We asked 249 women in their 20s and 30s about their social life struggles. This is what we learned (New research)

women's social life struggles

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.

What are the key findings?

#1: Women struggle the most to find like-minded friends in their early 20s
#2: Women entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends
#3: Women entering their 20s change the way they date
#4: After their mid-20s, women struggle LESS to keep in touch with friends
#5: Mid-20s to mid-30s is when women are the most motivated to work with shyness, anxiety, and self-esteem
#6: Women are most motivated to be charismatic after their mid-20s
#7: Women struggle the most with toxic people after their mid-30s

How do we measure struggles?

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.

Women's social life struggles between age 14-17 and 18-23As 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 very motivated to find like minded friendsWomen 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:

  1. 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)
  2. When we transition from adolescence to early adulthood, our personality develops and changes. This personality development also affects our relationships.(4,5)
  3. 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

Dr Linda L MooreOnce 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.”

Dr Linda L Moore, author and licenced psychologist in Kansas City, MO. drlindamoore.com.

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 very motivated to better keep in touch with friendsWomen entering their 20s struggle 69% more to keep in touch with friends

Why this could be:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, be prepared that you might lose touch with some of your old friends.
  2. 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.
  3. Do you have old friendships that you cherish? Make a conscious effort to maintain those.
  4. 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.

Amy Morin LCSW (Not related to the article author.) Psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do

Finding #3: Women entering their 20s change the way they date

Dating vs talking to someone you're attracted toWomen 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Jo HemmingsJust 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.

Jo Hemmings, behavioral psychologist. Johemmings.co.uk

Social life struggles women face in their mid-20s to mid-30s

Women's social life struggles between 18-23 and 24-35

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

Women very motivated to better keep in touch with friendsIn 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:

  1. Age 18-23 is a tumultuous time: New interests, schools, jobs, and friends makes keeping in touch a bigger challenge and a bigger priority.
  2. 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

Dr Sue JohnsonWomen 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.

Dr Sue Johnson is the author of Hold Me Tight. She’s a clinical psychologist, researcher and professor focusing on adult attachment.

Finding #5: Women struggle more to improve shyness, anxiety, and self-esteem in their mid-20s to mid-30s

How women's shyness, self-esteem, social anxiety changes over timeWomen 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.

Recommendation based on this finding:

Meaghan Ramsey’s Ted talk: Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you

Guide and help resources on how to overcome social anxiety: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder.htm/

Psychotherapist Jodi Aman comments

Psychotherapist Jodi AmanBy 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.

Jodi Aman, psychotherapist, TED-talker and author

Finding #6: Women are most motivated to be charismatic after their mid-20s

Women very motivated to be charismatic

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.

Social life challenges of studying women versus women who are employed

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

Women's social life struggles between age 24-35 and 36-60When 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

Dr Denise McDermott“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.”

Denise McDermott, M.D. Adult and Child Board Certified Psychiatrist. Website

Finding #7: Women struggle the most with toxic people after their mid-30s

Women motivated to better deal with toxic peopleWomen 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Dr. Ramani DurvasulaAs 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.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Professor of Psychology. doctor-ramani.com | TED-talk | @DoctorRamani

Psychologist Dr Linda L Moore comments

Dr Linda L MooreAcross 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.

Dr Linda L Moore, author and licenced psychologist in Kansas City, MO. drlindamoore.com.

How we made the study

We surveyed 249 women from 22 countries who’ve indicated that they want to improve their social lives.

We excluded responses from non-westernized countries in order to find more clear trends in the data.

These are the countries our participants were from:

Distribution of women between countriesThe respondents were asked to rate how motivated they were to improve 21 social life challenges.

They chose between

  1. Not motivated
  2. Somewhat motivated
  3. Motivated
  4. Very motivated

We counted all “Very motivated” for each age cohort and divided that with the number of people in that cohort

Age cohorts were chosen so that each cohort had at least 60 participants to improve statistical significance.

