson comments
Women have higher levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone also associated with qualities such as empathy. This quality has been demonized in women – they have been called too “needy” or too “enmeshed” with others for years – but in fact we are coming to terms with how healthy this quality is.
Research is informing us of just how poisonous emotional isolation and loneliness is for human beings.
The new science of adult bonding teaches us to honor women’s perspective.
Finding #5: Women struggle more to improve shyness, anxiety, and self-esteem in their mid-20s to mid-30s
Women aged 24-35 struggle more to improve self-esteem, shyness and social anxiety. For example, they are 38% more motivated to improve their shyness compared with women aged 18-23.
Why this could be:
In our mid-20’s, it becomes clear how factors like shyness, social anxiety, charisma and self-esteem affects our life opportunities.(8)
We strive for self-improvement and self-actualization. We want to leave a good impression on employees, colleagues, and supervisors to make a career. We need to take initiatives and make decisions in a way we didn’t have to in school. Working on shyness, self-esteem, and social anxiety becomes even more important to have a fulfilling life.
In early adulthood self-awareness increases(13) and with that, we learn what traits we need to work on.
By their 20s, women are sick of feeling less than, being pressured by society, and thinking they are “not good enough”. They want to find a new way to define themselves.
In their 20s, they are often out of school – where they were surrounded by peers – and are now in contexts with many age groups. With this diversity, they can let go of the worry about belonging, and begin to focus in their own abilities.
Even starting small gives them a sense of empowerment, and they are encouraged to continue.
Finding #6: Women are most motivated to be charismatic after their mid-20s
Being charismatic is 38% more important for women aged 24-35 compared to women aged 18-23.
This finding puzzled our team at first, then we also compared female students and those who were employed. As it turns out, charisma becomes important when you get a job.
Charisma (marked in brighter green) is more important for employed women. (Together with dealing with toxic people, dating skills, and becoming more popular)
Why this could be:
This diagram shows how women become ~14% more motivated to be charismatic when they have a job compared to being a student. (And 28% more motivated to become more popular.)
This leads us to believe that charisma and popularity is something people find important for their career.
We believe charisma is most desirable when we can influence employees, colleagues, and supervisors to vouch for us.
Recommendation based on this finding:
Here’s a guide with 9 ways to improve your charisma written by Ph.D. Ruth Blatt
How women’s challenges change after their mid-30s
When we move beyond our mid-30s, we see massive changes in motivation to improve socially.
For the first time, the diagram is heavy on the left side. This means that overall, women aged 36-60* are less motivated to improve on the challenges we measured. Well, except for one thing: They’re more motivated than ever to deal with toxic people.
*We limited the upper age to 60 years as there were too few responders over 60 to reach statistical significance.
Psychiatrist Denise McDermott, M.D., comments
“In our teen years we are sociological hard wired for approval from others and from an evolutionary standpoint to attract the best mate. As we age our self worth is determined more by our internal mindset and less on external factors and approval from others.
The insightful data in this article shows the evolution over time of women caring less about what others think and valuing their own sense of self worth with a mature desire to problem solve in long-standing relationships, even the most challenging ones.”
Finding #7: Women struggle the most with toxic people after their mid-30s
Women over 35 were overall much less motivated to deal with the social challenges we measured, compared to women aged 24-35. However, they were 28% more motivated to be better at dealing with toxic people.
Why this could be:
After 35, our social lives tend to be more stable. The trajectory of our career is set for most of us. This lessens the urgency of dealing with most social life challenges.
However, this stable social life also has the downside that it’s harder to avoid toxic people: The father- or mother in law, the long-term colleague or someone in the extended family.
As we mature and grow, we are more likely to recognize patterns of behavior over time, and want more from the relationships we have that maybe fall short.
Recommendation based on this finding:
Invest time in your relationships throughout life, even if you have a spouse. This helps you off-load the burden of toxic relationships.
As we see in finding #4, women in their mid-20s get less motivated to keep in touch with friends.
It’s important to maintain friendships to have a supportive social circle as we grow older.
If you have a toxic person around you that you aren’t able to distance yourself from there are strategies that can help.
Professor of Psychology, Dr Ramani Durvasula, comments
As expectations around relationships shift, and technology impacts how we relate, understanding social relationships is an evolving area, especially for women.
The results of this survey suggest that young women, who are now more likely to move away from their families to pursue educations and careers, may be experiencing associated struggles with finding “their tribe” of like-minded friends, and maintaining social contacts.
The 20’s and 30’s are decades when socializing is highly incentivized for women who are likely dating, may not yet have children, and are developing professional identities. Two findings from these data that do give pause is the potential “pressure” on women to be charismatic – with women at this age group feeling more motivated to be “charismatic” – something that may not always be congruent with a given woman’s personality style.
