The Introvert’s Guide To Winning Friends and Influencing People (and What Extraverts Can Learn From It)


Cafe de la Paix, Constantin Korovine, public domain

‘Cafe de la Paix’, Constantin Korovine, public domain

I suffer from a most curious malady. As a teenager, I was convinced I was abnormal because of it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted it, and even embraced it. It’s not really a malady, but in the cultural Kardashiverse of look-at-me, social media oversharing, and viral guerilla marketing, it can feel that way.

I am an introvert.

Introverts have a personality bent more inclined to solitude and thinking. Some introverts are shy as well, but not all introverts are shy. Some just prefer quiet activities, their own company or the company of a few familiar friends. Their personality type craves solitude and can be drained by too much social interaction or stimuli in general.

Sometimes a stigma is attached to this type of behavior; introverts have been considered ‘painfully shy’, ‘anti-social’, ‘withdrawn’, ‘depressed’, or even ‘arrogant and stuck-up’.

Introverts make up about 40% of the general population, 60% of the gifted population, and 75% of those who consider themselves a creative or artistic person. If you’re not an introvert, you probably work with one, live with one, or will be sitting next to one at your next social activity.

Introversion and extroversion are not cut and dried. As with many personality traits, most people are a combination on the spectrum. Not surprisingly, a majority of writers consider themselves introverts. Writing is a perfect introvert activity.

However, when it comes to interacting with others in places like writing groups, writing conferences, or Heaven forbid, speaking in front of a book club or other group, some writers would prefer a root canal.With conference season coming upon us and writing groups always on our radar, what’s a dyed-in-the-wool introvert to do to connect in the writing community?

  • Stretch yourself

It’s hard to talk to someone you don’t know, whether in person or on social media. You don’t think you’ll have anything interesting to say. You overthink it. It’s easier to keep to yourself, lurk on blogs and Facebook pages. Find a way to be a part of the conversation. Take a chance and say hello. It may be the start of a mutually encouraging relationship.  Ask the other person about him/herself. People like to talk about themselves. When in doubt, these two questions will always get writers talking: What do you like to write? What are you working on right now?

  • View connecting with other writers as missionary work

Whether you call it sowing seeds, creating good karma, or paying it forward, reaching out to other writers, especially beginners, may seem like effort you don’t want to put forth. You never know when those good efforts will pay in a connection at the right time, a supportive word when you need it, or even a book sale. Not to mention the gratification you will receive by encouraging someone else.

  • Give yourself time to think before interaction

Introverts can be intimidated by social interaction because they like to take their time and think about things before they engage in conversation. When you know you will be in a group situation, take the time to think about it ahead of time, even writing down some notes to help you start a conversation. You don’t have to actually use your crib notes, but just thinking it through will help you feel more confident when you interact with people.

  • Connect authentically with one person

Introverts are usually good listeners, and deep thinkers. Use your skills to your advantage. Choose one person in a gathering and connect. Spend focused time listening, and giving thoughtful responses. The person will appreciate your undivided attention. You won’t be overwhelmed when you focus on the individual.

  • Smile

If you can’t bring yourself to interact at an activity or social function, smile. Your pearly whites will be a signal to others that you acknowledge their existence, and they might take the initiative and come talk to you. You can also accomplish this in the virtual world of social media by ‘liking’ posts on Facebook,  1 plussing posts on Google+ or retweeting others’ tweets on Twitter.

What if you’re not an introvert?

If you are an extravert, remember, in your writing group, workshop or writing class sits an introvert, probably right next to you. Do them a favor and smile, invite them to sit with you and your friends, ask them what they like to write. First, you’ll probably see them breathe a sigh of relief, and return the favor with some interesting conversation, or if you’re lucky, you’ll gain a good companion on the writing journey.

Introverts: Need more encouragement that introversion is not a ‘malady’?

Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk The Power of Introverts

Introverts: Have you ever felt ‘abnormal’ for being an introvert? Do you have any tricks to avoid being overwhelmed by social situations?

