5 Important Social Skills Tips for Introverts How to Succeed in an Extroverted World

how to develop social skills as an introvert
how to develop social skills as an introvert | Source

Not all introverts are the same and there are a lot of misconceptions about introversion that need to be cleared up. Understanding the type of introvert you are is the first key to developing better social skills. As a lifelong shy introvert, I can tell you nothing bugs me more at my core than people who say “You just need to be more outgoing” or “Just let go and enjoy yourself”.

There is the unrealistic expectation and pressure put on us to “just change”, but frankly, why should we have to? Adapt perhaps to make life easier yes, but fundamentally change just to please others? No. Like any other trait; you can learn to embrace the good parts of introversion and work through the parts that make social situations uncomfortable.

40+ years of shyness and introversion, along with a few psychology classes and books, have given me some insight into how to develop social skills that ease anxiety and make life easier. The key is understanding your particular type of introversion, how it ties into other aspects of your personality, and how to work with it.

Signs You Might be an Introvert
You find small talk boring and tiresome
The idea of “shmoozing” or “networking” makes you feel like you're being a big phony
You need more time to yourself than others
You need one on one interaction or prefer small groups
People think you tend to be “too serious”
It's easier for you to give a speech to 100 people than it is to interact with them in a social situation. Ironically, many introverts make very good public speakers!
You're a writer! Many introverts express themselves very well through the written word and are drawn to that over other forms of communication.

Not All Introverts are the Same!

In fact, our personalities vary as widely as extroverts. There are certain characteristics introverts are more likely to have, and you may have one or all of them in varying degrees.

Believe it or not, there are introverted people who are not shy. They may be perceived as extroverted even, but in private, they keep their feelings to themselves and are slow to warm up to others or to really let new people into their inner world.

There are introverts who are shy and don't talk much, but that doesn't mean they are not passionate, intelligent people. Often, it is your quiet, observant person who is exceptionally and keenly intelligent and aware.

They may not feel the need to jump into loud debates or to trumpet their wisdom in boisterous fashion, but that doesn't mean they aren't critical thinkers with a deep understanding of the world around them.

Other introverts may be more prone to anxiety. New places and people are stressful to this type of introverted personality. This person is more relaxed in familiar places or situations, with people who they know well. They may have “stranger anxiety”, but can talk for hours to those they know and trust. Going to new places or meeting new people however may trigger stress responses or even panic.

There is a common myth perpetuated that introverts tend to be anti-social. You've likely heard stuff like “It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for” or news reports about serial killers where everyone laments that he was a “loner”. This unfortunately creates a perception of introverts as being potentially dangerous, which doesn't help the situation.

Many introverts struggle socially, stigmatizing us doesn't help. I and many other introverts I know, are quite compassionate. Not wearing one's heart on one's sleeve, does not mean you hate humanity or are an uncaring person.

Introverts are often seen as “aloof” or “distant” and that isn't necessarily the case. I am someone who just doesn't think to respond to everything. For example, one of my family members became very incensed that I had not sent a thank you card for a gift. I said thank you to her upon receiving the gift, and felt that was enough, but she felt very slighted by that.

She is extremely outgoing and always wanting interaction with others etc. I am not really that way. I appreciate when people say thank you – but don't sit by the mailbox waiting for a card. We're both decent people, with different expectations and that's where introverts and extroverts can end up with hurt feelings or misunderstandings. The inner worlds and expectations of introverts and extroverts are very different. Understanding is the key to avoiding mishaps that can get blown out of proportion.

Many introverts tend to crave “down time” and they need a lot of time to themselves. In relationships, sometimes people mistake this as being “selfish” or "distant", but in reality, it doesn't mean either of those things to the introvert. Introverts thrive with plenty of time to recharge their batteries and are better to those they love when given some space.

So, what's an introverted person to do to avoid panic attacks and making others angry? Fortunately, there are ways to learn to adapt. With practice even hardcore introverts can feel more comfortable socially. You do not ever have to change who you are fundamentally, but every person, no matter who they are, can benefit from trying new things and pushing for personal bests.

Here are some tips to help you manage more effectively:

“Just Pretend Your Extroverted” - No.

This common advice is NOT the answer and does not work. How and why should introverts be expected to be someone they are not? Instead, the idea should be to expose yourself to social situations gradually or you'll just end up more frustrated.

If you are introverted, you are not going to be an extrovert no matter how much you try. You may be good at faking it, but you'll never feel comfortable in your own skin if you feel you have to be something you aren't. What's the use in that, right?

I am an extremely shy person who doesn't do well in crowds. I am better one on one or with a small group of people I know well. If I am going to a new place that is likely to have a crowd, like a restaurant that is unfamiliar etc. I don't go alone, nor do I go with a large group.