It also speaks to the valuation of this “style” by society, and may not always be something that actually does cement close social relationships. And not surprisingly, women over 35 are reporting that they are breaking more of a sweat to deal with toxic people.
Sadly, we are living in an era in which interpersonal toxicity appears to be on the rise, entitlement is normalized, and incivility is not unexpected. Toxic people are everywhere, and the older a woman gets, the more likely her network has expanded to include extended family, in-laws, more co-workers, and perhaps even people affiliated with children (e.g. other parents). It may also be that our patience starts to wear thin as we become older, have more demands, less time, and may be less willing to suffer fools.
Women do tend to rely on social networks, cultivate them and maintain them more than men. This may relate to gender roles, neurochemistry, and socialization.
Across the board, women of all ages have the powerful negative of being taught to “be nice.”
There is little that is more destructive to building relationships, and just as important, understanding ourselves, than using “being nice” as the basis for connection. NICE make us “disappear.”
It’s superficial and as far from real as most people get. Being nice means putting the other person’s wants and needs and feelings first — vs on an even playing field — so the real relationship with SELF or the OTHER can’t truly grown.
Being kind and caring and generous instead of nice keeps the individual in the interaction and makes it REAL. However, the suggestion to quit being nice is challenging when most hear they SHOULD BE from the age or 3 or 4.
I think one of my coaching clients said it well: “It’s hard to share my thoughts on things when I don’t know what I think”.
Luckily, we can (re)discover our identity at any point in life
You see, in many situations, you will notice that even if you don’t know how to react, your subconscious does.
You might get a pressure over your chest thinking about certain situations. Or, you feel your stomach activating when you think about some things. Or, you get a smile on your face when you think about other things.
These are cues about what you think subconsciously. By paying attention to how your body reacts, you can see what you really think about things!
So the next time you feel blank when it comes to decisions, opinions, or values – pay attention to what your body says.
Ok, moving on.
It’s time to pull up all those thoughts and feelings you have inside of you and use them to form a strong identity.
I’ve created a worksheet for you. It’s based on the same principles that psychologists use to help people develop a sense of self. (But they charge thousands of dollars to help you with this. I want you to be able to do it for free.)
I just came back from a fun and interesting dinner with a course participant.
I coach him, and in return, he gives me feedback on our material.
We talked about group conversations. He told me about how he’d made great progress at first but then felt like he was back to square one. He asked for advice on what to do next.
It’s a great question. It’s something I’ve struggled with, too.
Luckily, by knowing what the curve of self-improvement looks like, we learn that those setbacks we experience are a natural part of what it takes to improve.
Let me show you how I deal with dips and setbacks.
This graph is from our flagship program Confident in 60 Days. It shows how many of our community members experience their progress. At times, it feels like you’re back to square one, but that’s a temporary feeling. As long as you keep at it, your curve of improvement will keep going up.
At the very beginning of the diagram, you see a steep curve. When we first start working on ourselves, a lot of things happen. This is because we can pick the low-hanging fruits.
I, for example, saw big improvements in my social life when I showed more interest in others and their world.
After this initial boost, we continue to make progress, even if it’s not as fast. I had, for example, learned a few clever ways to improve my conversations, but it took longer to improve my confidence.
Then, something usually happens that makes us feel like we’re back to the dreaded square one.
I couldn’t come up with anything to say, I couldn’t connect with anyone, and if anything it felt like people were annoyed with me.
This was a critical moment in my journey.
Here’s where thoughts come up like:
“This is evidence that I’m just not capable of improving” or “All this energy I’ve put into this, and it took me 5 minutes to lose months of progress”.
Here’s where we need to remind ourselves of two things.
We have improved in the past. We are capable of improving, and it’s likely that we’ll see a similar improvement in the future if we just stick to our plan.
It feels like we’ve lost our progress. But our experience and knowledge are still there. In fact, we’re not back to square one at all. It just feels like that in the moment.
We need to trust our system and continue just like we did before. Some, however, believe that all their progress has truly come undone. If they give up because of that feeling, their journey stops here.
But if you continue to work on yourself and do what you know works, you will notice that you quickly get back to where you were before your dip.
The reason we get back so fast now is that we have all this experience and knowledge that we didn’t have before. In reality, no progress has come undone. It’s just that you messed up just like Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt mess up sometimes, too. It’s not lost progress, it’s part of the process.
I’ve been through so many dips on my journey that I feel comfortable with them. I know that they are a natural part of improving and happen for everyone.
Sometimes, when the going gets tough, I need to remind myself of the following: It’s not lost progress, it’s part of the process.
