How to go From Introvert to Extrovert
I've noticed a lot of recent commentary on the nature of introversion, shyness and anti-social behavior from a wide range of sources (introverts and extroverts alike). My personal favorite being this piece from Cracked.com. Yet, as a person who is a hands-down introvert (I get headaches if I'm at a party too long) I want to offer up a different view. My main point, introversion is a natural tendency not an unchanging condition. Therefore, it is subject to temporary if not permanent alteration. And I don't care what your damn Myers-Briggs results say.
To drive my point, I will demonstrate how many introverts have managed to achieve social "normalcy" and how I have managed to tap into my own hidden well of extroversion.
Some Basic Assumptions
So let's start from the beginning. An MBTI general description of an introvert includes the following: "a person who gets their energy from dealing with ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside their head, in their inner world. They prefer doing things alone or with one or with one or two people they feel comfortable with. They take time to reflect so that they have a clear idea of what to do when they decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things to them. And sometimes they like the idea of something rather than the real thing."
A real complicated way of saying -- "that quiet/creepy kid in the corner of your class."
But seriously, people characterize introverts in some pretty shitty ways. I can't tell you how times people have singled me out as being either snobbish, bored, depressed, or angry; but I can assure you they've been dead-wrong about 95% of the time. The honest truth is (and I'm sure this applies to many intros out there), I willingly choose to avoid the less important parts of conversation. It's not snobbery, honest. I'm just really, really bad at small talk. And it doesn't make sense to me. I distinctly remember being a kid and thinking -- either adults spend half the day talking about useless crap or I'm missing something.
Turns out, I was missing something.....well a few things.
1.) There does exist a social contract, like it or not. Society couldn't survive otherwise.
2.) Small talk and schmoozing can go a long way. It's amazing the difference that a few confident words can make.
3.) Frivolous conversation is one of the most fun things anyone could possibly engage in. Imagine each conversation as a little opportunity you may never have had if you remained silent.
My Own Experience and Revelation
My own special brand of introversion comes from many sources. I have a genuine fear of saying the wrong thing; making my speech unusually proper, diplomatic and boring (zzzzzzzz....). Along with an introvert's well-known introspective nature, I've always been more self-concious than the average blabber-mouth. And lastly, I wrongly assumed that since I was such a crap conversationalist I should avoid all but the most familiar social settings.
Of course, every now and then life throws you into the deep end of a shark pit. This is the best way to describe landing my second job after college. It's a customer service position for a mid-sized manufacturer. It involves fielding customer complaints, sending out samples, getting feedback on those samples, friendly follow-up calls and the occasional site visits. All-in-all it amounts to 19 hours of phone time and 8 hours worth of meetings per week. Sounds easy...well try being me...you smug jerk.
Yet, the constant interaction with random strangers had spillover effects in my non-work life. Suddenly, I was able to strike up conversation with the local cashier, bag lady or bus driver. I came to realize that my introversion, whether learned over time or natural, can be properly trained and managed like a stutter. It takes some practice but the rewards are great. Here are some techniques I have found helpful to manage introversion.
1.) Give yourself a regular healthy dose of new social interaction -- No s#@& Sherlock. But seriously meet new people, talk about new things with old acquaintances. Hell, just taking a new route to work can get me talkin.
2.) Avoid mirrors -- Ok maybe that sounds too weird. What I mean is avoid the things that will make you too self-concious. Checking yourself out in every single reflective surface, over-dressing to go the supermarket, accepting your imperfections. Try an experiment. Avoid looking at your reflection for an entire three or four days. You might notice a change in your personality.
3.) Do a freestyle rap -- I'm not saying that you become the next Jay-Z; just that you find a way to express yourself in a judgement-free setting. A good chunk of my introversion comes from the fear of saying the wrong or stupid thing. Having a way to consistently overcome that is a HUGE help. I personally use freestyle rap. Improv and stand-up could probably work as well.
I hope this helps someone. I'll keep updating this with any new ideas I come across. Or if you have any suggestions............