Extroversion is widely perceived as being an advantageous social skill to possess.
Akin to what seems to be overly generic advice, people often suggest shy individuals to open up and become a little more extroverted around others. The desire to transition from being introverted to becoming extroverted is rooted in two premises which can be labeled false:
- The first unsubstantiated premise is that extroversion can be learned and mastered by naturally introverted individuals.
- The second unsubstantiated premise is that extroversion is inherently more advantageous in the context of being a successful participant in the social context around you.
This article aims to empower introverted individuals to use their natural introverted instincts to their advantage in the social arena.
The process of doing so begins with understanding methods of building confidence in an effort to use introversion as a successful social tool rather than perceiving it as a vulnerability.
The Air of Novelty Around an Introverted Individual
The first thing on an introvert’s side in a social situation is the concept of novelty.
Even if we operate with the assumption that the general population is split in terms of who the introverts and extroverts are, how they actually act in social settings sways that split.
Introverts are more likely to present themselves as extroverted in social situations. Any given social group situation contains the authentic introverts, the introverts who act extroverted, the authentic extroverts, and the extroverts who act introverted (depressed, sick, not feeling it, etc.). Since it is not considered socially rewarding, the number of extroverts who act introverted is a rare sighting.
In any case, introverts who remain authentic to how they feel in social situations find themselves in the functional minority of the introvert / extrovert duality most of the time. Their introverted peers abandon them by attempting to act extroverted, while the authentic extroverts seemingly always run the show.
Being a part of a minority in a social situation can be used as an advantage if handled with confidence and precision however. The label of being interesting and special is easier attained by starting from a minority group rather than attempting to stand out from within the majority. Using novelty to your advantage begins with a confident belief that being in the social minority is an advantage.
Socially successful introverts garner attention in traditionally unconventional ways in social settings. Think of each individual – whether introverted or extroverted – as possessing a certain tool-set specific to who they are by nature. Introverts who attempt to wield extroverted tools in social settings are sniffed out and labeled as inauthentic quickly. They also can’t lie to themselves and often utilize the extroverted tools they’ve picked up with a shaky hand.
The tool-set that authentic introverts possess includes precise, low-key, and surgical social tactics. They’re masters of subtle but effective reactions, and unobtrusive, potent actions. Rather than being the ones asking the questions and tasked with keeping the conversation going, a socially successful introvert knows how to use mystique and a general economy of words to his / her advantage.
Everyone has an equal role to play in social situations, though it may not seem like it. Social skills are all about playing your unique role in a masterful manner.
Prior to diving into a handful of tools available to you as an introvert, remember the general differences between your tools and those of extroverted individuals. Try ridding yourself of any envy you may feel for extroverts who seem to wield the tools available for use at their discretion with undisputed mastery. Observing extroverts who’ve grown familiar with the social tools available for them to use can feel intimidating and demoralizing.
Remember, the tools available for you to master are different and personal to who you are. Have confidence in the fact that though you won’t master the tools extroverts use in social settings, they’ll have no chance in mastering the tools you’ll put to use yourself.
Tool 1: You Don’t Have to Answer Every Question They Ask
A common cause of social discomfort for introverts is the feeling of having their back against the wall while an extroverted individual pulls them into an arena they have a disadvantage in. These scenarios often begin with extroverted individuals projecting their own perception of how comfortable someone is answering personal questions.
By assuming others are just as socially comfortable as they are, extroverts can start dragging the more introverted individual into realms which cause discomfort. They can begin asking more personal questions, or spark up topics of conversation which an introvert considers too sensitive.
A common example of a situation such as this, is the beginning of a political discussion. Extroverted individuals seem likelier to bring up topics others deem as taboo since they’re more accustomed to trotting around sensitive material. It seems as though extroverts place less value on the subject matter of a conversation in comparison to the experience of it.
Extroverts seem to value the process more than the subject. Introverts however, seem to consider the subject matter of a conversation with more care and sensitivity. They are careful in which paths they take before arriving at an answer.
As introverts recognize themselves being dragged down pathways they’re not comfortable in traveling, they often find it difficult to not socially retreat even more. The quality of their back and forth with an extrovert begins to diminish and awkwardness commonly plagues what’s left of the conversation. The dialogue becomes one sided.
Such instances are common causes of social regret in introverted people. They commonly think back and wish they’d handled conversations in which they were uncomfortable with more poise and confidence.
Using the tool:
A very simple antidote to finding yourself being dragged by extroverts into realms you deem uncomfortable is to make an explicit and direct statement early on. Taking back control from extroverts who’ve started their engines and are racing toward a direction you don’t want to go in has to be frank, direct, and maybe even a little course.
As soon as you recognize a line of questioning to be going somewhere you don’t want it to, never hesitate to simply refuse to answer questions or participate in a discussion. The refusal shouldn’t be angry or malicious. It should simply communicate that you don’t want to talk about the specific topic at hand.
A thing to keep in mind is that for every specific reason you give for not wanting to talk about a topic, you’ll lose points in terms of social control. Simply stating that you don’t want to talk about a certain topic and either switching topics, remaining quiet as others talk about it, or exiting the interaction is optimal.
Though this may seem to be a counterproductive approach from the perspective of developing good social skills, the overall goal here is to introduce a little bit of uncertainty in extroverts who are a little too brash and confident in assuming they can get you to talk about anything they want.
Tool 2: Reserve Your Undivided Focus for Those Who Play by Your Rules
You’ll have different limits to your social comfort zone as an introvert. People will test those limits by pulling you out of your comfort zone with questions you don’t want to answer and statements which place you under an unnecessary limelight.