Natalie Lue of baggagereclaim.co.uk teaches people who are tired of emotional unavailability, toxic relationships, and feeling ‘not good enough’, how to reduce their emotional baggage so that they can reclaim themselves and make space for better relationships and opportunities.
Would you like to tell us a bit about your amazing transformation back in 2005, which also was the starting point for your blog?
That summer, my life appeared to be imploding around me.
I found myself with yet another guy who was emotionally unavailable and “not ready for a relationship”, received a damning prognosis for an illness I’d been battling for 18 months, and my family relationships felt increasingly toxic, amongst other things.
The news that there was no cure and that I’d be dead by 40 if I didn’t go on steroids for life, woke me up the realization that while pleasing others, I’d neglected myself. I refused treatment and requested three months’ grace to explore my options. At the same time, I mused out loud on my then personal blog about my relationship woes. I thought it was just me who had a penchant for emotionally unavailable men and sucky relationships but what I shared struck a chord with many readers.
So many things happened in a short period but looking back, I realize that I experienced an awakening.
I started Baggage Reclaim one month after that diagnosis with the aim of using my experiences and what I was learning to help other people just like me. There was no agenda, no plan. I started listening to myself, figuring out boundaries on the go and treating me with some basic love, care, trust and respect, all while exploring alternative options for treatment thanks to advice from readers.
Eight months later, I was in remission. I’d also, unbeknownst to me, met the man who would become my husband.
How do you recognize you’re in a toxic relationship, and how do you make the change into loving and fulfilling relationships?
A major signifier of toxic relationships is that they destabilize you. Like anything toxic, they’re corrosive and damaging to you, typically permeating other areas of your life. You behave uncharacteristically and give up many, if not all of the things that matter to you to keep the relationship in play. You fundamentally become less of who you are while accepting a relationship that is less than love, care, trust, and respect. Toxic relationships are unfulfilling, so it’s like you’re trying to get high to counteract the lows.
You can’t change something that you either don’t recognize as unhealthy or that you don’t regard as being an option for you to change. The reason why we don’t recognize a toxic relationship is that it feels like ‘home’ in some way. It’s familiar, and the toxic relationship is speaking to a part of us that has unresolved hurts and losses. We’re looking for validation, and instead, we’re compounding those old hurts and losses. We make the shift to more loving and fulfilling relationships by compassionately recognizing the baggage behind our relationship choices and taking steps to create healthier emotional, mental, physical and spiritual boundaries with ourselves — we conduct ourselves in a way that starts to acknowledge where we end and others begin.
Getting clear about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, including using recognition of your feelings, needs and, desires to guide you to matching people and situations, is critical. When you treat you with love, care, trust and, respect, you will not accept less than you can already be and do for yourself from someone else.
What piece of information or habit has had the most positive effect on your life socially the last years?
That we are all energy and so it’s important to be mindful of my boundaries. I sometimes found myself feeling wiped out after some social encounters. I realized that it wasn’t because I’m a “lightweight” and that it was everything to do with being mindful of my boundaries when it comes to being around negativity or even people pumping me for information.
What is some realization or understanding of social life that you wish everyone would know?
There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the world about introverts and extroverts. We assume that the person who is the “life and soul” or “hot” is super happy or that they find socializing “easy”, and many introverts assume that they’re not “fun” or “social”. I think a lot of people wear social masks and that we have to be careful of projecting our feelings about ourselves on to others and assuming that we know a lot about people based on how they present socially. Introvert or extrovert, everyone struggles in certain social situations and almost certainly, unless they’re narcissistic, has some level of insecurity about how they’re perceived.
If you could restart your life knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
While I quickly acknowledge that I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences, if I had my time over, I wouldn’t be so hard on my younger self. I assumed way too much responsibility as a kid. It’s like being old before your time. You see things very differently when you think that you mustn’t ask for help or have “too many” needs. Trying to be strong and good, and to in essence meet everyone’s expectations, is exhausting and futile, not least because when we examine the source of our internal pressure, it’s invariably our own, not other people’s expectations. I’ve always been a thinker, intuitive, and yes, have often “known too much” but the flip side of being a thinker is that you overthink and take on too much.
What kind of person should visit your site?
Everyone has emotional baggage so the site has broad appeal, anyone who identifies with the habits of people pleasing and perfectionism that has also struggled with their interpersonal relationships and self-confidence will gain a lot from Baggage Reclaim. It’s made for overthinkers! While people often find me due to issues with romantic relationships, it contains advice for all areas of life.
I just spoke with a friend who lives in my house. She moved to the US from India a while back.
Because of that, she pronounces some words differently, so that sometimes people don’t understand her.
Here’s where we come to one of these interesting “peeks under the hood” of people’s inner workings.
She’s 1) SUPER motivated to be understood and to be successful in the US. But 2) Not very interested in changing her pronunciation.