These are the age cohorts we used:

  • 14-17
  • 18-23
  • 24-35
  • 36-60

About the researchers

David Morin

David MorinI’ve been writing about social interaction since 2012. Perhaps you’ve seen my advice in publications like Business Insider and Lifehacker.

A few years ago, I probably looked successful on the surface.

I had started an import business and turned it into a multi-million dollar company. (Now owned by the Swedish concern MEC Gruppen.)

24 years old, I was nominated “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” in my home state.

But, I didn’t feel successful. I still had a hard time enjoying socializing and being authentic. I still felt awkward and off in conversations.

I committed to building my social confidence, becoming great at making conversation and bonding with people.

8 years, hundreds of books and thousands of interactions later, I was ready to share with the world what I’ve learned.

Studying social interaction is my passion. That’s why I’m happy to present these findings about women’s social life challenges.

B. Sc Viktor Sander

B. Sc. Viktor SanderI want to thank B. Sc Viktor Sander for his advisory role during this project. Viktor Sander is a behavioral scientist (University of Gothenburg, Sweden), specialized in social psychology.

He’s been working with research on social interaction for more than a decade. He has also coached several hundred men and women in social life issues.

Without him, this project would never have been possible.

References

  1. Ledbetter, A. M., Griffin, E., & Sparks, G. G. (2007). Forecasting “friends forever”: A longitudinal investigation of sustained closeness between best friends. Personal Relationships, 14(2), 343-350. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2007.00158.x
  2. Jr., J. K., & Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Perceived Fraudulence in Young Adults: Is There an Imposter Syndrome?Journal of Personality Assessment, 56(2), 308-326. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa5602_10
  3. Joan Berzoff M.S.W., Ed.D. (1989) The therapeutic value of women’s adult friendships, Smith College Studies in Social Work,59:3, 267-279, DOI: 10.1080/00377318909517358
  4. Mund, M., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Personality-Relationship Transaction from Young Adulthood to Early Midlife. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e571452013-007
  5. Fischer, J. L. (1981). Transitions in relationship style from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence,10(1), 11-23. doi:10.1007/bf02088419
  6. Lydon, J. E., Jamieson, D. W., & Zanna, M. P. (1988). Interpersonal Similarity and the Social and Intellectual Dimensions of First Impressions. Social Cognition,6(4), 269-286. doi:10.1521/soco.1988.6.4.269
  7. Bleske-Rechek, A., Remiker, M. W., & Baker, J. P. (2009). Similar from the start: Assortment in young adult dating couples and its link to relationship stability over time. Individual Differences Research, 7, 142–158.
  8. Eng, W., Coles, M. E., Heimberg, R. G., & Safren, S. A. (2005). Domains of life satisfaction in social anxiety disorder: Relation to symptoms and response to cognitive-behavioral therapy. Journal of Anxiety Disorders,19(2), 143-156. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2004.01.007
  9. Liu, K. A., & Mager, N. A. (2016). Women’s involvement in clinical trials: Historical perspective and future implications. Pharmacy Practice,14(1), 708-708. doi:10.18549/pharmpract.2016.01.708
  10. Killien, M., Bigby, J. A., Champion, V., Fernandez-Repollet, E., Jackson, R. D., Kagawa-Singer, M., . . . Prout, M. (2000). Involving Minority and Underrepresented Women in Clinical Trials: The National Centers of Excellence in Womens Health. Journal of Womens Health & Gender-Based Medicine,9(10), 1061-1070. doi:10.1089/152460900445974
  11. Schmucker, D. L., & Vesell, E. S. (1993). Underrepresentation of women in clinical drug trials. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics,54(1), 11-15. doi:10.1038/clpt.1993.102
  12. Jagsi, R., Motomura, A. R., Amarnath, S., Jankovic, A., Sheets, N., & Ubel, P. A. (2009). Under-representation of women in high-impact published clinical cancer research. Cancer,115(14), 3293-3301. doi:10.1002/cncr.24366
  13. Westenberg, P., Gjerde, P. (2002) Ego Development During the Transition from Adolescence To Young Adulthood: A 9-year Longitudinal Study

Interview with Tyler Tervooren on Using Systems to Retain Friendships

Tyler Tervooren blogs about strategies, leadership and smart risk taking for introverts Riskology.co.