19 thoughts on “The Introvert’s Guide To Winning Friends and Influencing People (and What Extraverts Can Learn From It)

    • I’m glad we met, too! I’ll be at OWFI, so we will definitely have to catch up. That was a good case for me of stepping out of my comfort zone. It would have been easier to just stand quietly in line, (there were so many lines haha) but I’m glad I took a chance and we began a conversation that continues through our online interaction to this day. 🙂

      I’ve gotten behind on my blog reading, and after your comment I headed over to your blog, and lo and behold, you are sharing about being an introvert, too. Great minds think alike! lol Everyone, check out Keli’s post “Quiet, by Susan Cain” http://keliwright.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/quiet-by-susan-cain-2/

      See you in a month or so, Keli! 🙂

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  1. Pingback: The Introvert’s Guide To Winning Friends and Influencing People (and What Extroverts Can Learn From It) | Keli Wright's Open-Faced Sandwich

  2. I’m an introvert too. I think your advice is spot-on. It’s worth it to stretch your comfort zone, you win and the person you reach out to wins too. I like the idea of making a few notes before you sit down with a huge table of writers, sort of a mini preparation. I get so tongue-tied sometimes and this would help. One thing I might add is to make time after a conference to decompress and get quiet. I think introverts need to reset, I know I do. I’m looking forward to the video! Thanks.

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    • I totally agree about needing to decompress. Sometimes I will even talk to myself (or Keeper Hubby, though his eyes glaze over pretty quickly) about the components of the event, then I just need some completely quiet time to process. I call it ‘debriefing’. I thought it was just a weird quirk I have. 🙂 Glad to know I’m not alone.

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  3. Thank you, Kristin. I’m a terrible introvert, plus I’m shy (I’ve just learned they’re separate things). I’m finding more and more just trying to connect with one person at a time helps.

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    • I am shy as well, although not as much as I used to be. Plus I have the added ‘benefit’ of suffering from panic disorder. That’s another animal altogether, but I have learned with medication and coping techniques to tame that beast fairly well. One on one with an individual I really don’t have problems, but interacting in large groups is sometimes still painful and fraught with all sorts of unpleasant possibilities. But what I risk is low in comparison to what I gain in the people that I meet, and the sheer feeling of victory at overcoming another situation. It gets easier. 🙂

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  4. Hi Kristen. You’ve got some good advice here. I’ve always been a shy introvert who always envied those extroverts. I like to think I’m getting better at it, although I’ve always felt uncomfortable in big crowds. With social networks I can be a bit of a lurker and I tend to use the ‘think before you interact’ method. Like Debra, I believe that connecting with one person at a time helps to build confidence.

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    • Don’t worry, Debbie. Kristin was not a common name when I was growing up and my teachers used to mangle it and call me all kinds of things. I answer to anything close, sometimes even ‘Hey, you!’ 😉

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  5. I like this post. Thanks for sharing this. I spend a lot of time with kids who are much happier away from the “crowd”. I like these kids who tend to be softer and quieter. I myself get by quite well with a smile and a wagging tail.

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  6. Pingback: The Introvert's Guide To Winning Friends and Influencing People (and What Extroverts Can Learn From It) | Social Introverts | Scoop.it

  7. The stretching thing gets me. I’m an introvert, but I smile through it and hope I don’t look like a total dork. 🙂 One of my best friends laughed when I said something about being shy–she couldn’t believe it. I don’ thave to be shy and quiet all the time–just when I’d rather blend into the background. LOL. Great post, Kristin!

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  8. Hi Kristin, thank you for following my blog. Absolutely love yours and thank you for reminding us to S T R E T C H !!! *Ouch* It does help us all to grow, doesn’t it? I will be following your blogs.

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  9. This is me! I have definitely been forcing myself out of my comfort zone. I find the more I do it, the easier it gets. Kind of like working a muscle, but I think I’ll always have to force myself a little. Thanks for the great tips.

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    • Sabine, that is a perfect analogy. It is like working a muscle, and a lot of times they are tight and sore but you have to move them anyway, and after a while you get more flexible. I’d love my introvert ‘muscles’ to get more flexible and ready for social interaction, but I think the worst part will always be dwelling on the fact that I have to get out there and ‘work it’. Thanks for stopping by!

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