I got flustered. To me, those two views don’t go together. So, I poked around until she said:
“But if I start changing my accent, won’t I lose who I am?”
BAM! How could I forget? This is one of the biggest objections our readers have before they decide to take the leap.
So, I told her what I tell our participants:
We change all the time. You speak in one way with grandma and another way with your friends. This doesn’t make you fake, quite the opposite: One of the things that make us human is our ability to adapt and improve. It’s not shallow, it’s beautiful.
I told her about the two things that we DON’T want to change: Our beliefs and our values. (Even they change over the years, but we shouldn’t change them to fit in).
Then there are manners – like how we act, energy level, accent, topics we talk about. As long as they don’t go against our beliefs and values, we can adapt them to any situation we’re in.
What she did after I told her this surprised even me. She started practicing my pronunciation and asked me to critique it. (Yeah yeah I know, my pronunciation is also a work in progress). It was like she had always been motivated to improve, and now that the final objection was out of the way, nothing held her back.
Changing how you act won’t make you lose who you are. As long as you act in accordance with your values and beliefs, you will always be you. It’s a powerful realization, but sometimes I forget HOW powerful it is.
What he doesn’t have is self-esteem. (I’m not trying to play hobby psychologist here – he’s going to a therapist and these are his own words.)
So what’s the difference between the two?
Self-confidence is how much you believe in your ability to do something. (For example, taking the center stage in a social setting.)
Self-esteem is what value you put on yourself. (How high you think that your self-worth is.)
That guy I know needs to constantly get the approval of others to feel self-worth.
He’s great at getting to know new people. He’s great with girls. He’s fun at parties. But – he’s terrible at long-term relationships because people tire of him.
What happens if you instead have HIGH self-esteem but LOW social self-confidence?
This person is probably afraid to take the center stage and take initiatives. But they don’t need to continuously feed their egos. This makes them more pleasant to be with – generally speaking.
But there are exceptions.
New studies show that more isn’t better when it comes to self-esteem.1 You want to have a decent self-esteem, but not a sky-high one. A sky-high self-esteem makes us unpleasant to be around and hard to relate to. For example, narcissists have a very high self-esteem, they see themselves as perfect.
Assuming you have a healthy dose of self-esteem, you’re more likely to have happy long-term relationships because you’re able to focus on what others need, too. (You’re not stuck constantly trying to feed your starving ego.)
Many methods we hear about to improve self-esteem doesn’t actually work. Most affirmations, for example, even make people with low self-esteem feel worse about themselves.2
It’s fascinating with hate comments like these. Because even if they are from people who don’t know me and clearly hate ads, they still make me sad and uncomfortable.
Others soon started defending me and the comment field turned into a battlefield. Interestingly enough – the more heated the comments became, the more people signed up with us. So ironically, these hateful people helped us spread our message.
Sometimes when we continue doing something we think is right even when people mock us or hate on us, we get rewarded for it. Why? Because, generally, people avoid criticism. No normal person wants to be in a position where they get negative remarks. But if we can fight through those negative feelings, we can reap the rewards when we come out the other end.
Sometimes criticism is legitimate. This kind of criticism is the most painful one because we know that there’s truth to it. But it’s also a gift because being open to constructive criticism is one of the most powerful ways to improve.
Then there’s unfounded criticism. That’s the kind of criticism we know isn’t true. Like people telling you that you should kill yourself… If we can continue doing what we know is right despite that criticism, we can stand out from most others.
When was the last time you got criticized? How did you react and what did you learn from it? I’m interested to hear about your experiences with criticism and hate in the comments!
As humans, it’s in our nature to have the desire to be close with other people. This is why it can be such a detriment to our mental and emotional health when we are lacking in healthy personal relationships.
The term “rapport” describes a relationship between two people who have a good understanding of one another and who are able to communicate well. Learning to build rapport with other people can help you to bond quickly with virtually anyone you meet, and having this skill will benefit you in your career as well as in your personal and social lives.
Bond faster with someone using “Mirror and match”
According to Dr. Aldo Civico, “Rapport is the root of effective communication.” The key to building this type of rapport is the strategy of “matching and mirroring” which, he says, is “the skill of assuming someone else’s style of behavior to create rapport.”1
This does not mean mimicking the other person’s behavior, which they will likely perceive as mockery. Instead, it is the ability to make observations about the style of someone’s communication and apply aspects of it to your own communication.
Doing this helps the other person to feel understood, and mutual understanding is essential to developing rapport. It also helps to build trust with the other person, which is an important part of the bonding process.
The “mirror and match” strategy can be applied to various components of communication when being used to build rapport with someone: body language, energy level, and tone of voice.
