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“Can you force yourself to be an extrovert, and if so, how? I feel like my introversion holds me back from making friends, and extroverted people seem to have a lot more fun.”
Lots of social situations are easier for people who are extroverts. But the good news is that it’s possible for an introvert to learn to be extroverted.
It’s important to remember that 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.
Here’s how to overcome introversion if you want to be more outgoing in social situations.
If you are an introvert, socializing drains your energy. However, if you avoid socializing because it makes you nervous, the root cause could be shyness.
Here’s how to know the difference: If you’re afraid of negative judgment, shyness (or social anxiety) might be the underlying cause. If you just prefer quiet environments and socializing with a small number of people, you’re probably an introvert.
Read our guide on how to stop being shy.
In a study on personality change, the researchers discovered that setting behavioral goals can help you become more extroverted.
Make your goals specific. Setting a general intention like, “I’m going to be more outgoing and social” might not work.
- “I’m going to talk to one stranger every day.”
- “If someone starts talking to me, I’m not going to give one-word answers. I’ll engage in conversation.”
- “I’m going to smile and nod at 5 people every day this week.”
- “I’m going to eat lunch with someone new this week at work.”
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.
Rather than discounting people who seem to enjoy small talk, try seeing it as an opportunity to connect. If you start talking to 10 people at work or in school, you might find that you have something in common with one or two of them.
Make it a policy to accept social invitations. But don’t say yes to everything at once because you may get social fatigue. Behaving in a more extroverted way can be draining if you’re naturally introverted, so try to plan regular downtime to recharge.
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 may become more outgoing.
Sometimes, people can find themselves feeling more introverted or extroverted than usual. This is true of both introverts and extroverts. It can depend on their circumstances. For example, an extrovert who has to be more social for work may want to be more socially introverted than usual. Try looking at your lifestyle as a whole. Reducing social contact in one area can help you to crave it in another.
A therapist can help support you along your journey and hold you accountable to realistic and achievable goals.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and is much cheaper than going to an actual therapist's office. They are also cheaper than Talkspace for what you get. You can learn more about BetterHelp here.
Socializing becomes more fun when you discover what people are interested in and if you have anything in common.
Whenever you talk with someone about work or school, try asking something about what motivates them.
- “What do you like the most about work?”
- “What do you dream of doing when you’re done with your studies?”
If they don’t seem enthusiastic about work or school, you could 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.
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.
If they seem interested, continue the conversation.
If they don’t, continue making small talk and mention another interest later.
Introverts act like extroverts at times, and extroverts act like introverts at times.
Everyone is somewhere on this spectrum:
In addition, some 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. Lots of people worry that acting more extroverted is being fake. This isn’t true—it’s just about adapting to a situation.
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.”
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. We start having thoughts like, “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.
Check out this guide: How to be social as an introvert.
Do not spend time on your phone when you socialize. It might feel like a relief to disappear into the screen and use the phone as a distraction, but it signals to people that you’re not interested in talking.
Don’t just ask questions. Share your own stories, thoughts, and feelings. As an introvert, that can feel unnecessary or too private. You might think, “Why would that be interesting to anyone else?”
In fact, this can help you be more likable. People want to get to know who they talk to. They feel uncomfortable around someone they know nothing about. Aim to speak roughly as much about yourself as others speak about themselves.
Practice sharing your opinion on things. Mention what music you like, movies you didn’t like, or what your thoughts are on particular subjects. Avoid controversial topics until you know the other person well.
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 that you can spontaneously and instantly decide how to act based on the moment. Taking improv theatre classes can help you to be more expressive and spontaneous.
Find clubs, groups, and meetups related to your interests. You’re more likely to find like-minded people there, and it’s more helpful to practice socializing in an environment you like. Try Meetup or Eventbrite for ideas or check out the evening classes on offer at your local community college.
Doing outrageous things (like walking up to everyone you see and introducing yourself) doesn’t usually work. You won’t be able to keep it up for long because it will probably be too scary. And 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.
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. Research shows that drinking coffee can give you more energy in social situations.
