Wallflower Street

Ever been in a social situation where you desperately want to participate in whatever's happening, but you just can't bring yourself to break out of your shell and do it?

This happened to me a year or so ago. While I'm generally pretty extroverted, I have my introvert moments.

In my situation, I was at a work-related function with several co-workers at a local karaoke bar. I had decided not to have drinks that night as I was driving myself home--and I'm pretty sure I was the only one who was stone-cold sober, not that it should matter--but that night, it made me feel a bit excluded.

While I really wanted to get up and sing and dance with my co-workers and friends, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was so disappointed in myself, and I came home feeling really sad because I felt that I'd missed out on an opportunity to have a lot of fun.

Maybe I was too worried about what they'd think of me, or I was feeling shy--or maybe I was just having an off-day. Whatever the cause, I decided that night that I needed to develop coping strategies for these occasional introverted moments.

Are you an introvert who is looking to expand your horizons?

Maybe you'd like a more active social life, or maybe you secretly envy a friend or coworker who makes being friendly and open look effortless.

Or, maybe you're a diehard introvert and have no desire to change. There's nothing wrong with that--and if that's the case, you're probably already clicking away to a new post. 

But some introverts long to be comfortable in social situations and enjoy a richer social life or to be more aggressive in advancing professionally--and this post is for those people.

While change can be hard, especially the change from introvert to extrovert, it's worth it in the long run.

(See how I lost 100 pounds--including plenty of before and after photos!)

You might have to fake it 'til you make it at first, but with a little persistence, being extroverted can become second nature to you.

What’s true of social styles is true of most things: when trying to attain a goal, you might find a certain degree of motivation and resistance in your way.

Try thinking 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. Try these tips to help you get started.

Polish up those social skills.

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.

Expand your 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." (But be careful and smart about this kind of stuff--don't trust anyone too quickly.)

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.

Try "real life" once in awhile.

I do a lot of my work online, part of which involves social media platforms. But I also make time for my family and friends in "real life" as often as I can.

See, as much as it can feel like it, 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.

So, make it a point to unplug and get out there whenever you can. 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.

Be brave--it doesn't hurt, I promise.

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, really? Chances are, 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.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you feel about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

 

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