Socializing as an Introvert
Photo courtesy of Nomadic Lass.

Socializing as an Introvert

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

My mom likes to tell this story about me as a child.

I don’t much remember the day in question, but I have no doubt that it happened, as it is a perfect representation of an aspect of my character that I know well.

I was five years old. My mother and I were at my best friend, Alison’s house for her birthday party. There were half-a-dozen little kids there. The moms were drinking coffee in the kitchen.

Alison, my best friend since the age of 3-months, was and still is, extremely extroverted. According to legend, on this particular day she was running up and down the hallway with a little boy, and they were squealing loudly.

I approached my mom and tugged lightly on her sleeve.

“What is it, Emilie?”

“I want to run and scream, too,” I whispered.

“Go ahead,” she urged.

But I couldn’t. I watched the kids fly past me, again and again, longing so much to join them, but I was too afraid.

Ten minutes later, I was found at the arts-and-crafts table, sitting with another little girl. We were cutting shapes out of colored paper, gluing together Popsicle sticks and twisting pipe cleaners.

I sat there, contently working on my art, quiet, doing my own thing (with company).

**

I was reminded of this story recently. I was un-conferencing at WDS this year. I didn’t have a ticket, but was dead-set on attending as many unofficial meetups as possible. However, I realized very quickly, that I could not evade my introverted nature. All weekend long, I felt the pull between “running down the hall, screaming” (attending big meetups, pushing myself to socialize) and “making art in the corner with a friend.” (small groups, alone time).

Unlike my five-year-old self, as an adult, I sometimes push myself to run down that corridor. It takes some guts, but I occasionally do it. And then, when I’ve had my fill, I retreat, guilt-free, and do my own thing.

The guilt-free bit is hard. And it took some time to get this balance right. I still mess it up from time to time, as I saw at the beginning of the weekend. But I always try to remind myself that it’s okay to do my own thing. Let the extroverts party until 2am. I’ll hang for a bit and then duck out for sushi dinner with a friend and maybe take myself to a movie. Sounds delightful.

Your Turn

Are you an introvert? Have you worked out the balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and enjoying your cocoon?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.

26 Comments

  1. Saul says:

    Hah, I completely relate. I was home by 9 every night at WDS! I don’t really think of myself as an “introvert” because I know that when I’m in a comfortable place with people I trust, I can stay up all night and party. But it takes a particular environment to get there!

  2. Margaux says:

    Cute story, Emilie! I’m on the cusp on introversion/extroversion so I don’t find it difficult to socialize in big meetups—though this would not be my first choice. My problem is when I don’t “get” what the other people in the room think is funny or awesome or fascinating. If I can’t find common ground, I get bored and would rather go do something else or be somewhere else. Not so different from most people, I reckon.

    • Emilie says:

      Yeah, I hear that. And so many of these big networking events are all about quick conversations, where you never really get to connect on a deeper level. Not my fave.

      • I actually kind of like smoozing because it’s one of the few times where you can randomly strike up a conversation with people and it’s not awkward, plus when you’re at a particular event you at least know you have the event and its topic in common. I kinda see networking as Susan Cain does, “a search for kindred spirits.” But like Emilie I usually end up in the corner within 20 mins. Fortunately, I’m often with another introvert when that happens. As for parties and the like, I really struggle with those and it took me SO LONG to give myself the gift of saying “No” to those. So Emilie I truly appreciate you bringing that up! It’s not easy to find that balance.

  3. C. Catchings says:

    Yes, I’m an introvert. I need alone time and one of my first experiences with this was in telling a friend my mom said she had to go home..she called my mom in to question her and I was ratted out..they both stood there staring at me. lol. There are times where I do “run across the hallway,” get loud, rambunctious and lose all sense of social apprehensiveness..I think my introversion has a lot to do with how I fuel. When I’m at a certain energy level, being around many people or some people for an extended period of time will feel like a cloud dispersing across a room- I’m the cloud. I have a similar feeling with too much technology. It’s uncomfortable, draining and makes you feel like you’re losing it.

