I am a self professed extroverted introvert. People may not assume that when they first meet me, but 7 times out of 10 I would rather be at home reading than surrounded by people. When I am around people I feel obligated to play host, to entertain and to generally include everyone in conversation (I am pretty good at it if I do say so myself). It just becomes stressful if I do too much of it. So, for people that feel the same or want to know how I prep to go out and be social here are my tips.
- Know you limits. Know what your body and mind are telling you. If you have been out in social environments 3 times already in one week (or month, whatever works for you) and you feel tired. LISTEN to your body. Take the night off. It is ok, your friends will still be there the next time you do want to go out. It will NOT be good if you push yourself past your limits, then you will be in a bad mood and no one will want to hang out with you.
- Fake your brain. If you have reached your limit of social interaction or are close, but you feel like you need to make an appearance fake your brain. This was a lesson my mom taught me back when I was playing volleyball as a kid, “Fake your brain into thinking you aren’t tired.” Basically, tell yourself you are going to do something and keep repeating it till you have convinced your brain that this is what is going to happen.
- This will also help you increase your tolerance for being social. I used to only go out once in a blue moon, now I am planning happy hours on a regular basis. The more you can convince yourself to go out the sooner it will become something you want to do or something that is less stressful/foreign for you to do.
- When you do go out make it count. Be happy or at least pleasant, just don’t be rude or mean. The whole point of being at a social gathering is exactly that, to be social. You are there to meet people and have a fun time. You can’t do that if you are mean to people (Surprise: No one likes mean people). So don’t go if you are going to be in a bad mood. If you are out and something triggers you to become angry or upset then leave. Do not stick around you will only make it worse.
- If you find these first three bullets challenging I have also found it helpful set goals for myself. Set a goal that you are going to be out for an hour (minimum or maximum) or that you are going to try to make two happy hours this month with your coworkers instead of only one or that you are going to at least to introduce yourself to that one person.
- Remember it is always good to have topics to talk about, but don’t force the conversation. Just guide it to keep it going, see where it takes you. The more you practice this, the better you will become at steering conversations in the direction you want them to go without it feeling forced and soon you will be able to work almost anything into conversation (this has been something I have been challenging myself with lately).
Also remember, if you aren’t used to it it may be unpleasant and uncomfortable at times, but the more you do it the easier it will get. You will also learn how to interact with people better the more you do it. So get out there and practice and soon it will be easier than an octopus changing colors. Chromatophores are totally awesome (See what I did there, you didn’t think I would be able to sneak chromatophores into this conversation did you?).
chro·mat·o·phore (krōˈmatəfôr/): noun. A cell or plastid that contains pigment.