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The introvert’s cheat-sheet to social interactions

Posted in Life & Love

dinner partyA 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.

alone cardMostly, 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?

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15 Comments

  1. As a fellow introvert, social settings are often painful for me. If there’s a pet on the premises, then I can feel more at ease and fit in. You can generally guarantee yourself with a smile or two listening to others chatter about themselves or at the very least, find a fascinating tidbit about them. 🙂

    June 9, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Ditto. If there is an animal, other than a pet snake, I will gravitate towards it.

      June 10, 2016
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  2. After doing my first MBTI, one of the explanations given to me by the psychologist on the difference between introverts (which I was) and extroverts, was that introverts use/lose energy in social interactions and need “alone time” to recharge, whereas extroverts are charged up by socialising/other people and alone time depletes their “battery”. I’ve definitely found that this has helped me incredibly in defining the boundaries I need when socialising. As a safari guide, all my guests assume I’m extroverted, but I’m always very very drained by the end of a trip. A few days at home alone, not talking sorts that out 🙂
    I so totally agree with you that age/maturity has reduced my “need to be liked” and although I prefer small intimate gatherings generally, if I’m faced with a larger party, I’m no longer shy about just saying goodbye and leaving when I’ve run out of energy – no matter how early that might be!

    PS – if you haven’t read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain – I can highly recommend it.

    June 8, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      So very true. Spending long chunks of time with people is draining to me and requires I go back to my cave for some air and a book. I haven’t read the Susan Cain’s book. Thanks for the tip. Will check it out.

      June 10, 2016
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  3. That’s my trick too (make them talk about themselves as much as possible). I can usually find something of common interest, but I’m generally fascinated by people, so it’s not too hard for me, mostly.
    I used to be quite introverted, but a recent-ish personality quiz told me I’m extroverted now. I think what’s helped for me is working somewhere with a lot of people, a lot of whom come and go. Because of that, I’ve met all sorts of people, and had all sorts of conversations and friendships – and all with the safety buffer of “work” as the commonality

    June 7, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I am also fascinated by people but, for a long time, I wasn’t comfortable chatting up strangers. These days, you will find me on the corner, at the checkout counter and even at the pharmacy carrying on conversations with the world and its wife. And I agree – the things one learns!

      June 8, 2016
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  4. silvia
    silvia

    I mean complementary

    June 7, 2016
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  5. silvia
    silvia

    I think you’re an introvert by birth but more and more at ease in your skin you’re becoming an extrovert. Whereas I’m increasingly the other way around. One day when we’re old we’ll be completely complimentary

    June 7, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Someone said to me a couple of weeks ago “you know, us extroverts” – I had to look over my shoulder to make sure it was only me in the room. When I told her I wasn’t an extrovert, she seemed taken aback. You are just becoming more of a loner.

      June 8, 2016
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  6. Since I became a writer, I enjoy social occasions more because the writer-mind can take notes while listening. Bizarrely, other people are more interested in me now that I’m a writer, and often want to ask me questions. (And as long as there’s tea to drink, I can make a whole ritual out of that too.) I think you’re right about the shift in focus – the realisation that we are not the centre of the universe means that we no longer have to fret about matching up to the expectations of others, and can just enjoy the moment and be ourselves.

    June 7, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      We still think of writers as being more interesting than the average person. And why not? Writers weave stories out of thin air (and stolen conversations). I have a friend who, often, will stop in mid-sentence and say “You can’t use what I just said.” She is a writer.

      June 8, 2016
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  7. Fellow introvert, here. Asking questions is a great tip – people love to talk about themselves! And sometimes, they have really interesting stories to share or I learn something along the way.

    June 7, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think there is a story in everyone. Sometimes it’s just our frame of mind that will stop us from finding it.

      June 8, 2016
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  8. Winston Moreton
    Winston Moreton

    Word perfect.

    June 6, 2016
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      🙂

      June 8, 2016
      |Reply

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