In this interview, we cover topics including:

Read moreInterview with Tyler Tervooren on Using Systems to Retain Friendships

How to deal with self-doubt: The secret confident people use


When I was about to leave everything in Sweden and move to NYC, these doubts popped up in my head:

  • But what if I don’t make any friends?
  • What if I don’t like it there?
  • What if I don’t make any money?
  • What if I have to go back to Sweden and everyone sees that I’m a failure?

Here’s what I’ve come to learn about self-doubt:

1: Everyone has it.

2: Everyone who’s ever succeeded with anything has felt like this and followed their dream ANYWAY.

Life is about doing things DESPITE the feeling that we might fail.

Isn’t it crazy to let life be dictated by a negative voice telling us it won’t work?

And we go “Oh, yeah, you’re right, negative voice. I’ll ditch all my dreams because it might not work”.

I’ve developed a tactic to overcome this voice.

How to overcome the voice of self-doubt

I learned that there was only one way to deal with self-doubt:

I had to accept that those thoughts were there, but CHOOSE to act despite them.

I could have an internal dialogue like this:

“David, this isn’t going to work. There’s no point trying”.

“Ok, I understand that you think that way, voice. I’m going to at least TRY anyway”.

I call this doing despite doubt.

I saw a documentary about Jim Carrey the other day. He revealed that his father always hoped to make it as an actor in the USA.

But he decided to take a safer path and stay in Canada, working as an accountant and raise a family.

However, he lost his job at 51. After that, he became bitter.

Jim said:

“Not only was he compromising to raise a family, but when you compromise AND you fail, it really hurts. It hurts even more than failing at what you love.”

You know what else I’ve noticed?

It’s easy to get caught up in what might go wrong. In other words, the DOWNSIDE to doing something.

I’ve taught myself to think as much about the UPSIDE to doing despite doubt.

When I worried about what could go wrong with being better socially, I learned to think as much about what could go right.

I visualized myself a rich social life, having loads of friends, always someone to do fun stuff with and the life I’d always dreamt of.

I even wrote down what my dream life would look like.

That made me realize that the upside was way bigger than the downside – that doing despite doubt was worth it.

fear in social situations

Pancake brunch with friends here in NYC.

Now, I’m curious to know: What would the upside to doing despite doubt look like for YOU?

Let me know about a specific thing in your life right now where you doubt yourself!

By writing it down, just like I did, it becomes clearer if it outweighs the risk of failing.

And what’s your conclusion – does doing it outweigh the risk of failing?

I’m excited to read what you’ll write down!

Were they making fun of me behind my back?

social outsider

In school, I felt like an outsider.

I saw how others connected and had a great time, while I struggled.

Take the other guys in my class for example. I often worried that they were making fun of me behind my back and it felt like it was them inside and then me outside. (We’ve written an article about how to spot a fake friend from a real friend over here.)

Go here to read more about how to deal with someone making fun of you.

One day, a new guy came to class. After a week, he was closer with my classmates than I was after a year.

That “proved it” to me: There’s definitely something wrong with me!

Like I’ve said before, I don’t regret that time, because that’s what formed who I am today.

I just wish I knew this back then:

Just because something is in a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

You see, back then everything felt pretty dark to me. I had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe that I would be able to turn things around.

I had good times, too, and I did have some friends.

It was just that being off socially and seeing others hit it off when I didn’t make me think less of myself.

I had little hopes I would improve.

I could rationally see that practice makes perfect, but it FELT like there was something wrong with me and it FELT like this was how life would be.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all these years: It doesn’t matter what it FEELS like. Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right even if feels like it won’t work out.

These photos sum up my life today. To me, they prove that just because you felt like an outsider, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

How did your childhood affect your social beliefs today? Did you worry about people making fun of you behind your back? Let me know in the comments!

How to stop fiddling (+ other habits that make us look nervous)

how to stop fiddling

This puzzled me for a long time:

I tried not fiddling, having more eye contact, having a better posture, and so on.

