The Introvert's Social Formula
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Including 5 Tricks to Help Introverts Socialize
EXTROVERT: "Oh, you're not an introvert!"
I think all introverts have heard this statement at some time - perhaps often. People that you know or work with that don't believe you fit their stereotype of introverts - aloof, wallflower, anti-social.
I heard a chorus of this line during my 2018 retirement party from corporate America when I shared my intention to write about my introversion during my retirement. The room went silent, people looked at each other, and then the chorus began, "Oh, you're not an introvert. I've been to dinners/parties/work trips with you and there's no way you are an introvert!"
As I pondered that exchange, I think they were sucked into the stereotype that we introverts not only prefer not to socialize but that we CAN'T, so anyone that can hold an interesting conversation must be an extrovert.
In fact, I was on a podcast, Unlocking Happiness, a while back with a quite lovely hostess, Amy Dix. We chatted a bit before going live and then as the "RECORD" light went on, she introduced me to her guests, bewildered that we could have such a delightful conversation given my self-professed introversion. You can hear her intro here. I think I recovered well and we had an insightful 30-minute discussion and have reconnected since as well.
Honestly, I think many introverts, including myself for many years, fell into this trap as well. We attach ourselves to the introvert label because it sounds familiar. Yet, we are left without enough information to be able to dispel the myths and learn the truths about our own introversion.
In fact, sometimes we even explain our occasional verbosity by blurting out...
INTROVERT: "Sometimes I extrovert!"
Here, we are not claiming our own adept social skills, but attributing it as a slip-up as we try to act the part of an extrovert. Surely, smooth, interesting, and occasionally even humorous exchanges must be left to the extroverts in the world!
As I have learned, introversion and extroversion lie on a continuum. We are all on that line but none of us are permanently affixed to a point on the line. We all slide right and left depending on who we are (we are more than just introverted or extroverted) and the situation at the time. So introverts CAN socialize and extroverts CAN reflect. Really! It's okay!
However, I do think it's important to follow the immortal words of Frank Sinatra...
"I did it my way!"
As we reflect on those moments of mingling, we usually find that we did it our way. We weren't grabbing the mic and rattling off the top of our heads to a room full of strangers. No, perhaps subconsciously, we created that moment ourselves. This is important because now we can raise that magical social formula to our consciousness and practice and use it at will.
The Introvert's Social Formula
This equation consists of 5 simple steps. I coined the phrase "Networking Intimacy" for the first four and added the fifth as the cherry on top:
<D Shorter Duration: Our energy supply is limited. Even when we follow these steps, socializing does deplete our energy. So engaging for shorter durations is essential. Sometimes that may mean 10 minutes or an hour, depending on satisfying the other parts of the equation, but we are not likely to be conversing for hours on end.
<G Smaller Groups: We are more apt to chat with smaller groups where we can get to know each other and share more personal details. For me, the right size is usually 3-5 people. It's not so small as to feel I have to bear the full weight of the conversation myself, but not so big that I'm competing for air time or get sucked into superficial chitchat that leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled.
(F) Familiar Faces: I'm definitely