Post No.: 0519
The modern world tends to reward extroverts with more fame than introverts, even though it’s the introverts behinds the scenes who mostly make the modern world happen as they work on their computers and in their bedrooms to invent and engineer stuff (which means they’re not necessarily less successful in terms of their wealth or less important in terms of their contributions to society even though they don’t get (or care for) the personal limelight – and employers and others should recognise this).
Introverts aren’t people who dislike others or necessarily want to be by themselves all of the time. They’re not automatically shy, socially awkward, unhelpful or ungenerous. A good way to put it is that introverts expend energy when around others and recharge when alone, whereas extroverts receive energy when around others and feel drained when alone. Extroverts find it harder to be alone, and are/were more likely to break pandemic lockdown rules. Some introverts may appear like extroverts because they’re putting a lot of energy into their social interactions, but this can burn them out so they need some rest time alone before they can go again. Some apparently extroverted people may therefore actually be introverts.
Most people are really ambiverts though – neither extreme extroverts nor extreme introverts. (Most people are neither completely open-minded nor closed-minded, agreeable nor disagreeable, etc. either, and fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrums.) But while those who are relatively more extroverted seem to get rewarded with more opportunities in today’s world, those who are relatively more introverted listen more and so learn more and are therefore more likely to know more – and we should listen more to those who listen and learn more and who only speak when they feel it’s worth it. Introverts do have important things to say and they do like others, so don’t misread their quietness.
Shyness, or a fear of public embarrassment and ultimately social rejection, is incredibly common so if you’re shy then you’re hardly alone, even though you might think you are for not going out there to find other shy people, or even if you tried to find them, they’re all hiding! Being shy isn’t a handicap to social intercourse because many people can identify with you if you have the right attitude towards it. Social media has helped shy people to connect with others without having to see them face-to-face; although on the other paw it has become a substitute for real-time relationships for some – some modern adolescents would rather avoid even ever calling a friend if they could just message them instead.
Shy, quiet or modest people can be mistaken for aloof people. Context is crucial for shyness – different people can be confident or self-conscious in different situations depending on what situations they’ve gotten used to via enough exposures i.e. gaining experience in situations you’re shy about can help overcome it. Empathic support helps too. So people have different comfort zones and being confident in one context doesn’t guarantee confidence in another – confidence isn’t always easily transferable (e.g. some people are confident in front of a crowd yet lack it in front of just one stranger).
We cannot sustain what we won’t enjoy so we must be true to ourselves rather than try to become someone else. So introverts should play to their own strengths rather than try to become extroverts (e.g. if you need to sell yourself then you could write instead of speak, or find help or delegate certain tasks to other people better suited to those tasks).
However, traits associated with extroversion, like being more socially talkative, assertive and spontaneous, rather than quiet, reserved or rigid, can make us feel happier, hence occasionally acting more like an extrovert can improve one’s happiness.
And if you wish to improve your social and conversational confidence and skills then it’s again a case of the more you do something, the more comfortable it’ll be. Don’t cocoon yourself – be open and engage in more casual small talk with strangers every day you can. You’ll refine your ‘behavioural script’ – or loose routine and set of go-to appropriate actions to perform and things to mention when in a social situation – which saves the mental effort of trying to figure out what to do or say each time you face a similar situation. Some people, like wrestlers, adopt an alter ego, a persona, when they’re on stage – one that’s loud and fierce. Maybe a toned-down version of this ‘Batman effect’ idea could work for introverts?
Believe that people really want to like you and get to know you. Believe that people really want to hear what you have to say because it’s important, useful and valued. Relatedly, if you don’t think other people are worth getting to know then you won’t overcome your shyness. Take an interest in those who share your interests, or find out what makes each person worth looking up to, not down upon i.e. uncover their achievements – find this about everyone you meet and you’ll become popular! Reduce inferiority in others to make them feel good. Listen more than talk (this is more of a problem with highly extroverted people who like the sound of their own voices, although nervous people can be gabby too). Never interrupt a free-flowing conversation between others to try to join in, and don’t dominate a conversation or you’ll bore. Have patience and ask questions that let others participate with.