1. Match and Mirror: Body Language
Body language makes up the majority of your communication with the world, whether you are aware of the messages you’re sending or not. Using the “match and mirror” strategy to adopt certain aspects of a person’s body language will put them at ease and make them more comfortable in your interaction.
Imagine you’re speaking with someone you’ve just met who has a very reserved and calm demeanor. If you approach them with wild gesticulation and are constantly patting them on the back or using other physical means of communication, they will likely feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed by you.
Matching their more reserved body language style will make them feel safe around you and make them more comfortable opening up as you develop your relationship.
On the other hand, if you’re meeting a person with a more active and outgoing body language, using hand gestures as you speak and moving around more the way they do will not only help them to better understand you in your communication, but will also help them to feel more understood as they communicate.
Here’s a personal example as evidence that this strategy is effective:
I am not a very “huggy” person. I simply wasn’t raised in a family or community culture where hugging people other than your immediate relatives or significant other is a common practice.
But when I began spending time with a new group of people in college, I quickly realized that hugging was a very regular part of their interactions with one another. They hugged when they greeted each other, they hugged when they said goodbye, and they hugged during conversations if things took a more emotional or sentimental turn.
For a while I was extremely uncomfortable. This triggered my social anxiety and I would spend the entirety of every social event thinking about how I was going to respond when people inevitably went in for a hug at the end of the evening. But I quickly realized that I was being perceived by the others as standoffish as a result of my hesitation when it came to hugging.
When I began to work on being more willing to match their style of communication through my body language, my relationships with the others in the group finally began to blossom. The “match and mirror” strategy of building rapport worked quickly and effectively, and I ended up getting to know my best friend of six years during that time.
2. Match and Mirror: Social Energy Level
Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with someone whose social energy level was much higher than your own? You probably began to feel uncomfortable–maybe even annoyed– and were eager to exit the conversation as quickly as possible.
Matching a person’s energy level is an important part of relating to them and making them feel comfortable enough to stick around long enough for you to continue building rapport.
If you encounter a calm, reserved person, lowering your energy (or at least lowering the amount of energy you express) will help you to better communicate with them. Using a similar pace and volume when speaking to the other person will help your conversation last longer and be more enjoyable.
On the other hand, if you are speaking to a very high-energy person and you remain very calm and reserved, they may find you boring and become disinterested in further interaction with you. In this case, communicating more energetically will help you to bond with them.
Matching a person’s social energy level is a very easy way to subtly change your communication style to more effectively use rapport-building to bond with them.
3. Match and Mirror: Tone of Voice
In some ways, matching a person’s tone of voice can be a very easy way to improve your rapport-building.
If someone speaks very quickly, speaking very slowly may cause them to lose interest. If someone speaks at a more steady pace, speaking very quickly may overwhelm them.
However, remember that when you are “matching and mirroring” it’s important to do it subtly so as not to cause the other person to feel mocked. Perceived mockery will ruin any chances you have of bonding with someone.
Mirroring someone’s mannerisms is another, slightly more complex, way to build rapport through conversation.
For example, my dad is a claims adjuster for a vehicle insurance company. Everyone he talks to has either been in a car accident or had something terrible happen to one of their valuable modes of transportation. In other words, my dad talks to a lot of very unhappy people. And as we all know, unhappy people aren’t always the most pleasant.
But somehow my dad manages to bond with nearly everyone he speaks to. He is extremely personable and well-liked. Being in the south, men use the terms “man” and “buddy” when referring to one another in conversation (“How’s it going, man?”, “Yeah buddy I understand”). So when he speaks to someone southern, my dad slightly alters his accent to match the other person’s and uses their culturally appropriate terminology throughout the conversation. When he’s speaking with someone from a different part of the country, he makes minute adjustments to his accent and uses terminology that will be more relatable to to that person.
In this way, mirroring someone’s tone of voice and mannerisms can help them feel like you’re “one of them” and will go a long way towards building rapport.
Rapport building is an essential part of bonding with other people. Making them feel that you have a mutual understanding builds trust and lays the foundation for bonding.
Using the “match and mirror” strategy to build rapport and bond with people can significantly improve your career as well as your personal and social lives, and it will undoubtedly assist you in developing relationships that last a lifetime.
How can you use rapport building to impact your life? Share your thoughts in the comments!
As introverts, we have a tendency to be keenly aware of our shortcomings.
We are our own worst critics, and if we aren’t careful we can easily slip into periods of depression as a result of what we perceive to be a plethora of imperfections.
But we can avoid these negative side effects of our introspection by creating personal development plans that provide us with a structure for turning our weaknesses into strengths.
Personal development plans are short- or long-term goals combined with an action plan for accomplishing them. These plans also include a list of resources to be utilized throughout the process and other components that improve the likelihood for success such as mentorship, accountability, and self-reflection.