But it didn’t work!

As soon as I didn’t pay attention, I started fiddling again or I forgot about eye contact and posture.

One day, a friend told me about a principle Toyota uses to make cars. It’s called Genchi Genbutsu, and it helped me understand why I couldn’t stop fiddling.

So I’m probably missing some details here but the story of Genchi Genbutsu goes something like this:

At Toyota, they found oil on the floor in one of their factories. It turned out that one of the cars had a faulty oil plug. But instead of just changing the plug, they decided to go deeper.

They wanted to know WHY the plug was faulty.

They found out that the purchasing department had ordered the wrong model. Instead of just correcting that, they wanted to know WHY they had ordered the wrong model.

They finally figured out that they had to change their incentive system for their purchase department.

So they call this Genchi Genbutsu which kinda means “Go and see”.

Anyway.

When you fiddle, just trying to not do it is like wiping oil under a leaking car.

Genchi Genbutsu is about always asking WHY.

WHY do I fiddle? I asked myself.

The answer: I was feeling anxious.

THAT’s what we want to deal with. (I talk about how to stop feeling anxious here)

Whenever I do something I don’t like, like fiddling, or not keeping eye contact, or having a bad posture, I ask myself WHY. Then I focus on solving the problem rather than trying to treat the symptom.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’m extra interested to hear about your nervous habits that you have or have had.

“I don’t know who I am!” (How to find your identity)

Who am I?

How do you know who you really are?

Like, how do you know what your values are and what you really think and feel about things?

Here’s the comment that inspired me to write today’s text. It’s from one of our readers, Jaimie:

“As I am reading these articles and watching your videos (which are fantastic by the way!) I find myself thinking that, even if I do apply these principles to my social life, I will still struggle.

I actually don’t know what I think about things, or what I value and why. I have been such a people pleaser for so long, terrified of rejection, that I lost myself in it all.

How do I relearn who I am and express myself?”

– Jaimie

Here’s the thing.

When we’re kids, we learn about the world by listening to others. And then, as we grow older, others start listening to us, and we learn that we are individuals.

We start to grow what psychologists call identity or a sense of self.

But some of us don’t practice creating our own sense of self. Maybe we were raised that way or we fear that we will get rejected if we want something others don’t.

And it makes sense that if we never practice creating our own opinions and thoughts, we don’t really know who we are, right?

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.)

Click here to go to the worksheet.

After you’re done, let me know in the comments – how are you feeling after completing it?

I’m excited to hear from you!

Why self-improvement is painful and what to do about it

When I feel bad about myself

A while back I met an amazing girl that I soon fell in love with. I knew that she liked me back. But while I felt more and more for her over time, she felt less and less.

When someone I speak with for five minutes walks off, I’m unaffected, because I know that they don’t know me.

But being rejected by this girl took a hit at my self-esteem.

I’m privileged to have extremely conscious, smart people around me who could give me input.

I felt like I was back in school – seeking advice instead of being the one giving it out.

It’s funny how we work because I could have had a very rational response to what happened:

“Well approach A didn’t work so let’s do approach B next time”.

Or

“Well, maybe I just wasn’t her type”.

But instead, I had a wave of feelings washing over me: Feeling bad about myself, feeling that there’s something wrong with me, that I’m unattractive, that I’m inferior to others.

And then, when I knew what I wanted to improve, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to change, that I wouldn’t have what it takes, and so on.

I know that these feelings have nothing to do with reality. I can look at my life journey to see that. But still, they are just as overwhelming.

Even though they are “just” feelings, they are feelings we all have to deal with.

This is why self-improvement, to me, is about being able to deal with emotions

Self-improvement causes us to feel bad about ourselves because it reminds us of our shortcomings. If we can’t deal with those feelings, we can’t improve.

A lot of people try to cheer themselves up, or ignore their feelings, or occupy themselves with something else.

I do the exact opposite.

When I feel bad, I lay down on my bed and pay attention to each and every feeling and thought throughout my body, until I’ve given every sensation my full attention.