Here’s our guide on how to be more high energy socially.
Group conversations can be difficult for introverts. You might feel that you never get to talk, you zone out, and you end up deep in thought instead of involved in the conversation.
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 as though you were listening to the speaker in a one-on-one conversation. They’ll realize that you’re listening and start addressing you.
Read more tips in this guide on how to be part of the group without saying anything smart.
It’s easy to put pressure on yourself in social settings and to feel like you are “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, and 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.
If you find it easier to socialize in your own home, where you have more control, try inviting other people over for dinner or drinks. If it’s more important to you that you can escape easily if it gets too much, consider going out and preparing an excuse in advance if it gets too much.
As your confidence builds, you’ll hopefully feel comfortable in a wider range of situations, but it’s perfectly OK to stay close to your comfort zone as you practice.
Watch the extroverts around you and see whether you can get any ideas for being more extroverted from what they do. Watching a super socially skilled person in their element can inspire you. It’s especially useful to see how they draw others in and make them feel listened to and involved.
Making friends with an extrovert can be a great way to watch them in action and can make it easier for you to relax in social environments. There’s nothing wrong with letting them be the social ice-breaker, but be careful not to let them take over all of the socializing. If you’re going to a party with them, for example, try hanging out with your extrovert friend to get to know people’s names but then having conversations with new people in a smaller group while your friend is doing something else.
Trying to be more extroverted is going to cost you some energy. It’s worth focusing on the times that being extroverted will actually help you and making plans for those events. You can also plan time to recharge afterward. If you try to push yourself to be less introverted in all areas of your life at once, you run the risk of burning out.
Try making a list of the times that it’s most important that you are more extroverted, for example, during job interviews or networking events. You’re trying to find times when being more extroverted is going to make a big difference to how well you feel something went.
Next to each item on the list, write down why being more extroverted will help and how it is going to make your life better. For example, you might write:
I want to be more extroverted when I’m at school. Why? Because then I can make a good impression on my professors and get a good reference. I’ll also make a better impression on my peers, who are good networking connections. How will that make my life better? I’ll get a better job, feel more successful, not have to worry about money, and I’ll have a great professional support network.
You can then remind yourself of why you’re trying to be more extroverted before those events to help you stay motivated and make it easier to make the changes you want.
You might never have considered yourself an extrovert, but there have probably been times when you were more extroverted than others. If you find yourself saying “I can’t,” remind yourself of your most extroverted moments by saying, “I did, and I can do it again.”
Even if you like your job, there are probably parts of it you don’t especially enjoy but need to do anyway. When you want to act more extroverted at work, it can help to reframe behaving in a more extroverted way as part of your role.
For example, if you want to be more outgoing during meetings, you could try telling yourself, “Speaking up and behaving like a confident person is just part of my job.”
It can be easier to talk to people and be more outgoing if you’ve prepared a few topics in advance. This is particularly useful at networking events. Read a few recent trade journals or articles so that you always have a subject to fall back on if conversation dries up.
Alcohol can help you feel more outgoing and less inhibited. But relying on it in social situations isn’t a good long-term strategy because you can’t drink at every social occasion. It’s OK to have one or two drinks at a party or other special event, but don’t use alcohol as a crutch.
A top recommendation for introverts is to read Quiet by Susan Caine. Some of the advice in this guide is based on this book. For more great reading material, we have rankings and reviews on the best books for introverts.
Introversion is partly genetic, but it is also down to your environment and experiences. Studies suggest that genetics accounts for more than half of the difference in introversion within families, possibly due to differences in brain responses to dopamine.
Changing from highly introverted to highly extroverted is rare, but you can learn how to stop being so introverted. Some people have introverted traits but have learned to act more like extroverts in social situations and can feel energized by these social events.
Although extroversion is partly genetic, our brains and feelings change as a result of our experiences. Some introverted people become more extroverted as they become older, whilst some extroverts might move in the opposite direction.
You can’t change your basic personality type. However, you can learn how to behave in a more extroverted way in social situations when it suits you.