If I look back at my adult life so far, here’s how I have handled my introversion in a nutshell:
- PHASE 1: Roughly 20 years of trying to ignore my introversion, leading an extraverted lifestyle, and totally burning out in the process.
- PHASE 2: Roughly 3 years of turning way in, cocooning in burnout recovery, and mostly avoiding interactions except with a very small inner circle.
- PHASE 3: Roughly 1 year (so far) of feeling like I’m ready to “get out there”, expand that circle a bit, and have some fun peopling.
Today, I’d like to share some lessons learned from PHASE 3.
Even though I’ve been peopling a little more in the past year, I would still consider myself an extreme introvert and I’m trying to be really mindful as I’m searching for the right balance moving forward. The 20 years of unlimited extraverting pretty near did me in both mentally and physically and I have no intention of replaying that crap. 🙂
So the question has been how do I reap the benefits of extraverting – meeting cool people, having interesting conversations – without overextending myself and without all of it just feeling like a giant ball of stress.
Here’s what I have learned.
5 Ways To Make Extraverting Easier For Extreme Introverts
1. Get Enough Alone Time
If you were to ask a bunch of random people on the street how to make extraverting easier, many of them would probably suggest lots of practice. Because the more you practice, the better you’ll get, right?
Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the exact opposite. I think that if you want to make extraverting easier you should introvert more. Because here are the choices:
- Extravert a ton → Get tired → Spend all your extraverting time wishing you were somewhere else.
- Introvert a ton → Feel recharged → Spend all your extraverting time in meaningful conversation or just plain enjoying the company.
2. Go For Quality Rather Than Quantity
So along those lines, I would recommend going for quality over quantity. You have a limited amount of time and energy for extraverting, so it makes sense to “save yourself” for interactions that are the most meaningful.
Who are the people that matter to you the most? What kinds of conversations do you most look forward to?
How can you focus more on the people and the kinds of conversations that mean the most? And how can you minimize interactions that are really just kind of a waste of time and energy?
3. Speak Up With A Purpose
Okay, now what about when you are actually interacting with people?
Well, I would continue with the “save yourself” philosophy. 🙂 You don’t have to talk as much as the extraverts or try to keep up with them. Interactions don’t have to be a “whose voice do we hear the most” competition.
If you have something to say and it seems like the people present are actually capable of hearing you, then by all means say it.
If you feel like you have an important point to make, then make it.
If you are having an interesting one-on-one conversation, then talk your heart out.
But if you are not that interested in the topic of conversation and other people seem more eager to chit chat, then why bother? You are allowed to just sit back.
4. Work On Self Acceptance
Being comfortable with “not bothering” requires working on self acceptance.
You are okay the way you are.
You don’t have to be talkative, visibly enthusiastic, or quick on your feet all the time. You don’t have to twist yourself this way and that to fit someone else’s standards.
You can focus on getting the most out of your strengths – enjoying one-on-one conversations, being a good listener, being thoughtful.
You don’t have to be everything for everyone.
5. Practice Mindfulness
One of the reasons extraverting can be so draining is that it can activate your nervous system and put you on slightly higher level of alert. This is especially the case for introverts who are also highly sensitive people.
You can counter this reaction and bring down the level of potential drainage by trying to be mindful of what’s happening in your body.
Periodically check to make sure your muscles are relaxed.
Periodically check to make sure that you are breathing slowly and calmly into your abdomen.
And I said “practice” mindfulness for a reason. This takes some practice to make it habitual! 🙂
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