A few weeks ago I attended a gathering at an acquaintance’s house. Some of the guests were familiar to me, and I felt very comfortable with them, but others were completely new.
At one point I noticed how, perched on a stool, leaning against the counter, I was entertaining the audience with some of my stories, how easily I conversed with the guests I didn’t know, displaying a social ease that, to me, has never come easy.
I am both shy and an introvert. For most of my life I forced myself into parties, dinners, cocktails where I knew I wouldn’t know the majority of those in attendance, and it was sheer torture. The art of mindless conversation always escaped me and I invariably felt that new acquaintances couldn’t wait to leave my side or, conversely, if I found somebody I clicked with, I would latch on like a flea.
With the passing of time, the terror subsided but I can’t say I ever enjoyed large gatherings: they sapped too much of my energy. I still don’t, by and large, but something has changed in the way I both inhabit them socially and, at times, even look forward to them. What, I wondered.
In my youth, I always fretted about leaving a good impression and being liked, while now I really couldn’t care less, freeing me of the burden of doing and saying what I think others expect of me.
I have always been a good listener but, now, I am a more active listener: once I realized most people love to talk about themselves, I ask questions, the answers to which lead to more questions. Most of us can prattle on about our lives, jobs, children, trips ad infinitum. It helps to create a bond.
Mostly, I have taken myself out of the narrative. Every introvert perceives the world, and everything in it, through her personal lens: be it something we read, or see, or experience, our first instinct is to work out how it relates to us. Hence, any new person is experienced through how he or she can fit into our world, whether or not he will like us, what she will think of us.
Once I stopped thinking every single interaction revolves around me, once it became clear that strangers don’t give, mostly, my words or actions a second thought, I became free to be the me I wish to be.
It’s been liberating and, while I will never be the life of every party, nor have I become an extrovert overnight, I can look forward to a lot more fun.
If you are an introvert, do you have any tricks for uncomfortable social situations?