Instead, I always go with one or two other people who I can relax around, who understand my trepidation of strange places. This is a compromise that still pushes me a bit outside of my comfort zone, but not so much so that I freak out or can't have a good time.

Eye Contact

This can be a steep learning curve for those of us who are shy, but it is vital to all your relationships with humans that you train yourself to be able to make and maintain eye contact. Eye contact says to others “I am trustworthy and I know what I am talking about”.

If you mumble and look at the floor, this does nothing to make people trust you. This can be crippling if you want to advance in a career where people skills are necessary.

Start slow. I started learning the habit of eye contact by looking between people's eyebrows. It's true! It gives the illusion of direct eye contact and gives a little bit of a comfort barrier.

Start slowly and work your way up. I worked in service for years and over time, I was able to overcome this. I will never be wholly 100% comfortable making eye contact with strangers – and you know what? That's OK! I can do it well enough to make people more comfortable around me, which in turn helps me be more comfortable around them.

If you cannot maintain eye contact without feeling like you are staring or without feeling like you're about to wet your pants: you can also develop a habit of looking down for just a bit and then back up. This gives the message that you are considering what you are saying – are thoughtful, and not avoiding.

Address Your Posture

Slouching and shrinking make you stand out more, and can even get you targeted in some situations.

For example, I had one college professor who could instantly tell I was shy and uncomfortable in his class. As an extrovert and a bully he thought it was fun to single out and mock people during his classes. Guess who he targeted at every given opportunity?

I was tired of being tense and humiliated and I was too far into the semester to get out of it. This was when I really learned about the importance of body posture and how it draws silent boundaries. I was so sick of this man's nonsense, that I started looking for ways to get him off my back without having to have a direct confrontation.

One day, he started in on me. Despite my inner terror; I sat up straight, made eye contact and said quietly, but firmly “I don't know, why don't you badger someone else for once?”. That act of straightening up, making eye contact and refusing to shrink back made me just assertive enough that he stopped picking on me as much after that. We do not have to be steamrolled by bullies. It happened to me all the time as a kid. By the time I went to college; I was over it.

I made it a point to focus on maintaining a good, upright posture from then on and I found it made me more relaxed – ironic huh? We tend to seek comfort in making ourselves small, but taking up more physical space is actually more conducive to being left alone. This is true even if you are a small person. I might be 5'2 with my shoes on.

You can learn to be assertive, without being aggressive. As an introvert, it will make life much easier. Body language and how you carry yourself is probably the most important aspect of this. If your posture exudes confidence, you are less likely to be a target.

This best selling and highly acclaimed book discusses the importance of embracing your strengths and getting ahead as an introvert in a world that tends to push only type A extroverts as leaders. There is an interview with the author in the YouTube video below. Highly recommended viewing and reading if you are a struggling introvert.

Assertiveness Training

Assertive does NOT mean aggressive. Assertiveness can help you form strong boundaries with others, while still maintaining strong, healthy relationships. Shy people often find that others will be more inclined to try to take advantage of them. Why? Because shy people often struggle with being able to say no and they also tend to give off an aura of self-consciousness that people will pick up on. If you are a doormat, people will walk on you.

For years, I was the one that people would ask for favors that they knew no one else would agree to. I was easy to pressure with guilt etc. I was so self-conscious due to my shyness and introverted nature, that I felt like I had to do more to “prove” myself. Eventually, I got tired of being that way, and I taught myself a lot about how to be assertive.

Is it hard? Yes! But worth it. When you can learn to form healthy boundaries, people start respecting you more and life is much easier. I still have strong relationships with my close circle of family and friends, but they know and understand I have limits. I was also able to let go of one-sided friendships that were not beneficial to me without feeling like I had somehow failed.

Make it About Them Not You

As an introvert, trying to be social can be akin to stage fright. It feels like you are always “on”. If you struggle a lot with anxiety over how you are received, or constantly feeling pressured to perform, turn this around by focusing your energy on “them” and not you.

Direct conversation towards the other person. Get good at asking questions and being a great listener. This is usually what introverts are hard wired for anyway – we love a good story and to observe others. When you make it about the other person, the pressure to “perform” wanes and you start to naturally relax more.

When you focus on others, it helps you relax, and it makes other people warm to you because you are taking an interest in them. They will want to open up more and take that spotlight – and you will be more at ease feeling that spotlight removed from you.

If you are an introvert, what do you do to make life and social situations easier?

Do You Consider Yourself an Introvert?

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© 2014 Christin Sander

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Comments 47 comments

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 17 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for the read and share :) much appreciated.

MonkeyShine75 profile image

MonkeyShine75 17 months ago from Los Angeles, California

I'm sharing this on Facebook, for my introverted friends

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 23 months ago from Midwest Author

Thanks peach so glad you enjoyed the hub :)

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 23 months ago from Home Sweet Home

great hub, practice makes a perfect social person for people like me

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Revanth - it's a challenging path we find ourselves on at times isn't it?

