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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”
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.
Just saying “I’m going to be more outgoing and social” might not work to be more extroverted. 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.
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.
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.
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.
- All About Shyness Archived September 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Meredith Whitten, Psych Central, August 21, 2001; Accessed 2007-08-02
- 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.
- Gollwitzer, P. M., & Brandstätter, V. (1997). Implementation intentions and effective goal pursuit. Journal of personality and social psychology, 73(1), 186.
- 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.
- Roberts, B. W., & Mroczek, D. (2008). Personality trait change in adulthood. Current directions in psychological science, 17(1), 31-35.
- Coupland, J. (2003). Small talk: Social functions. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 36(1), 1-6.