I accept my feelings instead of trying to cut them off. Sometimes, I even give them names because I know that I’ll have to live together with them for a while.

This isn’t some method I’ve come up with. It’s part of eastern teachings that have lately been proven in modern science: Accepting our thoughts and feelings gives us power over them.

I’ve learned to observe my feelings just like you observe a child playing. You watch it with curiosity, but you know that you don’t have to obey it.

This is why I’ve been able to improve myself and design my life to be what I envisioned it to be a decade ago, despite struggles. I accept my feelings, and because of that, I don’t need to fear them.

When you read my advice, you probably go through feelings of self-doubt and worry.

But you still keep on reading.

For that, I salute you, because accepting the pain of self-improvement is one of the most valuable things we can do in life.

How to deal with setbacks in personal development

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.

dealing with setbacksThis 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.

For me, it could be going to a social event and freezing up.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Read more:
How to deal with self-doubt.

Write down your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what you think.

When it feels like others judge you, do this.

feeling judged by others

Ever felt like when you’re about to say something, people will judge you?

Or, that people judge you already when you walk into the room?

Here’s what one of our readers wrote to me:

“I find it difficult to start and continue conversations, and worry that everything I’m doing is being judged by others.”

My strongest memory of this was at a dinner with other startup owners. I hadn’t achieved as much as they had, and I felt like a fraud.

The way they looked at me confirmed that they were on to me. (At least, that’s what it felt like.)

Today, I know that my brain made its own interpretation of their looks.

If someone has a skeptical look, there’s no way to know if they’re actually skeptical, if they’re tired, if their thoughts are elsewhere, or if it’s just their listening face.

What we DO know is that we who are anxiously inclined massively overestimate how much others judge us.

People just don’t care that much about others. They are too occupied with their own thoughts, just like you and I are occupied with ours.

In fact, one recent study on 100 children showed that those who were more socially anxious were “hypersensitive” to making mistakes when others were watching them (ref).

That study made so much sense to me:

The root cause of social anxiety is being overly scared of being judged for our mistakes.

It can be because we had parents who scolded us for our mistakes or maybe we had a bad time in school. (ref)

I know a guy in that business network who’s rich, successful, and tall. But no one really likes him, because he’s a stuck up.

On the opposite is one of my best friends here in the US. She’s not rich, nor successful, nor tall. She’s quite clumsy and a little shy. Everyone loves her.

Why?

Because she’s human and relatable.

Lesson learned:

Having flaws makes us human and relatable.

In what situations do you feel judged by others? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

Interview with Mark Rosenfeld on attracting people you deserve

After struggling with shyness throughout high-school and early years of college, Mark turned things around in 2009. A few years later he started teaching confidence in life and dating.

In 2014, he started MakeHimYours.com, sharing what he learned to help women stop the frustrating patterns in their dating lives and start attracting the men they deserve.

Interview with Natalie Lue on toxic relationships and more

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.

Read more: How to tell fake friends from good friends.

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.

Won’t I lose who I am if I change?

roadblocks to change

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 aboutAs 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.

Read more: How to be yourself in social settings.

Have you ever kept from self-improvement because you’ve been afraid to lose who you are?

Let me know in the comments!

How to deal with hate comments and criticism

dealing with hate and criticism

A week ago I tried setting up an ad on Reddit to promote our free training.

As you know by now, I love hearing what people think about SocialPro. Maybe that’s why SocialPro is so successful today. Naturally, I wanted to allow comments on my ad to hear people’s thoughts.

Checking in after a few hours, I was quite surprised to see the comments.

hate commentsYou can see all comments here: https://www.reddit.com/comments/7vqyks/heres_a_free_video_training_called_conversation/

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!

The Introvert’s Guide to Personal Development (+Goals)

Introvert's guide self improvement

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.

If you have a long-term plan with 10 goals, you can give yourself six months per goal with an overall time limit of five years.