    But, if I’ve had my alone time, the people can come and I can actually benefit from that interaction (enjoy it). There’s a part of my personality which is extroverted and when I lose all sense of self-awareness, have no social apprehensions (a separate issue) and the energy is right, “she” shows up. It’s all one the same person; one set of behaviors gives me energy through social interaction and the other allows me to release all that’s come to me, find clarity and realize important things that need to come to the forefront of my mind for my well-being.

  4. Emilie says:

    Thanks for sharing, C. I know what you mean. Time alone can really make a difference.

    And I agree that introversion is quite different from social apprehensions. Sometimes they happen to overlap, but not always.

  5. Chelcie says:

    I used to be extremely introverted as a child and up to 16 years old, I would rather sit on my own and do my own thing rather than play with all of the other kids, and due to that I never got invited to parties or just hanging out with other people.

    I didn’t have the best of communication skills and whenever people found me in the art room drawing, they would often ask me why I was in there. The obvious answer was because I wanted to be there, but a part of me couldn’t answer without saying “I don’t know”, it was if I was scared to show people what I really liked to do in case they found it weird or “unsociable”.

    Our society rewards and encourages extroverted-ness and frowns upon introverted-ness which can really damage those who are like that. When I was 17 I completely switched around and became more extroverted and talked a LOT more. I used to be very quiet and shy, I’m not that now and I think it’s a bad thing, though saying that, I do get quite uncomfortable in big groups still.

    I don’t draw like I used to, I don’t play video games as much like I used to, I just feel like a completely different person.
    It used to bug me a lot that no one wanted to involve me in anything and how they used to comment on the things I did in a kind of judgmental tone. I think that’s why I switched around, I was too weak minded to be my own person. It doesn’t help that I’m a people pleaser.

  6. Debi says:

    I can so relate to this. I am quite comfortable interacting with small groups. But in a big group, well … let’s just say I’m working on it and there’s a LOT of work to be done. Networking and mingling seem foreign to me and crowds can definitely be draining if too much interaction is required … or if the whole crowd is “too close”. I definitely need my alone time to regenerate.

    Thanks, Em, for another great, insightful post.

  7. Christen says:

    I am a total introvert and I had such a hard time balancing my excitement for getting involved in everything with my need to have down time at WDS, so I relate! Most of the time I was fine socializing with small groups for short times, and then moving on.

    I took the cruise on Saturday night, which turned out to be 2.5 hours on a very crowded, noisy boat with no opportunity to escape. Big mistake. Next year I will know better and leave myself more time to relax in my hotel room.

    It’s really hard to find the right balance when it comes to building my business. I think part of the reason I don’t get as much done as I’d like is that I have to pace myself when it comes to things that involve social interaction, even online. Engaging in groups, networking where I’d like to guest post, all of that takes a lot more energy that just creating my content. I feel like I need an extroverted business partner!

  8. HI Emilie

    I really loved your story because I always yearned to run and be a part of what the other children (and adults) were doing. I simply could’t! I felt like a fake when I did?

    I thought something was wrong with me as a human being for most of my life because of that? Until someone introduced herself to me and said I recognize you, you’re just like me, and I want to let you know that it’s ok to be a wall flower. Don’t try to be someone you are not, but be who you are, that’s enough.

    Since that day I have been able to run when I feel like it, but more often, be perfectly comfortable in my own skin even when others are running and playing and I am not.

    And if I look up, I can recognize the wall flowers who are faking it.

  9. Milena says:

    Hey, what a coincidence, I am reading to Susan Cain’s book “Quiet- The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” at the moment, so introvercy is a hot topic for me this week. I consider myself as an ambivert and I need good balance between social activities and time alone to perform at my best. When I was at college, I could spend many days running from one happening to another, hanging with hundreds of people. Later I have realized how safe space is precious for my creativity, performance and mood. Now I know that I always need to leave some time for reflection and relaxation away from everybody.I cannot get absolutely everything that is on my mind done, but I focus on quality and feeling good.

    Btw, I loved your story, it is so sweet and touching. I totally identify with you, for I have often been that crazy little book worm on birthday parties.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Great story Emilie,

    I have found that I can pretty easily go back-and-forth between introverted and extroverted although I probably tend toward introverted. Being in sales has definitely made me become more extroverted but I use my introverted time to recharge and gather my thoughts for more socializing.