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Revanth E R 2 years ago

I am an introvert but the strange thing is that I'm on with new people and places, it is after getting to know the people that I become self conscious and this has been a big problem since these people tend to think I'm trying to avoid them. I'm trying to be more "talkative" but there's a long way to go. Nice article, voted up!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks so much Suzanne. I completely agree on being firm about the need for space. Fortunately, my significant other is a fellow introvert and understands this need because he has it too. My former husband was the polar opposite - and well, that's one of many reasons we didn't stay together ;). Thanks for the comments and votes - much appreciated!

Suzanne Day profile image

Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Great hub with lots of useful advice. I am proud to say I'm an introvert! Sometimes you just need to be really really firm on how far you are prepared to go to get the space and downtime you need. If people in relationships cannot respond to direct communication, making the relationship into a "distance" one helps a bit. To me, it is more important that I feel happy instead of having a relationship that makes me feel suffocated. Voted useful and up and +'d!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Colleen :) I appreciate the comment and I am so happy you enjoyed the hub.

Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen Swan 2 years ago from County Durham

A great hub, and a subject that grabs your interest. I felt shy about making a comment, but all is OK now

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

I can relate Flourish! I worked in public service (hotel mgmt) for years and I could do it well, but oh it was SO exhausting every day. I def. prefer small scale interactions and the more infrequent the better lol :) thanks for reading and commenting!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Oh, yes, I'm an introvert, but when I have an agenda of my own I can totally brush that aside and work the crowd. Naturally, however, people exhaust me, and I'd rather deal with them one on one and in small groups and small doses. The open office layout is horrible for introverts like me where you hear everything and anyone can interrupt you at any time. I shudder just thinking about it.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Donna, yes there are a wide variety of us out there :) Glad you found the hub interesting.

DonnaCaprio profile image

DonnaCaprio 2 years ago from Newburyport, MA

Great hub! I never thought about there being different kinds of introverts. I used to think I had some attributes of both being extroverted and introverted. I like connecting with people, but also like spending time myself. Interesting topic.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

I hear you. I am very introverted also. Unfortunately, I do have to interact with people at times for work etc. :) If I didn't have to do it, I honestly would probably stay home more too - or just stick to hiking and camping and the great outdoors with the family!

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West By God

I have become more introverted in the last few years. I hate going to stores with lots of people in them. I would rather stay home, which drives my husband nuts. I am a people watcher and yes I think that I made this all about me instead of others. LOL

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Ken for reading and commenting :)

KenDeanAgudo profile image

KenDeanAgudo 2 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

Great hub, oftentimes I find myself get bored and wanted to have nice time with myself but most of the time i wanted to mingle with my co-officers. That's why i consider myself ambivert.

Thank you very much for sharing :)

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Crystal for reading and commenting :) appreciated.

Crystal Tatum profile image

Crystal Tatum 2 years ago from Georgia

Thank you for this insightful hub. I am definitely an introvert and familiar with the prejudices associated with that.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Hi younghopes - I never really considered that with social media, interesting thought . Thanks :)

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Hi JoanCA Thanks for the comment. I can understand that. Because I worked in service for a lot of years, talking to people I didn't know was tolerable one on one - draining, but tolerable. I've never been one to like a large party though.

younghopes profile image

younghopes 2 years ago from India

Great hub with some really useful points you have covered. Even i have been an introvert and perhaps that is the biggest reason i am unable to make my presence felt in the social media too, voted up and shared

JoanCA profile image

JoanCA 2 years ago

For me, I don't like socializing mainly because I get bored. I'm not uncomfortable or anxious or anything like that but small talk bores me. It doesn't help that I'm not good about starting interesting conversations either. I can interact easily with people I don't know day-to-day but having to go to social gatherings is annoying.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks so much for the great comment Susi, so happy you enjoyed it and I appreciate the share and vote :) Have a great day.

susi10 profile image

susi10 2 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

Fantastic hub Christin! I am an introvert and sometimes not the most talkative but your tips are very well explained and they will definitely give me more confidence when talking! I hate the misconceptions that people have about introverts that they are too quiet and so on but in fact, introverts are very important members of society. Famous members include life-changers such as Bill Gates, JK Rowling and Emma Watson. Extroverts might be good at talking but they are not geniuses either.