In this article we will outline the steps of creating and utilizing a personal development plan and provide you with a variety of resources–specifically catered to introverts– that will help you experience success.
Step 1: Personal Analysis
According to the Chartered Management Institute 1, the first step in forming a personal development plan is personal analysis.
The purpose of personal analysis is to determine the areas you would like to develop.
If you are planning a short-term development plan, it is best to choose one specific aspect to work on. If you are creating a long-term development plan, you can choose a broader goal and break it down into its individual components, each of which you will work towards developing.
Make sure to choose a reasonable objective so that you are not setting yourself up for failure.
Development plans are meant to help you hone in on areas you would like to improve so that you can create a series of steps for accomplishing them. If the objective of your development plan istoo vague, you will find that your plan will become extremely long and complex, and as a result you will be unable to accurately measure your progress towards your goals.
Step 2: Learning Resources
Now that you’ve chosen an outcome for your development plan, it is necessary to determine what resources are available to help you achieve it.
One of the best resources out there is the resource of other people.
Finding a mentor is one of the best ways to ensure you achieve your outcome. A mentor can be someone you know who you believe has already accomplished your desired outcome, or you can try to get in touch with someone who is an expert on the subject to ask if they’re willing to mentor you.
Your mentor can also serve as your accountability partner. In addition to sharing their wisdom and knowledge on the subject and guiding you in the right direction, a mentor can make sure you are working towards your goals and doing what you set out to do– even when the going gets tough.
However, your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a mentor. A close friend or family member whom you choose to confide in can hold you accountable as well.
As introverts, seeking out other people can be a difficult and unpleasant thing for us to do. But there are plenty of resources available to you that don’t require this type of one-on-one interaction.
Coursera.org is a website that offers free online courses created and taught by various colleges and universities around the world.
Coursera has an entire section of courses devoted to personal development, including topics such as mindfulness, leadership, communication, mental well-being, and more. Coursera also offers inexpensive specializations that provide you with a certificate upon completion, which can be useful if the outcome of your development plan could benefit you in your career.
Your local library is also a gold mine for personal development resources. If you prefer to read digitally, many libraries offer copies in ebook form. And if you’re not much of a reader at all, subscriptions to audiobook providers such as Audible are usually inexpensive as well.
Step 3: Goal-Setting
Once you have determined the desired outcome of your development plan and what resources are available to help you accomplish it, the next step is to set specific and measurable goals.
Measurable goals are those that require specific actions to be taken in order to be met.
When your goals are actionable, you can measure how successful you were based on whether you did or did not complete those actions with the desired result.
Say you have a short-term development plan with an ultimate outcome of a better becoming a better public speaker. Let’s look at some goals you might set to achieve this outcome and determine whether or not they are measurable.
Outcome: Become a Better Public Speaker
Time Allotted: One month Goals:
1. Feel confident speaking in public. NOT MEASURABLE. What specific actions will you take to become more confident speaking in public? This goal is not measurable because there are no concrete ways to determine the difference in your level of confidence.
2. Take a class on public speaking and pass. MEASURABLE. This is a measurable goal because you can ask yourself: Did I or did I not take a class on public speaking? Did I or did I not pass the class? Did I or did I not learn practical tips on being a better public speaker?
3. Speak in public three different times without shaking. MEASURABLE. This is a measurable goal because it is a specific action you can take. You can concretely determine your success by asking yourself: Did I or did I not speak in public three times without shaking?
4. Give a speech in public that people enjoy. NOT MEASURABLE. This goal is not measurable because you cannot objectively determine whether or not your audience enjoyed the speech. Even asking several people from the crowd is not enough to determine whether or not you accomplished your goal.
5. Incorporate five strategies from “The Book of Giving Enjoyable Speeches” in my next speech. MEASURABLE. This is a measurable goal because you can concretely determine whether or not you accomplished it.
Goals that put you closer to achieving your development outcome will consist of specific actions you can take. Effective goals must have a concrete way for you to determine whether or not you were successful.
Once you have made a list of the goals you need to meet in order to achieve your development outcome, you can determine how much time you think is appropriate for accomplishing them.
For a short-term development plan, you can give yourself several weeks to several months. It can also be helpful to give yourself time limits for each specific goal.
For example, if you have a short-term plan with five goals, you can give yourself one week to accomplish each goal. Your overall time limit will be five weeks.
The final component of your personal development plan is self-reflection.
It’s important to take some time each day or at the end of each week to reflect on your progress. Some self-reflection questions to ask yourself include:
How are you feeling at this point in your development plan? Why?
Have you found your goals easy or difficult to accomplish? Why do you think that is?
What do you think is going really well in your development plan?
What setbacks have you encountered?
