Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population and about 30% or less of the “general” population. So if you are an introvert, you probably feel like something is wrong with you unless you are ensconced in highly gifted arena such as the halls of MIT or in some field that is renowned for high IQ’s. Those feelings of being different can create havoc on your self esteem when you compare your inner sensing nature to that of the sparkly socialites who try to “convert” you to get you out of your shell.
Introverts are one of the least understood demographics in society. Introvert does not mean “shy” and it does not mean that someone who is introverted “hates” people either, well some do, but not all. We are perfectly normal and healthy – just different. Our problems come in adjusting to things such as “small talk” or being able to filter through a room full of people in a way that leaves us feeling less than exhausted. This is hard for extroverts to understand, because most of you feel energized in a crowded space, love the activity and enjoy chit chatting, and that’s okay too – for you.
Anyway, it took me quite some time to realize I could stop trying to achieve something that just isn’t in line with who I really am. I don’t want it to take you that long if you think you are in the same boat. So, here are some of the skills that have helped me and I hope they are something that you will find helpful as well.
Social Skills for Introverts
- Small talk is a bunch of words about nothing in particular. Equip yourself with “small talk” by keeping up to date with current events, sports (If you can stand them) and be prepared to share at least something personal about yourself. Personal does not have to be deep secrets, so don’t worry about having to bare your soul. It could be about that new recipe you can’t wait to try or something else that is somewhat relevant to whatever occasion you are attending.
- Never underestimate the power of questions. Avoid interrogating whoever you are speaking with, but have some off hand and totally random questions to ask to avoid uncomfortable silences, such as “What was your favorite cereal as a child” or “Tell me more about your (Fill in the blank)”. When you show an interest in other people and deeply listen to what they have to talk about they will think you are a world class conversationalist.
- Lighten up! You judge yourself more harshly than anyone else ever will and it’s time to stop that and just be who you are. If you don’t feel up to being a social butterfly, stop forcing yourself unless it’s absolutely necessary. Find smaller group activities to do that you will feel happier about.
- Combine something pleasurable with something painful. This means if you “have” to be at a social event that you really don’t want to attend, create a reward system for yourself such as retreating home to your cocoon with your favorite ice cream or some other treat so you can keep your spirits up and rejuvenate yourself from the efforts you put forth.
Most of all, embrace who you are fully and without apology. Fitting in can be super over-rated anyway, so stand apart and feel good about that. Forge your own path and stick to the two or three “inner circle” people that you cherish and feel good to be around. When you do have to “socialize”, relax and know that while you might feel alone, there really are millions like you that would prefer to be in a place where “small talk” is not required.