If it’s a social event, arrive early, not late, because it’s harder to mingle when everyone else is already engaged with others in full swing. Great conversationalists kick off by making comments that are connected in some way to the person they’re talking to in the context of the situation they’re in and what’s going on – so before leaping in, observe the situation and focus outwardly on what’s going on around you rather than inwardly on how you may be feeling. Focusing on something other than your internal nerves will make you feel less nervous too, and that’s the key – focus on others. See any awkwardness as just needing time to warm up so give yourself that time rather than leave early or give up. Don’t compare yourself with the wittiest or most charming person there – remember that many other people find social situations awkward too. Not everything you say to others has to be immediately absorbing or funny – don’t place perfectionist expectations on yourself. Faux pas and boring moments are entirely a part of social life! Just take them in your stride. There’s no need to feel resentful and rejection happens to everyone. Even every top professional comedian has told countless jokes that haven’t landed and has experienced measly audiences or heckling during their careers.
In any context, feeling nervous is a common experience felt by almost everyone. We’re nervous when we feel there’s something meaningful at stake, such as our public image. A small amount of nervousness is good because it means that we care about doing a good furry job, and an interviewer or date, for example, should recognise this. We’re also nervous about the unknown, thus the more we prepare – such as by researching the job description, the business, its competitors, any media stories and geopolitical issues related to the company, practising our answers and questions, and planning for every possible eventuality, if we have a job interview – the more we can manage any excessive nerves. We can try to reframe our physiological symptoms as being excited, charged or adrenalised! Also try to approach any new experiences positively, such as thinking about what can go right rather than wrong – and whether they do go well or not, they’re always learning experiences for next time.
Because we only live one life, and this life is lived from the perspective of our own physical body, eyes and other senses, we tend to perceive the universe with ourselves at its centre – but we are only one of billions of lives on a planet that is potentially only one of many with lives in this vast universe. Perceiving that oneself is at the centre of the world or universe, and therefore centre of attention, can make anyone feel more either self-conscious or self-absorbed. But since most people perceive they’re at the centre – most peoples’ attentions are most of the time on themselves and logically not so much on other people, including on you! We’re not everybody else’s centre of attention because each of our own centres of attentions are predominantly on our own lives, for better or worse. As you miss the finer details of most other people you walk by – or you might not even notice every single person you cross paths with at all – everyone else is self-consciously thinking of themselves too much to notice you in fine detail too. Those who are less self-absorbed are also more likely to be kinder because they’re the type to pay more attention to others and less on themselves.
Anyone who does judge you harshly based on your appearance speaks more about their own superficiality for precisely judging you based on your appearance. And if they spend so much time critiquing you in detail – be flattered that you matter to them that much! Don’t forget the many (more) out there who think well of you too.
The ‘spotlight effect’ is when people overestimate how much other people are noticing their behaviours, appearance and internal emotions. Everyone is concentrating on ‘how do I look?’ so much that they’re barely looking at you or anyone else to care so deeply how you look – in the same way that you won’t be paying enough attention on others if you concentrate on yourself too much. This also means that you’re hardly alone with your insecurities. Just about everyone has something they feel insecure about. (I’m a little insecure about my stumpy tail. Woof.)
This affects introverts, extroverts and ambiverts, and people who are shy as well as outwardly brash. Once you realise all this, you don’t need to worry about silly things like if others think of you badly or unfairly when they don’t even know you. There’s no need to be quite so self-conscious, one shouldn’t be so self-absorbed, and one can start to look socially outwardly to include the minds of others rather than myopically inwardly at the self.
Everybody has done embarrassing things or gaffes – the main difference is that you might not personally know what others have done, or some people brush them off more nonchalantly than others, perhaps by looking at the funny side of those moments. Just about everybody has made mistakes or done something that’s at least a tad regrettable, but some learn from their experiences while others try to deny, block out, diminish or self-justify their acts. And again we tend to overestimate how many eyes are on us or how many people have been thinking about us at any given moment hence we tend to overestimate how much people remember or are bothered about such things about us without something that jogs their memories. Everybody else is feeling the same about themselves.
Overall, most of us would benefit from more ‘outrospection’ rather than ‘introspection’ – or getting to know oneself by employing more wider empathy with others rather than looking at the narrow view of within one’s relatively tiny mind which sees itself at the centre of the universe when it’s not. You’ll experience more freedom to create and express. You’ll ruminate less on your own insecurities. And when you exhibit this calm confidence despite whatever’s around you, others will notice the way you relax and the way you smile in their company. You’ll be showing that you know something that they don’t – and that’s because you do! (Post No.: 0029 explained how true confidence is calm.)
Woof. I’m normally a shy, verbally quiet and introverted puppy but I’m happy with the way I am :).