As someone with less verbal output than those around them on average, introverts naturally place more value on their nonverbal communication cues.
For instance, an extrovert may be more likely to state their sense of agreement with someone’s opinion, while an introvert may nod in agreement while an individual they agree with speaks. The inherent value placed on an introvert’s more subtle communicative cues is higher because they come less frequently.
Aside from the general lesson in your subtle communicative cues being of higher-than-average value in a social setting, a more specific lesson can be learned about using your focus wisely.
Using the tool:
Your attention is an important element of your communications with others as someone who listens more than they speak in social settings.
Introverts are valuable in social settings because they set the stage for more extroverted individuals to shine. They hold the power of providing attention, which is mistakenly assumed to be worth less garnering it.
A conversation can’t be maintained without introverts’ attentive listening and complementary focus setting the stage for others’ verbal dialogue.
Your unadulterated focus serves as an empowerment tool. Its presence signals to those speaking with you that they’re acting favorably in their expression of their thoughts and ideas.
Think back to when someone became distracted by their phone as you were speaking. Even the most subtle glance down at their phone as you spoke likely stung. The moment in which our listener’s focus breaks from our dialogue communicates that we’ve failed to maintain their focus on what we’re saying. Though true or not, it insinuates that we’re not fully effective in delivering valuable dialogue and encourages us to alter our delivery method.
Use your focus to reward people who don’t drag you out of your comfort zone simply by rewarding them with it. With individuals you deem to be disrespectful of your social boundaries – narrow them may be – abide by your natural desires of focusing on things which work with you rather than against. Subtle cracks in your focus go a long way in terms of shaping desirable behavior toward you.
Tool 3: You Don’t Need Excuses to Step Away When Needed
Strategically controlling the intensity of your focus, as mentioned above, is an effective tool in rewarding an extrovert who matches your introverted output. A similar process of strategically guiding behavior can be used in regards to your physical presence.
It’s safe to say that introverts seem to generally be quicker to grow tired of continued social interactions with others. Those feelings often motivate them to exit a social context early or to find a quiet place to sit in the corner of the room to catch up on some alone time on their phone.
A barrier an introvert discovers as they seek a break from the social interaction(s) at hand is the perception that it may be rude. That notion doesn’t help either party involved in the matter, as the introvert begins to feel trapped in the social interaction they find themselves in, and the extroverts begin feeling the conversation to be turning one sided and unrewarding.
Using the tool:
You shouldn’t hesitate to take ownership, and act on your desire as to where you choose to locate your physical self. You don’t need any excuses to physically remove yourself from group settings to be alone for a little while or handle other business.
You also don’t need to apologize for doing so after the fact. If you’ve not made a commitment to be a constant participant in whatever social context is transpiring before you, then you have all the freedom to physically remove yourself from that situation without feeling guilty.
Someone who unapologetically follows their gut as to how they derive physical and social comfort is grown to be respected because they’re perceived to know what they want, and act to attain it.
Though some may find your behavior of removing yourself from being physically proximal to others a little antisocial or odd at times, your unhindered sense of catering to your own social needs before anyone else’s will command respect.
Remember that your act of removing yourself from a social situation for a little while may make those around you feel as if they’ve done something wrong. A good way to get ahead of their building anxieties over your enjoyment in a group setting is to explicitly state that you’re taking a break, going over to sit alone for a bit, or have something else you want to attend to.
If you elect to mention the reasons for leaving a particular social situation, ensure those reasons center only around you.
Tool 4: What You’re Doing Alone Is Just As Fun as What They’re Doing Together
Doing things alone can be misinterpreted as being lonely. Someone reciting their lonesome trip to the movie theater always seems a little odd. Such an activity is so traditionally social, that doing it alone can be a sign of something off about the situation.
Managing the perceptions of, and the differences between, being alone and lonely is a task many introverts find themselves needing to become skilled at. It’s difficult to act confidently enough by yourself to encourage a perception of strength when you’re alone. Being seen by ourselves in social settings in which being a part of a group is the norm is difficult to play off as normal.
The proper communication of your time alone being just as fulfilling as others’ time socializing with others is powerful in its effects. Properly conveying your natural desire to have fun by yourself will encourage others to perceive your deed of doing so as an exhibition of strength.
A pivotal aspect in conveying confidence in doing things by yourself is to thoroughly enjoy it. Pretending to like being alone when you really feel as though you’ve missed out on some social aspects of being a part of a group is difficult to pull off.
Using the tool:
True confidence in being alone looks unassuming and uneventful. Rather than saying how much you like being alone and how much fun you had going on a camping trip by yourself, simply act like it is a normal and necessary occurrence.
The goal you should strive for is to encourage second thoughts in those who question your act of liking to be alone. There being nothing to explain on your end as someone inquires into why you like being alone will introduce the question of why they assumed being alone is somehow worse than being with others.
A lack of embarrassment in being alone when others wouldn’t dare to be, will flip the focus of the conversation onto the insecurities of those who find your enjoyment of alone time odd.
As you unassumingly and naturally act confidently normal about your enjoyment of alone time, the people who inquire as to why you like being alone so much will be forced to provide reasons for why they think it’s a bad thing.
From there you’ll be able to shine a light on the insecurities which drive their assumptions surrounding people who like spending time alone. You can get into a conversation of why they feel it’s not normal and you’ll generally be able to control the conversation so that the extrovert is on their heels.
Similar to needing to explain why you don’t enjoy spending long periods of time in busy social settings, your confidence in your alone time will force extroverts who question you to explain why they don’t enjoy being alone.
That’s when the conversation takes a turn toward matters which favor you over the extrovert in question.