1. We’re not extraverts attempting to appear deep.
I get it. Introversion is all the rage at the moment. And it’s easy to equate sociability with extraversion and antisocial tendencies with introversion. Sometimes they go hand in hand. Sometimes they don’t.
Introversion and extraversion is all about what takes energy to do and what gives you energy while doing. I’m a social person who naturally energizes when she’s alone – and, likewise, has to use energy to be around people. And, no, it’s not about just being tired after a fun night out. It’s a little more involved than that.
2. Extraverted friends are the absolute best.
Their social network is vast. They know how to start and maintain conversations. And it doesn’t seem to faze them if we’re stumbling over our words or fading out from the conversation.
We get to tag along to all the parties they were invited to and weasel in to whatever conversation they have going on. And – the best part? If we’re running low on energy, no one really notices, as the extraverted friends still keep everything going.
3. How sociable we’d like to be and how sociable we actually are two separate things.
Since it takes so much energy to converse and approach people, a lot of the basics in human interaction just don’t come naturally do us. This makes parties where we don’t know anyone hair-raising (How do I get in on a conversation? Should I just compliment someone’s dress? What if everything stalls out and there’s awkward silence?). There’s a discrepancy between what we’d like to be able to do and what we actually are capable of doing.
4. Social media is our friend.
You mean, I get to essentially choose who I interact with, on my terms, on my time? And I can interact with more people in one sitting than I could’ve during an entire real-life event? This is amazing! Why wasn’t this invented years ago?
5. Thank you for owning pets.
As I mentioned before, approaching people can be a frightening experience. Approaching animals? Now that’s a completely different story. I will talk to complete strangers if I can play with their dog in the meanwhile. Getting to know people becomes a thousand times easier if they’ve got a pet I can essentially use as a conduit.
6. Coffee/lunch dates are awesome…so long as I can sit adjacent to you.
I noticed I do something in every coffee date, lunch meeting, anything that involves talking with someone I don’t know incredibly well in a one-on-one setting: I always sit sideways in my chair. I used to assume it was because I have long legs and need to stretch out, but I realized that I was also avoiding – for all intents and purposes – direct confrontation. Sitting directly across from someone can feel very confrontational, and confrontation of any sort can zap the energy right out of us.
This is also why car rides are so wonderful: we can talk while sitting side by side, looking over at the other at various times. And if the conversation lags? Turn on the music and jam out. Win-win.
7. Don’t make fun of our speech patterns.
To repeat: while we love people, sociability doesn’t come naturally. It requires effort and energy. And sometimes we find balance by playing around with the overall cadence and melody of our voice. I know I get considerably sing-songier if I’m in a situation where I don’t feel naturally social. It might even serve as a type of defense mechanism – by using a variation of our “real” voice, we are giving ourselves a buffer zone. And so, if you end up not liking us, that’s okay: you never really were interacting with “me” anyway.
8. A lot of us are entertainers.
Think of some of your favorite actors, musicians, comedians, etc – think about how some of them are so out there and energetic on stage or in front of the camera, but clam up in real life. Those people are some of the most textbook social introverts you’ll ever meet.
Entertaining is the best of both worlds for a social introvert: we can engage and interact, we can essentially serve the public, but it’s on our own terms. We’re on a stage, we’re reciting lines from a script, or we’re singing notes we know by heart. It’s a controlled environment where we can have the biggest impact.
9. There are certain jobs/scenarios where our sociability will shine.
Going off the “a lot of us are entertainers”: there are certain instances where we will seem the opposite of introverted. Think Beyonce’s “Sasha Fierce” persona. It also falls along the same lines as having a slightly different speech pattern: sometimes we find circumstances where we feel safe and energized enough to go all out. It’s why sometimes social introverts can travel abroad and seem like an entirely different person.
10. Group outings where we’re all engaging in the same activity are the best.
The standard party where we all stand around and chat is great and all, but that can be incredibly draining (and incredibly daunting) – especially if our extraverted friends run off and we’re in a room with people we don’t really know (“Uh…nice dress?”). But if we go out to a concert, a paint bar, a movie – if we meet up as part of a reading or knitting group – then we get the best of both worlds. We’re surrounded by people where the focus isn’t directly on conversation and we can get to know new people on our own terms.
The best part? Since we’re all doing the same activity, we already have something in common.
11. If we can’t get a word in edgewise, we’re not going to fight it.
It already takes so much energy to talk. If we’re constantly getting interrupted, or the conversation is at such a pace that we can barely say one or two words, we won’t fight it. That’s usually our cue to sit back and just listen.
12. Seriously, sometimes we just want to listen.
I think one of the reasons why social introverts operate the way they do, even though it’s a walking contradiction, is because we’re fascinated by people and their stories. Observing other people being social can be just as gratifying as actually engaging with people sometimes. Ironically, it might also take just as much energy to sit back and watch – so be careful assuming that we’ve gone antisocial.
13. Don’t point out when we’ve “gone quiet.”
Oh boy. Wanna make it so we feel like exiting, stage left? Point out in front of a large group of people that we either have been or have gone silent. This might seem jovial, but public criticism registers at an 11 for introverts, even with something as lighthearted as, “Super talkative tonight, huh?”
We might not drop what we’re doing and leave, but we’ll probably be less likely to join in, even if we were feeling up to it.
14. It is our love of people that drive us onwards.
It requires a lot of energy to be social. A lot of energy, a lot of willpower – and some of us don’t even know how to properly engage in certain social situations. But we do it anyway: because we love people. It fills our hearts while it simultaneously drains us. And, yes, it can be an exhausting, harrowing, stressful experience sometimes – but we’d be horribly unfulfilled if we closed ourselves off or limited our circles to a very tiny few. I will gladly get my fill of people’s stories, personalities, engagements…and then fill myself back up with a nice long walk alone.