WHO IS AN INTROVERT
Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.
Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to "recharge."
When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.
Being introspective, though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk.
Right from my childhood I WAS very introverted, often spending my time on the computer, reading, playing video games, or pursuing other solo hobbies. I’d spend time outdoors biking, exploring the nearby fields, or flying kites, but I’d usually favor doing these things alone or with people I knew so well. I never felt too comfortable around strangers, and I never cared for big family events. I wasn’t ready to socialize or meet new people. I hardly visited my family members; I stayed mute during family discussions. Virtually, I was building a new world on my own, and I was floating alone in my new created world. Anyone who knew me would have described me as an introvert without a second thought.
Like many introverts, I was pressured by others to socialize more often. Most of the times, I tried to pretend to my peers that I was a social kind, but this didn’t work, partly because I enjoyed being an introvert. As an introvert I was independent in thinking. I did a lot of reading, and since I developed an allergy for violence, I often edited the violent parts of any book I read, thereby making all my book collections end with a “happy ever after”. Introverted activities were fun in their own way. I often viewed extroverts as lacking in intelligence and depth, and I can’t say I wanted to count myself among them.
However, over a long period of time, I eventually found myself becoming more and more extroverted. I embraced spending time with other people, went out of my way to meet new people, could comfortably introduce myself to strangers, and actually enjoyed it. To the people who know me today, this wouldn’t be surprising.
I’m not the kind of extrovert I envisioned as a child though. I feel I’ve done a good job balancing the introvert and extrovert parts of myself, such that I enjoy both types of activities equally. I feel just as comfortable staying at home reading a book as I do going to a new social event and introducing myself to people I’ve met. I enjoy both group and solo activities, each for different reasons. I stuck with my dads businsess after my secondary school. The environment and nature of the business deeply involved attending to customers, and convincing them of quality services etc. This activity greatly helped me to meet new people and develop a good communicating skill with people, even for the first time. With time, I was building some confidence unknowingly.
When I finally realized how introverted I was, I decided to work on it. In order to become an extrovert, I found that I had to overcome several blocks to being more extroverted. Chances are that if you’re in the same boat, you have some of these blocks as well.
1. Undervaluing extroversion: Spending time alone and with people is equally important. If you’re very introverted, you may undervalue the positive role people can play in your life, such as knowledge, friendship, growth, laughter, and so on. These positive roles help in making your life much more fulfilled. The optimal outcome is to strike a balance between the two. You don’t have to give up the introvert activities you enjoy. In fact, when you balance them with more social activities, you’ll probably find them even more satisfying. After several afternoons of being around people, more especially in school, I really look forward to a night by myself to read, meditate, write, etc. And after lots of time alone or with my family, I’m itching to go out and be around other people.
2. Underdeveloped social skills: Social skills can be learned like any other skill set. One reason introverts shy away from social activities is that they don’t feel comfortable because they don’t know what to do, especially if the unexpected were to occur. It is good to let you know that not all Introverts are shy, some introverts have a lot in them to give out, but their introverted spirit are a stumbling block to them. Some introverts often feel stupid when they see how extroverts come up with conversations, they don’t feel too comfortable. Being able to start up a conversation with a stranger AND feel completely comfortable doing it is a learnable skill, its more like your muscle, the more you use it the stronger it becomes. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Embrace the fact that you’re a beginner, and don’t compare yourself to others. This worked for me, it should work for you.
3. Envisioning yourself as the wrong kind of extrovert: If you find the extroverted people around you shallow and perhaps even annoying, why would you want to be more like them? You wouldn’t. When I was a younger, I really didn’t want to be more like the extroverts I knew. Even as a teen, my vision of an extrovert was an in-your-face salesperson that only wanted to build a shallow relationship with you so they could sell you something. It seemed very fake and phony to me. And of course that vision prevented me from ever wanting to be like that. But you needn’t choose such a limited vision for yourself — you’re free to form your own vision of a positive way to be more extroverted.
4. Hanging out with the wrong people: Why would you want to spend more time with people you don’t like? If becoming more extroverted means spending more time with people you’d rather avoid, you’ll have no motivation to do it. Again, you’re free to break this pattern and form a social group that you’d love to be a part of. This is not always easy, but it works.
5. Overvaluing online socializing: Online socializing has its place in your life, but it’s a pale shadow compared to face-to-face, belly-to-belly communication. Voice and body language can communicate a lot more than text, and emotional bonds are easier and faster to establish in person. I feel much closer to the local friends I’ve known for only a few months than I do to the people I’ve known online for years but never met in person. It’s just not as fun going out to dinner with a laptop on Facebook, or other social networking site. You don’t have to do away with online socializing, but don’t allow it to crowd out meeting people locally. If you do that, you’ll only cause your interpersonal skills to slack further behind. I used to overvalue online socialization, and I was very good at it, at least I knew the right words to use to people because I knew it had no big emotional effect. If you overvalue online socialization, you might be slacking in face-to-face communication.
