I’m an introvert. But a socially confident introvert so a lot of people mistake that for extroversion. And right there is one of the keys to overcoming your introversion to do well in social situations:
Introversion is not the same as shyness.
Many people equate the two, many people who would benefit much more from admitting that it’s fear not personality that is the problem. The first step to solving any problem is gaining an honest understanding of it. It is much more comfortable to say you’re an introvert than take active steps to become more socially adept (a skill set that involves both comfort in socialising as well as the specific social skills themselves) and push through the discomfort.
If you’re not convinced that it’s fear as opposed to some immutable characteristic of your personality that makes social situations so draining, think about it this way. Imagine walking along a 30 metre wooden plank a foot off the ground. Easy right? It’s just walking. Now imagine the same 30 metres, but across a canyon with a 200 metre drop. How would you feel after making it to the end? Sweating? Breathing hard? Mentally drained? It’s not the action that’s changed, it’s your perception of it. Now in that scenario there is a very real difference between the two despite the required level of skill being identical. Consequence. In social situations, one of the key factors holding you back is an overestimate of the consequences of ‘failure’. I’m going to go ahead and say that an irrational perspective of the consequences of a situation leading to an emotional response and anxiety towards a situation is pretty close to the definition of fear.
I guarantee that you’ve had times when you’ve been absolutely on form in a social situation. You’ve been funny, entertaining, maybe a little outrageous and able to bring anyone into the group easily without thinking about it. Sure, it may have been a perfect storm of ideal conditions that allowed you to get there: good friends, a great mood, the right weather and it was probably at least an hour after the start of the social gathering. That last point is key. We warm up before exercise, why not before socialising?
The warm up (a period of low pressure socialising) serves two purposes:
- It switches the mind over into a social frame
- We experience many ‘mini failures’ that remind the fearful part of our mind that the consequences of those failures are pretty minimal.
As an exercise, think back to times when you’ve really enjoyed yourself in a social situation. Work out what the common factors were. For me, any time I’ve started off one-on-one and really laughed, I’ve been absolutely fine in groups later that day. I’m terrible if I go straight into a group from a standing start. I second guess myself, I make fewer jokes, I’m quieter all round. If I’ve built up some momentum beforehand that carries through into the group setting and I can continue building that momentum into a great time all round. The key from there is just to not let myself get caught up in my own thoughts. There’s a natural flow of energy over the course of a social event, so you don’t need to be bouncing off the wall the whole time but make a conscious effort to be present. If you need to recover briefly, stay gently focused on what’s going on.
DO NOT START THINKING!
I’m prone to over-analysis which is great for my work but terrible for my socialising. Generally speaking, people connect with real people not robots. It’s funny to make mistakes and show your human side. For example, one time while introducing myself to a cute blonde chick in the bar I asked her what her job was and immediately changed my mind since that’s often a route to a boring conversation, I cut myself off saying “Actually, fuck that, that’s such a dull question. What’s your spirit animal?” I hope you realise how borderline retarded I came across in that moment but since I was laughing at myself for it she went with it and I ended up dating that girl for the next 6 months. Mistakes are fun, make them. This will help both overcome the fear and develop the skill set itself.
So to summarise, getting social as an introvert comes down to two things: 1) actually social skills and 2) social fear. It’s not usually your social skills that are the problem, and if you think they are then the only solution is practice. Social fear can be overcome in a number of ways, all of which come down to letting your unconscious mind know that the consequences of ‘failure’ are not as big as you think and often improve the interaction since people actually connect better with imperfect people. Stop pretending to be so fucking cool all the time. You’re not and I’m not. Embrace it and have some fun.
I’ll write some more about overcoming social fear in the future. It can be broken down into overcoming in the short term (warming up/getting loose) and in the long term (practice, progressive overload, developing self-esteem). In the mean time, relax and make some small talk. We’re social animals. You, the product of thousands of generations of humans, are genetically designed to operate in a social environment. Trust yourself.
This is my first post of my 7 Day Creator Challenge. My day zero post is here.