Are there any changes you can make to prevent those setbacks from occurring again?
Are there any changes you can make to be more successful in accomplishing your goals?
Overall, do you feel you have made progress towards your development outcome?
Keeping a journal to record your thoughts as you reflect is a good way to document your journey and take note of any patterns that may occur. Reflection helps ensure that you take note of your successes, but it also forces you to look more closely at your failures so you can work towards improvement.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but you don’t have to live with your weaknesses forever. Personal development plans force you to become intentional about improving yourself so that you can live more happily, confidently, and successfully.
Do you think a personal development plan could work for you? Tell us what outcomes you’d like to work towards in the comments!
How come some are successful at everything they do while others seem to not go anywhere in their lives?
Behavioral scientists know why, and have been able to attribute a lot of success in people’s lives to a concept they call “Internal Locus of Control”.
I have two friends who are both smart, driven, outgoing and social. If you just hung out with them for a day, you wouldn’t notice any fundamental differences between them.
Still, one of them is wildly successful while the other one gets nowhere in his life.
One of them, let’s call him Jordan, says things like this:
“I didn’t spend much time on the job application because I’m pretty sure I won’t get that job anyway.”
“I tried to get better sleeping habits, but it didn’t work. There’s no point trying.”
“I asked two friends if they could help me with my project but they couldn’t so I guess there’s not much I can do.”
My other friend, Nina, says things like these:
“I failed that intake test so right now I’m figuring out what to do differently on the next one”.
“I’m pretty sure I can get that job, as long as I can understand exactly what they’re looking for”.
Jordan has an external locus of control – meaning he tends to attribute success and failure in life to external factors. This can be luck, or others, or circumstances.
Nina, on the other hand, has an internal locus of control. She assumes that she’s responsible for success or failure.
“But you can’t control most things in life !” – replies people with an external locus of control.
That’s true – and no one argues with that. What research DOES show is that people who actively try to change the outcome of their lives (rather than just letting life happen) are often happier, suffer from less stress, and are more successful in life. (ref)
If we go back to Jordan, technically, he might be correct that he’s unlikely to get the job anyway. But, by assuming he won’t get the job and putting less effort into his application, he’s lowering his chances even more.
Nina, on the other hand, sees that there’s a chance she’ll get a job. And this insight instead triggers her to try even harder. “If it’s tough – I need to work harder to improve my chances!” She sees the job application as a challenge instead of an obstacle.
So how do we cultivate an internal locus of control? One of the most powerful methods is to always acknowledge that we have a choice. No matter our life situation, we almost always have a choice. Realizing this increases our internal locus of control.
Here’s what that choice can look like:
“I have the choice to put more work into the job application, which will improve my chances.”
“I tried getting better sleeping habits, but nothing changed. Now, I can learn from that and try a better method next time.”
“I asked two friends and they couldn’t help me. I have the choice to ask more friends or to find another solution that would require less manpower.”
What’s one choice you’ve made this year to improve your chances of success in any way, big or small? I’m excited to hear in the comments!
References: Roddenberry, Angela; Renk, Kimberly (2010). “Locus of Control and Self-Efficacy: Potential Mediators of Stress, Illness, and Utilization of Health Services in College Students”. Child Psychiatry & Human Development.
5. Gradually increase your social exposure to prevent burnout
Say yes to social events to become more extroverted. But don’t say yes to everything at once so you risk social fatigue.
Make sure that you have lots of time to rest in between social events. With some practice, any introvert can ACT extroverted – it’s just that it consumes energy.
See social settings as practice, as long as you get to rest in between. Over time, your “social stamina” will increase and you’ll become more outgoing.
6. Know that people who make small talk aren’t necessarily shallow
I used to dislike people who seemed to enjoy small talk. I later learned that just because you’re good at small talk doesn’t mean that you’re shallow. Today, I can enjoy small talk. It doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my depth.
Don’t discount people based on the small talk they make. Wait until you’ve looked for mutual interests:
7. Make it your mission to learn people’s interests
“While extroverts engage in small talk, introverts discuss climate change.”
– Susan Cain, author of Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
Socializing becomes more fun when you discover what people are interested in and if you have anything in common.
Whenever I talk with someone about work or school, I ask something about what motivates them:
“What do you like the most about work?” or “Do you have a dream of what you want to do when you’re done with your studies?”
Perhaps, they don’t seem to like work or school. Then, I instead ask “What do you like doing the most when you don’t work/study/etc?”
Change your mentality from “I wonder what this person thinks of me” to “I wonder what this person is interested in”.
8. Mention things that interest you and see how people react
Mention things you think the other person might also be interested in. This is a powerful strategy to get to what matters.
As long as your interest isn’t too narrow, you might find something in common.
