Social Question

silverangel's avatar

Can a completely introverted person become an extroverted person?

Asked by silverangel (936 points ) March 19th, 2012

Is it possible even if it is a bit by bit? Or is this just a character that will remain unchanged regardless of whatever you try?
I met this girl, she says that she prefers sitting alone in an empty class in her school rather than sitting with people, though she wants and tries to be friends with people in her class but there is this one problem that stops her. She can be friends with girls (she gets anxious whenever she thinks of talking to guys so she couldn’t be friends with guys) but her problem is maintaining their friendship. She said she can ask the girl she wants to be friends with about her interests like favorite books, favorite music,... etc. but once she knows all of it she can’t find anything to say in the days after that and she just remains silent during most of the conversations. She wishes to be more talkative and more outgoing but she never finds anything to say to her friends whenever she meets them except about the weather and general stuff..
Maybe she lacks knowledge?? What do you think? How can she be helped?

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26 Answers

tom_g's avatar

40-year-old introvert here. It’s possible that her desire to be “more talkative and more outgoing” is at least partially influenced by a belief that she should be. It’s also quite possible that she just doesn’t enjoy much of common social behavior.

I spent years trying to figure out much of this about myself, and still don’t have a good answer. But I do know that I don’t enjoy parties. I prefer meaningful conversations that are one-on-one. I have a few good friends, and tend to let loose associations fall apart because I don’t really have the energy to maintain the tenuous threads that hold them together. Since it doesn’t come naturally to me, I always thought that if I just learned how, I could be happier because it appears that everyone enjoys meaningless blather about such and such. I am happier now that I can accept my introversion.

Anyway, to somewhat answer your question: I believe that to some degree, you can appear to be less introverted if you work hard at it. But in my experience, introversion goes deeper, and may be something that we carry for a lifetime.

thorninmud's avatar

Introversion and extroversion are very fundamental aspects of one’s personality. There is a strong genetic component. There are very few features of personality that are so clearly evident from very early in childhood. Researchers can take babies just a few months old, expose them to stimuli, and tell with a high degree of accuracy whether they will be introverts or extroverts.

@tom_g is right on target in saying that an introvert can learn to behave as an extrovert when need be, but it will never feel “right”. It’s just a show that one has to put on occasionally because we live in a society that values extroversion. This culture treats introversion like a disorder, something that you ought to get over, because only extroverts will become good leaders and pillars of society. The emphasis is placed on putting yourself out there confidently.

But the fact is that introversion hasn’t always been seen as a handicap. The “salesman” personality really only became ascendant a few decades ago. In fact, Asian cultures are still quite put off by extroversion. Introverts have their own strengths. They don’t need to be “fixed”. They need to be allowed to function under the conditions that bring out their strengths. They need to be able to withdraw into solitude, work out of the public eye, be silent. To an introvert, it’s no tragedy to have only a couple of close friends. They don’t care much for small talk, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy spending time with people. But they do feel very uncomfortable in any situation where they feel that they’re not meeting others’ expectations about how “outgoing” they should be.

People are like plants: there are some that love the sun and will respond with big showy flowers. Others are happier in the shade and rarely bloom. Nothing wrong with either, but neither will really thrive in the other’s environment.

marinelife's avatar

Probably not. She could, with work, become more outgoing, but her basic nature is unlikely to change.

Coloma's avatar

We can modify our behaviors, but nature trumps nurture to a large degree.
Maturity also often brings changes to ones relational style with quieter people becoming more at ease and outgoing, to a degree, and more extroverted types learning to value their alone time. Neither will completely morph into their polar opposites though.
I am a 100% extrovert, easily start up conversations with complete strangers, very confident, approachable, humorous and not a bit of anxiety about walking into a group setting and introducing myself.

However, in my middle age I have mellowed out quite a bit in terms of really enjoying my own company and solitude more and more.
I now call myself an extroverted hermit. lol

So yes, change is possible and sometimes evolves very naturally.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Sometimes. I know I’m a lot more extroverted online than I am “in real life”. Your friend would really have to want to change and it would take a lot of work to go from one extreme to the other. It would still take quite a bit of work for her to find a happy medium. We can’t just flip a switch on our personalities. =0)

jonsblond's avatar

I’m a 41 year old introvert who is still trying to figure this out myself, so I’m following this question to see if there might be some good advice. (and there is so far!)

