Confidence in social situations is hard to build when you’re an introvert. How do you feel confident when socializing doesn’t come naturally to you? Here are some tips:
1. Join Toastmasters
Public speaking and having conversations are different things. However, a lot of the same skills exist in both. Knowing how to tell stories. Knowing how to listen. Knowing how to overcome your verbal tics, awkward pauses and rambling stories.
Toastmasters is a good place to build on some of these skills. Additionally, unlike most social environments, it’s incredible congratulatory. Most Toastmaster clubs I’ve attended are enthusiastic, even if you’re nervous and lacking confidence, so starting there can be a good step to build confidence.
2. Don’t try to be an extrovert
A mistake I made in my early days was to assume that people wouldn’t like me if I was an introvert. I had to be more social, extroverted and willing to talk to strangers, otherwise I’d never have great friends or relationships.
However, it’s perfectly fine to be quiet and reserved. It’s also perfectly fine to not want to get drunk at parties or socialize every night. Recognize that the goal is to be the best version of yourself, not a different person.
3. Learn to listen more than speak
Another mistake I used to make was thinking that social skills was about saying the right things. That charismatic people were those who had the right response to any situation, they were witty and charming while others fumbled with their words.
In truth, listening is a much more important social skill than talking. The first reason this is true is that most people care mostly about themselves. Being a good listener already improves your social desirability because you give people what they want—someone who is interested in them. The second reason listening matters is because it forces you to pay attention to social cues. Most of being good socializing is about being sensitive to the context so you’ll know what you can say.
4. Pick interesting things first, socialize second
When I first moved to Vancouver, Canada, almost eight years ago, I knew nobody. As a result, I went to Meetup.com and went to a bunch of meetups to try to make friends. This actually worked, a few of those people I met I’m still friends with today.
However, I think a mistake can be to try to socialize from the perspective of meeting people itself. This has two drawbacks. First, it doesn’t give you anything in common with the other person. If you meet someone at a bar, your only overlap is that you both like going to bars. Second, these events can have a “lemon” problem, where people who are normal make friends and leave these groups, leaving behind the people who are the most unpleasant.
A better solution is to pick socializing events that are pre-selected for a particular interest. If you’re going to go to a meetup, it ought to be one that you go to because you’re interested in what they do—whether that’s photography, French or baking.
Developing confidence in social situations takes time and practice, but if you put in the effort you can make it work.