Yes, I’m known as the quiet one to the unknown- although if I’m close to you, others may believe I never stop talking. Just ask my family and close friends. I know I’m an introvert at heart, so I’ve been reading up on introverts and finding out what makes them tick as well as what to do to break out a little bit and broaden my horizons.
My shyness started at a young age. My older brother definitely had a more outgoing personality- everyone knew him in all the circles of school, student government, and the local community. I think naturally I gravitated towards everything he didn’t or wasn’t- sports that you could play as an individual (bowling, running), activities that could be appreciated in a solo manner (reading, writing, music) and learning how to occupy my free time without large groups of friends around me.
I preferred getting to know people on a one to one basis as groups intimidated me. I didn’t know if I could keep a conversation rolling, my sense of humor wasn’t razor sharp and being a brain had more bad points than good, especially through my early adolescence/ junior high days. I think activities like introducing new students to the school, helping people learn how to bowl at the local bowling alley and setting up at flea markets selling goods with my father taught me important lessons on direct communication, getting to know others as well as taking risks to get to know more people.
Even as an adult the thought of meeting new people can send butterflies churning through my stomach. I’m bowling in a new league on Mondays, which although in a small house, has more new people than familiar faces. I knew three people out of the 32 to start- so I’ve made it a point to speak to at least two people that I don’t know every night that I’m there. I spend more time asking questions and as a result, I don’t have to worry about carrying the bulk of the conversation. I guess I use my on the feet interview skills that I’ve developed through years of interviewing bands to know how to get the most out of these people. At least on my Thursday league I’ve bowled in for three years I’ve gotten to know more people- it’s a bigger league but I already knew a lot of the bowlers before from years of competing in different houses.
I’m aware of the fact that being an introvert is a day in, day out work in progress. There are times I do enjoy solitude, no matter how many people in the world love me and want to be around me. There are days where I prefer silence, the stillness of nature and can’t handle swirling chaos going about me with zooming traffic or children that are stressed out. There are times where I feel like that old Calgon commercial, the one where the woman sits in her bathtub of bubbles and takes the world away in her mind.
The bottom line to getting to know introverts? Slow and steady exposure. Don’t expect us to become comfortable with one or two interactions. We gain comfort over time. We prefer situations that aren’t as intimidating- which I think is exactly why talking through the internet is a perfect vehicle for introverts. Make it a mission when you get to know new people to also improve the lives of the shy ones. Believe me, get me in the right environment and any inhibitions go away. Live concerts, bowling, book stores and sporting events are areas where I’m in my element.
And if you are an introvert? Do not give up- you can become comfortable as learning the skills to be a better conversationalist can happen at any time you put your mind to it. Study others who are successful talkers and ask them questions. Read books and listen to audio material from experts in the field. Look up Toastmasters in your local area as they are a great resource for improving your speaking skills- or take a Dale Carnegie course if they are available.
We have only one life to live- do not let fear grip your ability to develop future relationships. It’s the quality that matters in the long run- take the first step today.