  11. Jenn Coyle says:

    Really great story, Emilie. This totally embodies what it’s like to struggle with the “I’m an introvert but I feel like I should be more extroverted” ordeal. Personally, I’m quite happy being an introvert. At 29, I’ve learned to let go of this 27 year struggle (give or take) and it has led me to feel more settled and content with myself. Not to get all kumbaya… but it’s best just to embrace our tendencies!

  12. Anna says:

    “I want to run and scream, too.”

    Oh my, Emilie — this is a great encapsulation of how I have felt for much of my life. I’ve always felt such envy for the folks (many of them, my friends) who are able to freely express themselves that way, to interact with life and people without holding back.

    The only times I’ve felt like I’ve gotten a taste of that reality was in college or in my 20s when I could drink a lot and party all night. I did enjoy a good party. Being wasted, dancing, joking with friends… I always thought, “This is what it must feel like to be normal!”

    But I’m definitely too old for those shenanigans now. And even though my introversion bothers me less as I get older, and perhaps is less pronounced (as I start to care less about what other people think and relax into being myself more), it still stops me in my tracks from time to time. There are times I think, hey, I should just do THIS! And then I don’t.

    I wonder: as much as introverts make efforts to be extroverted, do extroverts ever envy us?

    • Absolutely! I know plenty of extroverts who envy introverts. They really struggle to sit down and get things done. I know a lot of frustrated extroverted filmmakers and writers for sure. They have so much they dream of doing, but struggle to be alone and do the work.

  13. Jose says:

    As an introvert it can sometimes be a bit difficult when you like to sell stuff but don’t like to ‘door-knock’ or ‘cold call’ people to buy your stuff. So, my alternative was to do what I like doing which is to sell, however I found that eCommerce has been a wonderful way for me to sell physical products online rather than in person.

  14. Nikki says:

    Hi Emilie!

    Heart your blog and newsletters!!

    Yes, I like so many other people here am an introvert. One of the things that has really helped me is to really rely on my intuition on attending networking events whether or not I initially “feel” like going. Every time I do this, something fruitful happens. It may not necessarily be directly work related but I have actually developed really cool friendships from them. The other times where I forced myself and didn’t get any kind of green light, I regretted it because I ended up feeling drained and bored.

  15. Jen says:

    I love this story, so cute, I can picture this mini Emilie. I feel like I was an extrovert as a kid, but somehow grew into a introvert as an adult. There is something I really love and enjoy about introverted people and I guess over time they just rubbed off on me, I have no idea. As quiet as an introvert is, they have the most stimulating, active minds!

  16. Meredith J. says:

    This post comes at a perfect time for me. I’ve been feeling lead that I need to really work out of my introvert shell and connect more with people online. Of course the internet already helps me not feel slightly as introverted, but I still find myself shying away from commenting and posting on forums at times. I really have to push myself to be social with new people, even though I usually enjoy it when I do.

    Thank you for the timely post Emilie! As well as the encouragement to find my balance between stretching outside my comfort zone and my own introversion. :)

  17. I love to hear your stories, this one was so charming! I can relate, as many of us can. Very much. Just wanted to thank you for that and for the whole project of bringing multipotentialites together. Let’s get that word in the dictionaries!
    So much FUN! Bless you.

    Lisa Markwart

  18. Wesley P. says:

    I’ve followed your blog for the longest time and, I’m going to go ahead and run down the hallway with this post. (I’ve also never commented and always observed so – whoohoo!)

    I’ve been feeling off lately, I find myself an extrovert or always believed I was one. But lately I’ve avoided meet ups and anything that has got to with conversing with friends. I’m moving in a week to attend Fine Arts school and maybe it’s the pre-anxiety that has got me feeling this way? Or maybe I find it hard to vibrate to the frequencies of my friends and would much rather vibrate to my own.

    I’m pushing myself out there, so thank you Emilie for sprouting out this wonderful blog!