I did want to share a recent article that was in Time Magazine. It made me feel a little bit better about being an introvert. The Upside Of Being An Introvert

annewilliams5's avatar

She has to really want it. I’m an extrovert, and there are times that I don’t want to talk at all.
@Coloma I’m the reason certain planes are built with an aisle with just one seat, and the other with 2. My husband, the introvert, seats me next to the person on the opposite side of the isle.
I get it. No, I truly do. I am the pain in the ass-nooooooo one wants to sit next to.

gondwanalon's avatar

Yes and no.

An introverted person can play the part of an extroverted person but it will take a strong desire and hard work to do so. Also it will be a total facade and will not be permanent.

I’m introverted and have learned to switch gears to act much more assertively at work when I need to. That is not easy and it is hard to maintain the strong mannerisms for long before I get tired and revert back to who I really am.

Coloma's avatar

@annewilliams5 Haha, well, I’ll be your seat mate, we can talk each other to death. Shit, I had a 13 hour flight to Asia in 2010 and I thought I was going to spontaneously combust from lack of stimulation. I did laps around the plane watching people sleep. lol

keobooks's avatar

I think people mistake introverted with shy. I am very introverted, but I am outgoing and enjoy socializing for short periods of time. I just need a long time to recover after a long or intense period of socializing. If I spend too much time with people I get what I call “Peopled out” and I need to go off and be alone for a few hours or even a day or two.

Extroverts tend to get energy from socializing. They may feel drained if they are alone too long. Introverts tend to get energy from being alone. They may feel drained if they socialize too much.

There’s nothing positive or negative about either state. It is what it is. I get really tired of people thinking being introverted is something that needs to be changed.

Coloma's avatar

@keobooks I agree, and as an extrovert well, we have our stuff too, I am always expected to be “on” and if I go sit down quietly at a party for a few minutes next thing you know everyone is asking me if I’m okay. lololol
Us extroverts often have a “life of the party” expectation from others and people are shocked when we want some space and a few minutes of quiet. Every side has it’s challenges.

I also never sound sick when I am sick and often think people don’t beleve me when I say I don’t feel well. I have had bosses and friends say ” You don’t SOUND sick!”
Bosses especially because I don’t sound all feeble and sick, I have to be almost dead for you to hear it in my voice and so I have always felt that nobody believes me when I am sick. lol

Mariah's avatar

I have not become an extrovert, but I have become a HELL of a lot less introverted over the years.

Five years ago, all I wanted to do all day long was shut myself alone in my room and engage in my solitary hobbies. Today, I still have solitary hobbies I enjoy, but I don’t like to be all alone. I would rather be in a room with other people, even if we’re just doing our own things and not talking to each other at all. I have grown to like the company.

I don’t know what prompted this change, but I do know that the change certainly can happen.

I also used to have significant social anxiety, but that is much better now. I’m not sure how much of that has to do with the fact that I’m on anti-anxiety medication now, and how much of it has to do with leaving for college and getting thrown into a situation where I needed to make conversation with strangers if I wanted to have friends, but I have become completely comfortable with sitting one on one with someone I don’t know very well and carrying out a conversation, which is something that I would have dreaded in the past.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think so. But an introvert can learn some more outgoing behaviors and can become more comfortable with them by practicing. I did this myself in my twenties. It didn’t change my basic nature, but it enlarged my field of options. Sometimes I wanted to be able to address strangers, speak up in a group, organize and host an event, and—what was most important to me—choose my own friends instead of having only the friends who chose me.

DancingMind's avatar

I’d recommend Joan Didion’s essay, “On Self-Respect”. [I found a copy online here ….although I’m wondering about copyright…?. It maybe not be what your friend’s looking for/needing, but I found it to have impact.

YARNLADY's avatar

It might be similar to the phobia immersion cure. You learn to change your behavior in various situations, but you basic nature doesn’t really change.

I have learned not to scream and run when I see spiders, but my basic physical reaction is still rapid heartbeat and a sick feeling in my stomach.

saint's avatar

Yes. Any time they choose to.

Coloma's avatar

@YARNLADY

That’s better than screaming when you step on the bathroom scale. lol

DaphneT's avatar

I’m an introvert, and it seems there is a new term being used, ambivert. I have been told that I seem like an extrovert on many occasions, which suggests that I may be more ambivert, but I’ll never be an extrovert because I find people-time draining and really do love to have my alone-time.

