Introvert Energy Drain Rule Number Three – Be Social: The Introvert’s Way
Introverts who haven’t yet learnt to focus on their social strengths cannot help but feel socially inferior and awkward in social situations. The way that is natural for them to interact with others often doesn’t work effectively, especially in group situations. However, once introverts learn to be themselves while abiding to the most rudimentary social graces, they acquire a quiet confidence that carries them successfully through social situations.
Introverts aren’t really able to match extroverts in terms of their relaxed and fluid conversational style concerning everyday things. When an introvert tries to be like an extrovert, perhaps by learning tips and tricks to use in conversation, they find they can never really pull it off. Any attempt to mimic the extroverted style of interaction feels not only pointless but also false to them because they are not being true to themselves. A good example of this is the introvert’s resistance to small talk. It is very easy to partake in small talk because it is predictable. But despite this, the introvert feels resistant and awkward throughout and doesn’t care for it whatsoever, neither with strangers nor friends. This is because small talk is intensely boring to introverts, who are more interested in deep conversation or in specific subjects rather than trivialities. Any introvert can learn how to do small talk. However, the fact remains that their heart will never really be in it, and this always shows. Most introverts just don’t bother with small talk. This is one of the main reasons that they can feel so awkward in conversation because small talk is expected of them, but they can’t/won’t communicate in this way. Additionally, when you’ve only just met someone, it can be considered inappropriate to jump straight into intense conversations about meaningful subjects, or the extrovert to whom you are talking will be resistant to talking about anything beyond the surface level.
Another stumbling block for introverts is any social situation where surface or superficial talk is the main mode of communication. A good example of this is a networking event where many people are meeting for the first time. In these situations, the conversation is repetitive. You may talk to a lot of new people but at the end of the evening still feel that nothing interesting happened and that the event was a boring affair. When you are left with this feeling after a networking event or even a party, the reason you feel that way as an introvert is because you have a hunger for deep connections with others. You’re not really interested to know the surface details about strangers such as what their job is or where they live. You’re not curious about these kinds of superficial details as the majority of people are. Your interest is generally only piqued by abstract discussion where ideas are exchanged or when having an original conversation with someone, which allows you to gain real insight into their character. In contrast, self-confident extroverts delight in surface, fast-paced socialising, as it presses all their buttons and allows them to go home at the end of the night buzzing with energy.
Some extroverts feel awkward when stuck talking to introverts because the two personality types have very different conversational preferences. In the first instance, an introvert is likely to be more comfortable with pauses in conversation or silence, which can be excruciating to extroverts who feel awkward when the flow of chatter or banter is broken. When there are pauses in conversation, extroverts may misinterpret this as a sign that the introvert is not making any effort in the conversation, when in truth they just need a little extra time to pause and reflect before saying something. Another key difference is that extroverts will always feel that in terms of conversation, the more the merrier. Extroverts are in their element in group social situations, and given a choice, prefer to be interacting with a group of people rather than just an individual. Therefore, an extrovert may sometimes feel that they are missing out on all the action, if they find themselves “trapped” talking to an introvert for too long.
So what are the social strengths of introverts? In the first place, introverts feel most comfortable talking to just one person at a time. Bearing this in mind, an effective approach for introverts in group situations is to interact with people as if on a one-to-one level, if possible. This means that you don’t force yourself to talk to the whole group and to initiate topics of discussion, which doesn’t come naturally to you anyway. But instead, you work your way around the room involving people in different one-to-one conversations. In doing so, you can save yourself from feeling like a social misfit who has nothing to say. To make this strategy effectively work for you, you will need to be fluid and move around the space. It won’t work if you sit in the same chair or stand in the same corner of the room all evening because that will attach you only to one or two people. You also have to be mindful of spending too much time talking to a single person. This is because extroverts will feel that they are missing out on what’s going on in the wider group if you engage their attention for too long.
Introverts in group social situations are also advised to seek out other introverts (look for the people who seem a little apart from the group and who don’t initiate topics for conversation to the main group). Seeking out fellow introverts is a good idea because your conversational style is more likely to be compatible. However, if you encounter someone who is even more introverted than you are or who is a shy introvert, this too can also be awkward, as you may not know what to say to each other.
The ability to listen attentively is the greatest social strength of introverts. People like it when other people are interested in them. Introverts who have learnt how to play to their social strength ask attentive questions when communicating with others. They do this to show their interest in the person to whom they are speaking. However, it is important to note that it does not serve introverts well to pretend that they are interested in a conversation when, in truth, they couldn’t care less. The best thing to do if you are not interested in the conversation is to try to steer it in a different direction. And that means you must make an effort to be self-assertive. Yet, if you find that it is impossible to bring the conversation around to something interesting, the best thing for you to do is to excuse yourself from the conversation before you become drained.
Listening is what introverts are good at, but they must be careful of relying on this social skill alone. The introverts who suffer the most are the ones who listen too much. They become entirely focused on what other people have to say without themselves sharing anything. These kinds of introverts attract people who want to offload all their emotional “stuff” on them. They constantly find themselves in unequal, draining conversations with all kinds of people who won’t shut up. Yet it would be wrong to pity the introvert who experiences this kind of situation regularly. What is really happening is that the introvert is being closed off and is not adhering to the principle of sharing in conversation. The introvert is merely receiving whatever everyone else has to say but without allowing themselves to be vulnerable and to share even a tiny piece of themselves back in return. You will find that if you learn how to share as much as you receive, you will never be drained in conversation with anyone. When you share equally, even the loudest, most obnoxious extrovert can never drain you.
In terms of their social abilities, it is important for introverts to practise self-acceptance. They must come to terms with the fact that they may never master the conversational style of extroverts that is favoured by the world. Instead, they must focus their effort and attention on becoming more self-contained so that they can confidently handle social silence without feeling anxious when they can’t think of something to say. This quiet confidence is of utmost importance because it allows the introvert to float around the room in social situations, not clinging to any particular people, whether they be strangers or old acquaintances. When you have mastered quiet confidence, you are able to wait patiently or stand by yourself until a new opportunity to talk to a new individual or involve yourself in a new group discussion arises. And if no opportunity to talk to a new person comes up, you realise that you are better off by yourself, in your own company, rather than being drained by someone who is of no interest to you.