  19. I’ve been thinking about this post and wondering, if I went to WDS or something like it, what my ideal experience would look like. As it turns out, that ideal experience would be finding someone with whom I would be able to chat for hours and hours and not even know that time had passed. It wouldn’t matter that I didn’t get to talk a bit with everyone because I would leave having made a real, deep connection with someone. More would be cool, but unnecessary. Just one would be enough.

    Of course, I’d also say hi to everyone I know and give them some time as well, because I do like giving friends attention, and we’d probably do stuff together, too, but the new thing that I’d want to gain from the event would be a new human connection, or the deepening of an old one. That would fulfill my purpose in going, for sure. :)

  20. Kita says:

    I tend to put off both introverts and extroverts with my seemingly unpredictable responses. Personality wise, I am an introvert. But I was raised in a family of social butterfly extroverts. All of my social skills relate to being extroverted, which cause me to come across overly brash and airheaded to other introverts. Extroverts find me interesting until I run out of steam, which for an introvert, happens quite early on. They find me rude and think I don’t fit or don’t like them when I suddenly withdraw or become quiet and moody for no reason. I will be talking excitedly and interacting one minute, then my brain hits a brick wall as all my insecurities and brain gremlins become too overwhelming to bear, and I basically turn off and get sour and withdrawn.

    If I can temper the interactions, I am fine. I can interact all night with a group of geeky introverts, but only get a few hours with wild extroverts. My family think I am just negative, and that introversion is a choice and can be overcome ‘if I want to’. They think I have a ‘bad attitude’ and choose to be withdrawn, so being raised around constant social situations I was always criticized for has been difficult. Before even knowing that being an introvert was ok and a normal personality type, I thought there was something wrong with me, and pushed myself to interact even when I was done. It lead to following days where I was drained 200% and a nightmare to be around, which only supported my family’s claim that I have a ‘bad attitude’.

    It wasn’t until my adult life, when I was able to control my own interactions, that I could work on socializing without going crazy afterwards. As bad of a habit as it is, I started coming late to parties, not early like I always did with my family. This meant less time that was expected of me to stay, and no awkwardness since everyone is already juiced and interacting. I also learned the importance of potty break breathers. Going to the bathroom, or outside to talk to smokers (I don’t smoke) are very helpful for collecting myself. I also try to bring a friend along, because they feel like a safe place I can retreat to when I need a break. And, indeed, when I need one, I just drift over to them and sit in silence and listen for a while, without anyone questioning me or thinking I am being rude or non social. For short parties, booze is helpful too, but it burns me out really fast because I get too social all at once, then immediately hit my wall.

    But, more than anything, it is hard to even GET me out anywhere, or to start talking to people. It took a lot of time and practice to respond to strangers greeting me with more than a quick “hi”. People would try to engage me, and I used to get instantly suspicious and self conscious. I still feel that way, and really have to work hard to suppress it enough to talk back. Even doing something like saying ‘Oh, hey, I love that thing you have on your shirt too!’ used to be an impossible task. I always felt it was fake, and really had to work at actively starting conversations with people. To this day, if I am not in a super comfortable place, I still ignore opportunities for social interaction as my default.

    It is why I like the internet so much. :) I can completely control the amount of interaction I both give and take in, and can always turn it off. I am not stuck in the middle of a party. I can control who I talk to as well, and find people I find interesting and like-minded to interact with, instead of being the awkward geek. I can talk and talk, which is my geek side, but I also reach a point where my brain puts a brake on that and just won’t allow me to continue. On the internet, it’s ok. I can pick the conversation back up right where I left off for days afterwards, and can spread a long evening’s worth of conversation over a week’s worth of online forum time. Much better! :)

  21. Aminah Jamil says:

    Introvert is like my middle name or something, but I’m one of those introverts who, if engaged in an interesting conversation with an interesting person, will spread my butterfly wings and become the life of the party. So, I guess you could say that I’m an extroverted introvert? Anywho, pushing myself out of my comfort zone is more in the lanes of networking than socializing. I’m okay at socializing because I’m also empathic and tend to avoid people with bad energy and gravitate towards those with good energy. With networking, however, the line gets blurred because I’m freaking out so much I have absolutely no idea what to do. One day, master networking skill that I will.

  22. Carsten says:

    I wonder if there could be a successful “introvert sales person”.