Get to know your introvert
Sometimes people assume that introverts are shy, but that isn’t always the case. Often introverts are people who prefer to observe rather than be part of the action. Introverts want to have the control to interact with others on their own terms and at their own pace. You know how it feels when someone introduces you as “hilarious” and then you have a sea of faces in front of you waiting for your mouth to open and entertain them with your incredible humor? An introvert can feel jarred that way by being dragged into a crowd of strangers. Yes, you can say something funny, but perhaps you don’t want to perform. Contrary to popular belief, introverts enjoy social events, too, and can thrive in stimulating company… so long as they can self soothe. (More on that in another blog post!)
Does your introvert really need help?
Have you considered the possibility that your friend is happy? Maybe s/he is enjoying watching and feeling quite fulfilled with the experience. If your introverted friend strikes up a conversation with someone new it’s likely to be more meaningful to them both than the connection you’d envisioned. You love knowing that you talked with (to? at?) 50+ people in one evening. Perhaps you’ve made a new friend or found a job opportunity from that networking frenzy – congratulations! However, your introverted friend processes relationships differently and would probably find more value in talking with only one or two new people and making a deeper connection.
How to really help your introvert
Supposing your introvert is unhappy in the situation that you’ve both found yourself in. Ask! First, check out your observation – how is your friend feeling? Then, what would s/he like you to do to support them – don’t make assumptions based on what would make you glow! When well-meaning friends try to help out by introducing the introverted person to all their friends, it can backfire. Would your friend like to be introduced to someone in particular? Would they like to know that you’d be OK if they chose to leave? Perhaps they’d just like to spend a moment hanging out with you. Some people go to social events to meet new contacts, others to enjoy connecting with people they already like. If s/he is looking miserable then your intervention might be welcomed, even if it’s just some gentle feedback on how they’re bringing other people (you) down.
Just a shy extrovert?
OK, so maybe your friend really is just shy and would love to shine like you do. Have you considered where their shyness comes from? Perhaps they have low self esteem and doubt their contributions are worthy. Or maybe they have social anxiety disorder. Accessing your own gentle, empathetic skills will be appreciated and helpful in either case.
They’re probably not at this party or they’re standing by the door waiting to escape. Let them. Introverts need peace, shy people need a hand to hold, so if your shy introverted friend has over-challenged themselves by attending an event that demands exhibitionism they’re likely to be highly uncomfortable. Let them know that you love them just how they are and give them the right to choose how to proceed.
Get to know your introverted friend and enjoy all that s/he can offer you! Most introverts are good observers of human behavior – your friend might have some great insights that could further your social ambitions. They also make for great conversationalists and are likely to listen to you better than a lot of extroverts.
What type are you?
Are you a confident, well adjusted introvert? Or are you an outgoing extrovert? Perhaps you’re a shy introvert? Or would you classify yourself as a repressed extrovert? Most people are a mix of character types according to the situation. Are you different at a board meeting than when you go visit your parents for the holidays? Where would you put yourself normally? Comments are always welcome on my Facebook page.