Can an introvert become an extrovert?
As a person who believes anything is possible, the answer to this question has to be “yes.”
I want to know why someone would ask the question.
Is it an extrovert who cannot imagine their introverted friends are happy with their quiet, solitary lives?
What does the inquirer really want to know?
- Do they think introverts want to become extroverts?
- Do they think introverts are less worthy, capable, or qualified to do something because they are not extroverts?
- Do they think extroversion is the preferred way to enjoy the human experience?
Do you know what would be even sadder than an extrovert asking that question?
An introvert asking it.
Because that suggests they feel broken and need to be fixed. It means they haven’t discovered the magic and power of their quiet nature.
If you are an introvert who has wondered if it’s possible to become an extrovert or more outgoing, here are 4 tips to help navigate the extroverted world as an introvert (rather than trying to become one).
1. Accept and embrace your inner contradictions.
I don’t know if all introverts experience the crazy level of internal contradictions that I do, but once I realized this is just part of my nature, I learned to embrace it.
This was a huge game-changer for me. Instead of my brain constantly training for a hamster wheel marathon, I accepted that I am full of contractions. The hamster wheel slowed down. The hamster crawled off and enjoyed a long nap.
Let me share an example of what I mean…
This morning Alisa Kay, one of my business coaches (who seems very extroverted), said, “Focus on what is easy for you.”
I immediately when into “freeze” mode.
Do you remember the non-conscious reactions when you feel threatened? Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn?
I tend to fall into the “freeze” category externally while my mind processes my options.
My inner champion is ready to fight. It creates a fantastic scenario in which I am the hero speaking my truth and saving the day.
My inner safety monitor wants to flee the scene of danger. It keeps me safe and protected from real and (mostly) imagined dangers.
My inner nurturer compels me to make sure others are okay. It knows I am part of the collective and their well-being is at important as my own.
By the time my inner aspects have had their say, the adrenaline of the moment has dissipated and I can respond in the most appropriate way.
Those three inner responses are part of my nature. Each expresses itself differently.
As my inner aspects (champion, safety monitor, nurturer, and others) THINK thoughts, those thoughts stir up emotions around what I believe about myself and the world around me. A person can be emotion-centered without being high-drama.
It makes sense that the champion is going to want to charge boldly into the fray of a family gathering, while my safety monitor is concerned that old feelings of not belonging will pop to the surface, and my nurturer wants to support the hosts and be a “good” family member.
Going back to the original statement to focus on what is easy for me, I realized that being an introvert is easy for me.
It wasn’t always.
For most of my life, I felt judged for being quiet. I felt like I was wrong to prefer solitude over social events.
I wanted to enjoy social activities like family celebrations, community concerts, and workplace events, but the truth is… I didn’t. I always felt anxious, self-conscious, and awkward.
By recognizing my own contradictions about attending such events, I was able to create boundaries that support my introverted ways without compromising my emotional and mental well-being.
2. Establish boundaries around your time and energy.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I choose to do things I don’t necessarily want to do.
- Have you attended family functions when you would have preferred to stay home?
- Have you stayed in a job that stabbed your Soul every time you clocked in?
- Have you taken your child to a party at Chuck E. Cheese and been tempted to abandon her there?
When I face those dreaded, energy-draining situations, I actively redirect my thoughts in a higher-vibe direction.
It becomes a game to find the pieces of treasure in such situations.
For example, I always loved the idea of family gatherings, but the reality was that they were crowded, loud, and alcohol was treated like an honored guest. I dreaded the reality of them as much as I loved the idea of them.
For days before such an event, I would visualize a pleasant experience. I’d think of the family members I enjoyed talking with. I reminded myself that I was bringing food I liked to eat, so I wouldn’t be hungry. I reminded myself that most people love to talk, so I could just sit, smile, and listen.
And usually, I would enjoy a somewhat satisfying, one-sided conversation with an aunt or cousin. If you express the slightest bit of interest in someone, they are usually more than happy to share the details with you.
3. Quietly corrected people who thought being more socially outgoing was necessary for my success and happiness.
This was one of the hardest things to do. Being an introvert, I enjoy deep, thought-provoking conversations, not ones that might create conflict. But I refused to be bullied into behaving like someone I was not.
These were conversations with people who thought they had my best interests at heart when they told me I needed to “lighten up, have fun, and smile more if I want to succeed in life.”
Yes, I believe these people want me to succeed and be happy. But they don’t understand my definition of success and happiness does not match theirs.
They still don’t get it. Not my problem.
When I consistently assure them that my life was great the way it was, they eventually stopped pushing me to be someone I was not.
4. I set pre-determined goals and created elaborate escape plans to reduce my anxiety around social events.
Rather than dreading social events, I started setting goals for them. I would...
- Identify specific people (or a specific number of people) I wanted to speak with.
- Give myself permission to avoid specific people (for whatever reason).
- Challenge myself to speak with people I had avoided at a previous event (even if it was a simple “hello” before walking by).
The escape plan depended on several factors:
- Whether I was alone or with someone
- The overall agenda for the occasion (was there a ceremony or point to the gathering)
My escape plan simply consisted of giving myself permission to leave after a certain amount of time.
Before attending an event with someone, I would talk about my discomfort at such events and gain agreement to leave early if necessary. It was not my intention to inconvenience someone, but I knew that protecting my energy was important.
Typically, when I felt my energy waning, I would give the person 30 minutes' notice of my desire to leave. Funnily enough, most of the time this worked out well for the other person/people, too.
Over time, I learned who would respect my boundaries of time and energy and who would not. When I believed they would not, I created a reason to take separate cars.
Easy peasy. No drama.
Learning to navigate the extroverted world as an introvert isn’t as challenging as one may think. It is certainly easier than trying to enjoy the loud and crowded situations that cause your anxiety and stress levels to rise.
These four guidelines for experiencing high-energy social situations allow you to participate and enjoy (your definition) social situations in a way that suits your energy needs. They allow you to interact with the crowd without compromising your innate preference for deep conversations and lower-stimulation activities.
And of course, planning for quiet time to recharge your batteries after such events is always a good idea!