Someone: How was your weekend?
You: Good, I just finished reading Shantaram or I watched Cowspiracy about meat production or I met with a friend and we talked about artificial intelligence or I bought a bunch of probiotic food.
Then, ask if they’ve seen/read/tried/heard about/are interested in it. If they light up, you have a more interesting conversation ahead of you.
If they don’t, continue making small talk and you can mention another interest later.
9. Know that it isn’t fake to act differently at different times
Introverts act like extroverts at times, and extroverts act like introverts at times.
On top of that, we’re all on a scale between the two:
Also, most people change their personality traits over time.
When we see that we don’t need to label ourselves it gets easier to take on different roles.
You act in one way at a party and at a funeral, one way with your old relatives, and one with your friends. It’s natural and part of the beauty of being human.
10. Allow yourself to leave social events after 30 minutes
Accept invitations and show up. But take the pressure off of yourself by allowing yourself to leave after 30 minutes. If someone asks where you’re going, you can say: “I just wanted to swing by and say hi to everyone, but I need to get going to do this or that.”
11. Be present
We who are on the introverted side of the scale tend to spend a lot of time in our heads. When we socialize, we might end up thinking more than we listen. “I wonder what they’ll think of me”, “what should I say next”, or “Is my posture weird”. This makes us self-conscious and stiff.
Practice moving your attention out from your head to the topic. Practice being present in the moment and in the conversation. You’ll be a better listener and it’s easier to add to a conversation and find mutual interests if you hear every word.
12. Avoid your phone
Make it a rule to not spend time on your phone when you socialize. It might feel like a relief to disappear into it, but it signals to people that you’re not interested in talking.
13. Practice sharing about yourself
Don’t just ask questions. Share your own stories, thoughts, and feelings. As an introvert, that can feel unnecessary or too private: “Why would that be interesting to anyone else?”
But people want to get to know who they talk to. They feel uncomfortable around someone they know nothing about. A good balance to aim for is to speak roughly as much about yourself as others do.
If you usually don’t, practice sharing your opinion on things. Mention what music you like, movies you didn’t like, or what your thoughts are in subjects. Avoid controversial subjects.
14. Do improv theatre to become more expressive
It’s common for introverts to be in their heads. Improv theater helps you out of your head because you have to be present in the moment.
The idea of improv theatre is being able to spontaneously and instantly decide how to act based on the moment. I took improv theatre for a year and it helped me be more expressive and spontaneous.
15. See socializing as exercise (it’s good for you!)
It’s natural to avoid socializing because it’s draining of energy. But it’s similar to running or going to the gym. Just like you get more fit running, you’ll get more socially savvy and outgoing by socializing.
Know that every hour you spend socializing is an hour closer to your goal.
16. Socialize based on your interests
Avoid the most extreme extrovert venues: Loud parties, night clubs, and mingles.
Go to places where people share your interests. Book clubs, philosophy meetups, psychology groups; anything that’s related to your interest. You’re more likely to find like-minded there and it’s more giving to practice socializing in an environment you like.
17. Take small steps outside your comfort zone
Doing outrageous things (like walking up to everyone you see and present yourself) most often doesn’t work: It’s too scary to be able to keep it up. If you can’t keep it up, you won’t see a permanent improvement.
Instead, do what’s slightly scary and challenging but possible to keep doing regularly. Stay a little longer in a conversation even if you’re afraid you’ll run out of things to say. Say yes to a dinner invitation even if you don’t feel like it. When you’re more confident, you can challenge yourself by taking bigger steps.
18. Practice being more energetic
If you feel low energy in social settings (or that people around you are often more energetic), it can be good to learn to raise your own energy level when needed.
For example, it can be helpful to visualize yourself as an energetic person. How would that person act? How would it feel? Another more hands-on approach is to experiment with different doses of coffee.
Practice making conversation. It’s more fun to socialize if you know what to say to form a connection. As an example, people with below-average conversation skills don’t know that it’s OK to jump between subjects or back to a previous subject they thought was more interesting.
21. Allow yourself to at any time be a passive bystander when you socialize
I used to put pressure on myself in social settings because it felt like I was “on stage”. But you don’t need to be active all the time when you socialize.
You can take short breaks by just standing, passively, not doing anything, not interacting with anyone. You can do that for 1-2 minutes in a group and no one will notice. When you’ve recharged a minute, you can start interacting again.
These breaks helped me catch my breath and take the pressure off me.
22. Read a book about socializing for introverts
I’d recommend you to read Quiet by Susan Caine. Some of the advice in this guide is based on that book. Also, see our rankings and reviews on the best books for introverts.
All About Shyness Archived September 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Meredith Whitten, Psych Central, August 21, 2001; Accessed 2007-08-02