In 2022, I made the painful transition from introvert to extrovert. It has greatly improved my life by making me feel more confident and comfortable in social settings. While the fear of talking to new people still lingers on, I can now override that little voice inside. Several people have expressed interest in my conversion, and I wanted to document how I changed. If you are looking for an avenue for self improvement that is challenging and rewarding, I’d recommend giving this a try.
As the old joke goes, introverts look at their shoes when talking, but extroverts look at your shoes. I originally thought the truth was along these lines, where introverts don’t talk to other people, but extroverts do. When I talked to people about it, a lot of people claimed to be introverts, even though they’re social and engaging people.
Introverts do not get energy talking to other people. It’s not black and white but this is the litmus test for if you are introverted. Prior to 2022, I was like this. However, it manifested in less obvious ways. For example:
- “I don’t want to talk to that person, I would just be interrupting them.”
- “There’s no reason to go out, it’s expensive and I don’t have anyone to go with.”
- [At the airport gate] “I don’t want to ask someone if they are calling my zone. I’ll wait until they announce the next boarding zone”
- “That person looks attractive, but they have their back turned, so they don’t want to talk. If someone wanted to meet me, they would make it obvious.”
- [While waiting in the line at the grocery store] “I’ll pull out my phone and check on the news / Instagram / Twitter / TikTok.”
A superficial understanding would be that these sentiments are about not wanting to talk with others. However, a more introspective survey would show (at least for me) that these insecurities and confidence issues. The surface level logic makes sense, and no one can really challenge that (e.g. you might actually be interrupting someone) at face value. I would rebut that it’s more about fear of rejection.
If you want to:
- Find a romantic partner
- Get a better job
- Ask VCs for money
- Get better at sales
Then, being an introvert will not serve you. This is the conclusion I came to at the beginning of 2022. I decided that the awkward and cringy experiences would ultimately be worth it for my own personal development. I needed to venture from one side of the social chasm to the other.
Extroverts absorb energy talking to other people. Not only do they get ramped up talking and learning about others, every moment in the conversation makes them want it more. Have you ever felt drained after attending a social obligation? Have you ever thought “Uggh I’ve been out talking to people all day, I need a break”? Extroverts do not feel this way.
I can see the internal changes inside myself. It’s a mindset thing; the first thought when seeing other people changes. Notice the difference in narrative:
- “That person looks interesting, I wonder what their story is?”
- “Maybe that person is interested in the same things as I am, I want to go find out.”
- “People go out to socialize, maybe they’re just a little shy at first.”
- “I noticed something interesting, but I don’t have anyone to tell. Maybe that person nearby feels the same way”.
- “I am great guy, and I’m entitled to talk to that person.
If that last one bothers you, don’t let it! My own pendulum swung so far into the introversion side before I started my journey. In order to push myself to feel comfortable, I had to override my own internal monologue to be bold enough to talk to others. Remember, it’s a free country! It’s not illegal to talk to the human beings around you. The extrovert thinks: “if they don’t want to talk to me, they will let me know [via verbal or body language cues]“.
One of the major downsides I noticed of being extroverted is that we (they) feel a desire to talk to others. Some people don’t want to talk, but we have an unfulfilled need. As a result, extroverts are under constant rejection every day. They have to talk to others; their nature compels them to initiate. Would you rather live in a world where you never talk to anyone, or a world where no one wants to talk to you? I think the extrovert scenario is the more painful one!
How to Make the Leap
Several mindset changes were needed for me to make the change. I won’t sugar-coat it, it’s going to be a painful and possibly embarrassing experience. Here is what I internalized:
Talk to People Around You This one is going to hurt the most. When you’re at the grocery store, set a goal of talking to one other person. Find something about them that you can talk about without it being forced. Be confident to say something at the risk of the other person politely agreeing and ending the conversation. For example, when ordering dinner, ask the waiter what time is busiest, or what do most other people get. At the library, ask if they’ve read the book you are checking out. The small talk is crucial to building the confidence to talk to more people.
One of the things I didn’t realize is that people often want to be talked to. The cashier is bored with the nameless and identityless people coming in and out all day. I’m not saying to be weird, but try to find something you might agree on. How many people feel extremely lonely in the world today? Ask someone if it feels harder to meet people today than it was 10 years ago and you better believe they’ll say yes! The human connection is what people crave. Another way to look at it: How does the other person feel that you thought they would be interested in talking to you? It makes them feel valued. You are making other people feel valued.
Always Say Yes. Did someone invite you out? Say yes. Did someone ask if you wanted to take a trip to Montana? Say yes. Do you want to go out to a bar after work? Yes. Are you super tired after working out and feel like crashing? Well, if someone asked if you want to go bowling you are going to say yes. Yes, Yes, Yes.
The reason is a mindset thing, not a “good idea” thing. It may be the case that no one else is going to that pool party and only you and one other person shows up, with way too many pizzas and snacks. But you need to start thinking about how it’s an opportunity. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you get to do.
People will stop asking you if you say no too many times. Saying yes begets more yes. I started getting invited to a lot of stuff, noticeably after going to a few shaky events. Plus, for each cringe event I went to, there was a silver lining where I learned something I would have never found out otherwise. Think about how much rejection the other person risks asking you if you want to ____? Honor their confidence by saying yes. Focus on how good it could be, rather than giving into fear and thinking about how weird it will be.
Embrace Awkwardness The sitcom “The Office” features tons of very uncomfortable and bothersome scenarios at work. If you’re like me, you both squirm and laugh at the unusual high jinks. In a sense, you self-insert into the scene and sympathize with how awkward the characters feel.
Embrace this. Imagine the worst thing you said or did and how embarrassing it was. (You know that thing your brain reminds you of when you’re trying to sleep?) I’m willing to bet that if there was an audience watching the live-action reproduction of that debacle they would laugh (and squirm) along just like in The Office. Once the moment has passed, it won’t feel bad; it will just be something you can laugh at and keep as a funny story.
Don’t Monopolize the Void When the conversation runs dry, don’t feel the need to keep talking. Extroversion is about learning about and connecting with others. Not everyone is going to be a match, and it serves no one to try and force it. Let the conversation lull if that’s what’s right.
I had (and maybe still have?) a bad habit of trying to followup on everything someone else says. It left no room in the dialogue for the other person to open up: to be heard. It’s painful to have that silence, but I’ve noticed other people will reveal themselves more if you leave them room. And remember, they hate that silence too!
I took a Myers Briggs test at the beginning of 2022, and then again around August. I answered honestly how I really felt and what I would do. The test picked up the change from IXXX to EXXX which was kind of amazing to me.
Additionally, my confidence in myself has risen dramatically. Other people have noticed as well. It’s not fully complete, but it’s far enough long that I can see what is needed to finish.
Confidence and comfort to talk to others is held inside like a sieve. It gets refilled constantly by talking to others, which is how extroverts rally. I feel like I can last for longer and longer in conversation, and at some point I won’t be tired by it. A friend of mine said he could talk all day long (like 8 hours) and hunger for more at the end of it. This is the level I am going for and the changes in attitude I listed above are will what will get me there.