Many of us are diehard introverts and have no desire to change. There’s nothing wrong with that! But some introverts long to be comfortable in social situations and enjoy a richer social life. If this is you, the great news is that you can become more extroverted with only a little time and practice!
What’s true of social styles is true of most things: when trying to attain a goal, there’s always a certain degree of motivation and resistance. You can think of the motivation as the motor in your boat and the resistance as the wave you’re trying to power over. If you can reduce the size of the waves, the journey is much easier.
Conquer common challenges to becoming an extrovert with these strategies:
1. Social skills that need polishing. Many introverts would be thrilled to be part of group social activities if they only felt comfortable about what to say and how to behave. But having a conversation with a stranger and feeling comfortable about it is something that anyone can learn to do.
• The key is to attend these social events repeatedly, then evaluate yourself. Strive for progress, not perfection.
• Remember to only compare your results to your previous results, not to the results of other people. Consider that perhaps they’ve had a lot more practice, or have been in environments that helped them cultivate those skills.
2. Small or nonexistent social circles. If you’ve largely kept to yourself for the last 10 years, you’re going to have to brainstorm. Ideally, seek out people who share the same interests. Join a basketball team at the YMCA. Join a book club. Use the online personals and say, “Hey, I’m just looking for a new friend.”
• There are plenty of lonely people who would love to have a friend or activity partner. You might even meet another introvert like yourself, and you can learn the ropes together and share a lot of mirth about it along the way! And there are plenty of active social groups that would love to have another person.
3. Spending too much time online. Socializing online is not the same as socializing with real people. In fact, studies have shown that the users that spend the most time on sites like Facebook report the highest levels of loneliness.
• Unplug and get out there. Ten years from now you’ll remember the canoe trip you took, not the online chat you had. You’ll also find that if you have more meaningful relationships in the “real world,” you’ll have far less interest in spending time online.
4. Fear. People are almost universally lousy at assessing risk and reward. Consider the amount of fear the average man has just walking up to a beautiful woman and saying ‘hello’. What’s the risk? There is no tangible risk. He will be safe pretty much regardless of what her response happens to be. And what’s the potential reward? Nearly unlimited.
• Almost all of us are uncomfortable in similar situations. Sometimes you can gain a lot by stepping back and intellectually examining your feelings. Then you can go ahead and do the thing that frightens you.
• After experiencing a few “failures,” you’ll quickly learn that it’s not unlike being afraid of the dark. When you turn on the light, there’s nothing there.
Being a lifelong introvert doesn’t mean your social future is set in stone. Changing yourself is always a little uncomfortable, but if you believe you can change, you’re halfway there.
Focus on all the benefits you’ll receive and the ways in which your life will improve. Even if you take small steps, as long as you continue, you can accomplish almost anything over time.