Step 4. Self-Reflection

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:

  1. How are you feeling at this point in your development plan? Why?
  2. Have you found your goals easy or difficult to accomplish? Why do you think that is?
  3. What do you think is going really well in your development plan?
  4. What setbacks have you encountered?
  5. Are there any changes you can make to prevent those setbacks from occurring again?
  6. Are there any changes you can make to be more successful in accomplishing your goals?
  7. 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!

References:

  1. Chartered Management Institute. 2018. Personal development planningChartered Management Institute. 

 

Why some succeed in life and others do not

succeed in life

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.”

Read more: How to improve your self-esteem.

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.

22 tips to be more extroverted

Introvert extrovert

I’m an introvert who’ve learned to be extroverted and outgoing when I have to. Here are my best tricks:

1. Know that being extroverted isn’t better than introverted

There’s nothing wrong with being introverted. It’s when introversion keeps you from doing what you really want to do that it becomes a problem.

This guide is for you who want the ability to be more extroverted when you need it.

2. Make sure your introversion isn’t in fact shyness

Introversion is when you avoid socializing because it drains your energy. However, if you avoid socializing because it makes you nervous, the root cause could be shyness.

How to know: If you’re afraid of negative judgment, shyness (or social anxiety) might be the underlying cause. If you just prefer quiet environments, you’re a typical introvert.

“Introverts prefer solitude, but don’t necessarily fear social encounters”[1]

Read our guide on how to stop being shy.

3. Create a specific plan on how you want to be more extroverted

In a study on personality change, they discovered that making specific plans is the only way to go from introvert to extrovert.[2]

Just saying “I’m going to be more outgoing and social” might not work to be more extroverted.[3] If you’re not specific enough, you’ll end up not knowing what to do.

Set up a specific plan to become more extroverted, like any of these examples:

  • “I’m going to talk to one stranger every day”
  • “If someone starts talking to me, I’m going to not just say yes or no but engage in conversation”
  • “I’m going to smile and nod toward 5 people every day”
  • “I’m going to eat lunch with someone new this week”

What’s a specific thing you can do starting today?

4. Start conversations with coworkers or classmates even if you don’t have a specific reason to talk

Introverts tend to avoid small talk as it seems meaningless to them. But small talk has a purpose: It’s a warm-up for more interesting conversation.[6]

See small talk as an opportunity to connect. If you start talking to 10 people at work or in school, you might find that you have something amazing in common with one or two of them.

Here’s our guide on how to start a conversation.

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”.

Here’s our guide on how to make interesting conversation.

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.[4]

On top of that, we’re all on a scale between the two:

extrovert-to-introvert-differenceAlso, most people change their personality traits over time.[5]

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.

Here’s our guide on how to be more high energy socially.

19. Participate in group conversations by listening rather than talking

I never understood group conversations. It was like I never got to talk, zoned out, and ended up in deep thoughts.

But you don’t need to talk to be active in the conversation: It’s enough to LOOK engaged, and people will include you.

React to what’s being said, like if whoever talks speaks just to you. When you do, they’ll start directing their story to you. You become part of the conversation – without saying anything.

Read more in my guide on how to be part of the group without saying anything smart.

20. Improve your conversation skills

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.

Here’s our guide on how to improve your conversation skills.

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.

References

  1. All About Shyness Archived September 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Meredith Whitten, Psych Central, August 21, 2001; Accessed 2007-08-02
  2. Hudson, N. W., & Fraley, R. C. (2015). Volitional personality trait change: Can people choose to change their personality traits?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 109(3), 490.
  3. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Brandstätter, V. (1997). Implementation intentions and effective goal pursuit. Journal of personality and social psychology, 73(1), 186.
  4. Fleeson, W., & Gallagher, P. (2009). The implications of Big Five standing for the distribution of trait manifestation in behavior: Fifteen experience-sampling studies and a meta-analysis. Journal of personality and social psychology, 97(6), 1097.
  5. Roberts, B. W., & Mroczek, D. (2008). Personality trait change in adulthood. Current directions in psychological science, 17(1), 31-35.
  6. Coupland, J. (2003). Small talk: Social functions. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 36(1), 1-6.