I enjoyed reading this, thanks for the great hub. Shared and voted up and more. :)

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks random, glad you enjoyed the hub :)

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 2 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love your point that introverts are not necessarily shy. So true! Thanks for the detailed, helpful tips.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Ruby - glad you enjoyed the hub :)

Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 2 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

"Learning to be assertive, without being aggressive." Huge learning curve on this one. Love the way you worded, "Crave downtime." Myths and misconceptions answered here! Congratulations!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thank you manatita :) I appreciate the compliment.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

I am so happy to hear! Christin I am sure you will agree that Hub pages helps, too. True confidence ultimately not only brings out, but reflects the inner beauty. I suspect that you have much of this.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Trust me manatita44 I am very much an introvert :) - although I've come out of my shell more as I've gotten older and more self-confident.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 2 years ago from london

Interesting Christin.

I do not think of you as an introvert, but again, you know best. Good points about assertiveness and the different types of introverts. Also, it is a very positive quality to find small talk boring and tiresome. Shalom!

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Faith. I can relate. I am still shy, but not nearly as painfully shy as I once was. I do think in many ways we kind of outgrow some of it. I am a more confident person now than I was when I was younger, and I think that also has a lot to do with it. I can totally relate to how you felt in high school - I used to rush class to class head down and avoiding people lol. Thanks for the vote and share :) appreciated.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Great article! When I was very young I was an introvert. I high school I was so shy that I would lean up against the wall with a book up to my face between classes and hope that no one would come up to me LOL I was pretty bad. However, I got totally over it at about the age of 30 and people who know me now, cannot believe that I was ever shy!!! LOL

However, in certain situations, I can still feel a little bit of that feeling coming on when I am in a social place where I do not know many people.

Up and more and sharing


Faith Reaper

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks Ann for reading and commenting - your feedback is appreciated :).

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

My mother always told me to establish eye contact when I met someone, as she said it was polite. She was quite right of course and it did get me into the habit of doing so and then feeling comfortable with it.

I'm nowhere near as shy as I used to be but I'm still averse to going out in a large group (especially female!). I am a good listener, though, and as you suggest it helps to ask someone questions then sit back and listen - everyone likes a listener!

Great hub, full of sound advice (especially the posture idea); it's so important to be comfortable with who you are rather than worrying what people think. Many of them might just feel the same as you too.

Well done. Ann

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Hi Crafty, for years I was afraid of public speaking due to my shyness, but I actually made myself take a public speaking course and I was pretty decent at it :). That ultimately was not as scary to me as trying to engage in conversations with strangers etc. Eye contact took me awhile. Thanks for reading and commenting..

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

This is a very interesting article! I never thought about it, but this totally describes the way I am in some situations. I don't like making eye contact in the grocery store among strangers. People have stopped in the middle of aisles and are offended at times that I didn't stop and say hi. I honestly didn't see them because I feel like I'm zoned out when I'm shopping.

I am great at public speaking or handling large crowds, but am shy in a small group setting. That's so interesting.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I keep to myself on most occasions and this makes me the introvert.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

I could see myself using a similar strategy Eric - I am really one to avoid chit chat among people I don't know :) I hope it helps your nephew, it can indeed become kind of crippling at some points in life. I know my teens and early 20's were the hardest. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Just a great article. I have fun introverted moments. Many times at parties I will walk around like I have someone to go see and really I am just walking around because I do not want to talk with people.

But I have a live in nephew of 25 and this is becoming quite a handicap for him. I will print this out and go through it with him. Perhaps we can grow together:-) Thanks

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

I'm the same way grand so I definitely understand what you're saying. I never have done well with large parties etc. I can sometimes tolerate it if I am with a couple of people I know well - but a social butterfly I am not nor will I ever be! Nice that your hubbie is understanding and supportive! :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

I am an introvert, and I accept it. I avoid big parties unless I know most of the people there and am comfortable with them. If I don't know the people and have to endure the party, I simply do so -- endure. What's a couple of hours, anyway? But my hubbie knows I hate those kinds of parties and he doesn't force me to go with him. I prefer small groups of close friends to large groups of strangers.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for the great comment SandCastles. It can be difficult being and introvert and there is definitely a fine line when it comes to conversations - most of us don't want all the attention focused on us, but to be completely left out or talked "at" is not healthy either. Thanks for the read and comments. Sorry about the situations with the repairman. It sounds like you handled it well!

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SandCastles 2 years ago

This hub hits home. People do try to fill in the blanks when they deal with an introverted person and often not in a positive way. Also, people assume that the introverted person is weak and they try to take advantage. I do think that sometimes my introverted ways make me too passive. I am working on my assertive skills and questioning skills. I was recently taken in by a repairman because I didn't ask enough questions but I did stop payment on the cheque when I realized that he had not repaired my fridge like he said he did. One of my problems is I focus too much on others instead of adding to the conversation and I end up being a sounding board. I am getting stronger. I have a strength journal and I record all my wins in it to remind myself that I am improving (ie: I spoke up, I got a second opinion, I said no). It is empowering to read. Thank you for your hub. :)

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