If you have some of these blocks and want to get past them, the first step is to acknowledge them and consider how they’re holding you back, then begin to work on them just as you would with any other challenge in your life. I was in a clique back in my secondary school, and I moved with cool friends, but most of them were extroverts, they weren’t introverts, but they were shy, especially when they it had to do with girls, with time. they got a bit confident. One possible solution that has actually worked for many guys is just to focus your intentions, set goals, make plans, and start taking action. It may be awkward and clumsy at first, but just accept that, and get moving anyway.
Here are some additional suggestions for how to become more extroverted:
1. Envision the type of extrovert you’d like to be: What’s your ideal outcome? If you feel too introverted and want to be more extroverted, start by working on your vision of your outcome. Chances are that if you’ve been making little progress in this area, you have a somewhat negative vision of extroverts. When I formed a positive vision of being an extrovert that included building genuine relationships with intelligent people I respect (as opposed to random, shallow socializing), I soon began attracting those relationships. Being a “dumb jock” kind of extrovert still has no appeal to me. Think of relationships in terms of what you can give, not in terms of what you can get. If you seek to build new relationships based on mutual giving and receiving, you’ll have no shortage of friends. Identify people with whom you’d like to build a relationship, and start by giving. For example, I’ve been teaching some of my friends about using the Computer, dancing, drawing, and other things, and in return I’m learning a lot from them about speaking humor, etc. What can you bring to a relationship that will be of benefit to someone else? When you figure out what that is (and it’s probably many different things), you’ll have an easier time attracting new friends into your life.
2. Find the right social group for you: Consciously consider the types of people you’d want to have as friends. There’s no rule that says this has to be your peers or pals, or co-workers. I actually find myself more interested in making friends with people who are much older than me as opposed to people my own age or slightly younger. People around my age tend to be family-oriented, but often in a somewhat mindless, socially conditioned way that isn’t centered on any consciously chosen life purpose or belief system. And people in their 20s, while often highly energetic, tend to be largely unfocused… or focused on trivial pursuits, like career(getting a good job) or education (going to the university), or finance that just aren’t that important. So it’s been difficult for me to find people near my age where we have enough in common for a long-term friendship. I seem to have an easier time making friends with people around the ages of 40, and 50, or older. They typically have greater knowledge and experience, more fascinating stories to share, more resources (information and ideas, financial resources, contacts), and a better sense of whom they are and what they want to do with their lives. Often I find myself attending social events where I’m the youngest person in the room, but that feels very comfortable and normal for me. Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond the most obvious peer group and hang out with people from different ages, neighborhoods, cultures, countries, etc. You might find the variety to be a lot of fun.
3. Play from your strengths: It’s interesting that many introverts have no trouble socializing online. In my case, I found it easy to play in that environment, because I played from strengths. But you can also use your strengths consciously as leverage to branch out into more face-to-face socializing. If you socialize online, see if you can use that strength to build new local relationships. While people have done this in global forums like Yahoo chat, Facebook, Hi5, etc, I think it’s easier to try it in local forums. The advantage is that you’ll find people who share similar interests; this makes it easier to build new relationships. One good club or clique can fill your social calendar. If you join a club and find that it’s not right for you, quit and join something else.
4. Develop your social skills consciously: You can learn to become better at building rapport, introducing yourself, keeping a conversation going, asking someone out on a date, feeling socially comfortable instead of nervous, and so on. You don’t need to be shallow and manipulative about it, but genuinely build these skills because it will greatly enhance your life. Learn to develop a particular, or a series of techniques you could use to talk to strangers, especially the opposite sex. Some guys and girls have their own way of talking they use to talk to or approach the opposite sex. Some time a guy once watched a movie and used to technique he saw to talk to people, and now it’s not new to him, in fact meeting strangers is one of his hobbies. A small basic set of social skills can go a long way because you’ll get to reuse them every time you meet someone.
Most introverts deprive themselves of knowing what others know. Even when they know, they hardly share it. Some introverts are quite hot-tempered, they hate to admit their wrongs and always think the world is just unfair. I was once like that, if you’re in such a category you need to embrace jokes, and smile a lot.
Realize that when you hold yourself back from socializing, you’re not only depriving yourself — you’re also depriving other people of the chance to get to know you. How much longer do you want your future spouse or best friend to remain alone?
BY: CHIKEZIE CHUKWUEBUKA VICTOR
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