So, your friend could study the Art of Conversation. Anyone can learn to converse, even enjoy it, whether for the sake of conversation like an extrovert, or for the sake of the technical skill which is more like an introvert.

abysmalbeauty's avatar

Perhaps you haven’t gotten down to the root of the problem quite yet…. why does she have nothing to speak about after she learns about people? She obviously thinks therefore there is SOMETHING to talk about… she chooses to keep her thoughts to herself so why is that.

It sounds like from what you have described that people are not people at all to her, they are subjects to be studied… which is why she keeps moving from one to the next.

downtide's avatar

It’s not possible to change the basic nature of being introvert/extrovert, but you can learn behaviour that compensates for it. It will never feel natural or comfortable to her though.

wundayatta's avatar

I want to be loved, but I dislike dealing with strangers. I have no confidence. I don’t like the phone. I hate asking people to do anything for me because the prospect of being told “no” is more than I can stand. I am convinced that people will always say “no” to me. I don’t deserve anything.

Since I don’t deserve anything, it’s best not to ask for anything. It’s best to spend as little time with others as possible. It’s best to take no risks and not ask anyone for anything lest they say no and potentially deal my psyche that final blow. The “it’s not worth being on this planet any more” blow.

But, if I don’t reach out to people, no one will ever love me. No one will know me.

So it was the need for love that drove me to learn how to talk to people. I drove me to learn how to persuade people. It drove me to learn how to ask people to do things for me.

I still am very uncomfortable asking people for things, but I have dealt with the issue existentially, and gotten rid of the idea that deserving has anything to do with it. No, I don’t deserve anything, but that doesn’t matter. No one else does, either. It’s our life to do what we want with and fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. I’m a total joke, anyway, and completely undeserving. It can’t get any worse. Might as well do what I want.

So I learned how to sell things. I sold some of the hardest things there are to sell: ideas, and I sold them door to door and I was good at it. Perhaps an artist. I raised a lot of money for various causes.

I also learned how to talk in public by thinking through my points before I spoke, and learning to be happy if I remembered half of what I wanted to say when I spoke. I learned to enjoy the process of allowing my mind to wander… in public. Really weird. But people seem to like it, often enough. But that’s just gravy. The main thing is that I get to see what my mind is going to come up with.

I learned how to tolerate embarrassment. I learned how to poke fun at myself so I could get the embarrassment out of the way up front. I learned that people seem to like that. The other day I spilled coffee all over myself just as I was about to give a lecture. So I made fun of myself for that. I don’t think anyone cared much that I spilled coffee, other than me. But dealing with it helped me get past my obsession about it. My obsession with the idea that other people thought badly of me for it. Who the fuck cares? Well. I do. But then again, I can pretend I don’t.

Really, it’s one hundred different little things that have helped me tolerate talking to people a little better. I need to find places where the people feel like me. That makes it a lot easier. What could I say to a room full of ditto-heads? What do you say to a room full of idiots, anyway? Compliment them on their ability to understand a word or two when there is music constantly overriding it? Blech!

Andreas's avatar

@wundayatta, it sounds like you’ve been inside my head. It can be scary to realise that there are many introverts around. I’m sure many of our lurker members on Fluther will also relate to what you and others have said on this thread.

The best to you and yours.

glenjamin's avatar

When I am a smoker, I am an extrovert. Whenever I quit, I go back to being an introvert. As if I would be more extroverted if there were sufficient means to break the ice without trying too hard.

Paradox25's avatar

I think you’re confusing shyness with introversion but they’re not the same thing. There are shy extroverts as well. An introvert is somebody who gets their energy from their own thoughts more than being around other people. Also introversion is not inferior to extroversion. Your friend has an issue with shyness, not introversion.

tom_g's avatar

Interesting talk on introverts: TED Talk link.

chinchin31's avatar

I am an introvert with strangers but extrovert with people i know reallllly well.

I think anyone can learn new behaviours but at the end of the day you are who you are.

Introversion is a type of personality. You will always get tired by social situations but you can force yourself to do them but it would always be that forced !!!.

Sometimes I hate that I am an introvert. I wish I could change it but I don’t know how to. I am often jealous of people that find it so easy to make lots of friends. I just don’t understand it. Probably in the same way extroverts don’t understand me and my ability to spend so much time alone.

I think I am quite friendly but sometimes I feel like people think I am too quiet. But I don’t know how to change it.

I do have friends but very few.

I am sure there are also popular people who wish their lives were more anonymous and that everyone didn’t want a piece of them.

Nobody’s life is perfect. God made us all different for a reason. !!

No personality type is better than the other.

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