Batman is to Bruce Wayne as Socializing is to Me.
Get it? Because we’ve never been seen in the same room together? Haha?
Bad analogies aside, I’ve been avoiding every form of the word “social” for as long as I can remember.
“Go be social!” my teachers would tell me as I sat alone on the playground with a book.
“Are you going to the freshman social?” asked a fellow student at my college orientation.
“We should probably socialize with my coworkers and their spouses,” says my husband.
Nope, nope, and ABSOLUTELY nope.
I’ve always attributed this intense aversion to the S-word to my status as an introvert (heavy on the “intro”).
And while it’s true that being social does take more of a toll on introverts, it’s important to recognize that socializing is nevertheless important for our mental and emotional health. We just need a little more alone time in between events than other people to rest and recharge.
So what is it about socializing that is unpleasant for so many introverts?
We like to know what’s going to happen. And for most social outings, there’s no way to know for sure how the event is going to play out.
Who’s going to be there? Who will I have to talk to? What will we talk about? What will I say if they ask x question? What if no one talks to me at all?
When there are too many variables for us to come up with a game plan, it makes us uncomfortable. We like to be mentally prepared for every possible scenario so that we never have to “wing it”– but unfortunately that isn’t always possible.
This leaves us with two options:
- Become a Himalayan monk, or
- Figure out how to be social anyway
The overwhelming majority of us are going to go with option #2 (and to the rest of you, best of luck).
So where do we start?
First, you have to go somewhere.
Believe it or not, this is the hardest part. The word “socialize” means to interact with other people, so the best place to start is somewhere that people will be present. Taking the initiative and actually getting yourself to a public setting is the most important (and most difficult) step in the process of socializing.
When choosing an event to attend, first do some research on local events related to your interests. Search for Facebook groups or check your city’s website for organizations, classes, festivals, and more.
If you enjoy music, search for nearby concerts, music festivals, and interest group meetings. Food is another great category for social events; most large cities host food festivals, tastings, cooking/baking classes, and more.
Many craft and hobby retailers such as Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Bass Pro Shops, and others will host classes teaching various skills and hobbies.
Your local library will likely offer book clubs, volunteer opportunities, and some even host movie nights. Local comic book and video game stores often hold themed events that are free or low-cost to attend. Find volunteer opportunities at animal shelters, local parks, soup kitchens, and more. Each of these is opportunities to socialize with people who share a common interest, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can make new friends in this way.
Once you arrive at your chosen event, the next step is finding someone to talk to. My go-to is usually to look for a seat next to someone who is sitting alone because chances are they’re feeling as uncomfortable as I am. Instead of sitting down silently beside them, ask “Is anyone sitting here?” to naturally open up the line of communication. You can then begin a conversation (find tips on conversation-making here).
When socializing, it’s often a good idea to talk to multiple people. If you’re in a hobby group or class, a good excuse to approach someone is to ask for help, advice, or a second opinion from someone working on the same thing as you. At music, art, and food-related events, ask someone nearby what their thoughts are on a song, band, or piece of food or artwork.
You don’t have to be afraid that no one will talk to you when you are taking initiative and starting conversations on your own. This puts you in control, and when you know you are in control you will find the confidence you need to continue socializing.
At some point, you will more than likely meet someone who will introduce you to other people with whom s/he is acquainted, and this will create a snowball effect that will allow you to quickly meet a larger number of people.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t assume you will be bad at socializing. Visualize yourself in social settings, successfully mingling and making conversation, and you will find yourself doing exactly that.
Socializing may not come naturally to us as introverts, but this doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of both enjoying it and being good at it. In fact, there are quite a few introverts who consider themselves outgoing; being introverted simply means that, unlike extroverts, we are not energized by being social. Socializing requires a bit more of our mental energy, and our down-time is how we recharge.
Have a socializing success story? Let us hear it in the comments!