Social Question

hominid's avatar

Are you an introvert that has recently learned something that helps you in social situations?

Asked by hominid (4530 points ) February 14th, 2014

I’m an extreme introvert, and always have. If I’m invited to a neighborhood “party”, I struggle. I’m incapable of being dishonest or lying, and I associate small talk with insincerity. Or at least, I have no idea how to do it.

I don’t watch tv and I don’t follow sports, so I feel adrift when the conversation turns to these topics. And if I end up in a smaller group of people at some point and feel open enough, my attempts at conversation are awkward at best. Nobody wants to hear about the latest study concerning neurotransmitters and beer. They want to drink and enjoy. Nobody wants to hear about evolutionary psychology and recent studies about height preferences in romantic coupling.

And these failed social interactions cause more anxiety in future attempts. So, I think I am in need of a “win” here.

If I honestly want to be able to survive infrequent social interactions, does anyone have any tips?

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23 Answers

hominid's avatar

Note: Something I forgot to mention. Previous suggestions by those that have been ok at socializing have told me to focus on simply asking questions. I do this, but have found that it can only go so far. Then the conversation stops.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You can’t play a part you’re not. Anyone will sense you’re not genuine. Just be yourself. If you need to try to expand your subject list to what the people around you are interested in, within reason. I might be interested in evolutionary psychology. That sounds like a funky thing to discuss. The other thing is pick up on what the person you’re talking with likes. Like I did with the psychology thing.

thorninmud's avatar

My strategy is, like you say, based on asking questions, but that wouldn’t get very far if I’m just asking pro forma stuff to keep throwing the ball back into their court. The questions have to come from a genuine place. Here’s something that I do to help me find that genuine place—

I start by considering an enticing possibility: that people who appear entirely unremarkable may carry a delightful surprise…some extraordinary life experience, character trait, talent, expertise…some little treasure waiting to be found. My questioning then becomes a treasure hunt, trying to draw out the surprise, like calling to get a rare bird to come from the underbrush out into the open for a good look.

Most people are quite willing participants in this. They know they carry something interesting, something that usually goes unrevealed in casual encounters, and they’re happy to have a chance to bring it out.

janbb's avatar

Feeling like I’m looking my best helps boost my confidence as does a glass of wine. Other than that, having a polite out when the conversation flags is a help such as “I’ve just got to refresh my glass.” Sometimes just circulating and saying a few words to each person is the best I can do.

hearkat's avatar

I mostly just listen – those extroverts like to talk about themselves. I do hate when conversations revolve around TV shows because I don’t watch. I am pretty good at being the one who can somehow remember the name of the actor they can’t think of – don’t ask me how or why – or I’m good for pulling out the iPhone to do the fact-checks while they chatter on.

The biggest problem I have is that I get bored and eventually annoyed by idle chit-chat. I don’t want to hear about how people micro-manage their kid’s existence or the other drama they have going on, but I’ve learned the hard way not to offer my opinion about what they’re doing wrong. Basically, I’ve learned to be comfortable with silence—if others feel awkward, that’s their problem. My biggest saving grace is that my sweetie is the same so we act as buffers for each other.

hominid's avatar

@hearkat: “I don’t want to hear about how people micro-manage their kid’s existence”

You bring up a great point. I have very strong opinions about nearly everything. And it’s highly improbable that my opinion on something, such as parenting, is going to be similar to everyone else in the room. So, when the conversation turns to parenting and they all talk about the challenges involved in limiting their kids’ video game time or when the kids complain about being overscheduled, I have to keep quiet or excuse myself. There’s no way that conversation doesn’t turn into a debate – or I offend everyone there.

zenvelo's avatar

There are a couple of aspects that are touched on above. It has to do with being open and honest and interested in what the other person is saying and thinking.

It’s not just asking questions, but engaging in a conversation. Not “what do you do, and how do you do it”, but “how did you end up in that line of work, what’s the most challenging or enjoyable (or interesting, etc.) part of your work?”

And then you respond with what part of your job you like, and how it is similar or dissimilar to the other person’s job, or how the way you got your job was the same or different from them. And all the while using personal feeling statements, and respoding when they make emotional feeling statements.

And not just about work or everyday life, ask if they have any vacations planned, and what their last one was, and if they liked it and would do it again or recommend it.

People don’t give a rat’s ass what you think about a TV show or a movie or a sports team; they want to be liked for who they are, not what they know. Show interest in the person, not in the trivia.

And if you don’t like them or like getting to know them, acknowledge you’re not a sociable person and accept that as who you are. Indeed, you can even own up to it in a non-insulting way, by just admitting in a group, with a smile on your face, that you’re not a sociable person. And people will start asking you about yourself and how you ended up that way, next thing you know you’ll be in a conversation and lose track of time.

Cruiser's avatar

I used to remind myself that in most if not all situations people, strangers even family and friends won’t remember you or anything you said or did in less than 30 minutes.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Years ago when I was in school I took a sales job. I was forced to be social and I have been generally able to tolerate social situations very well since. It does still seem to drain my energy but most people would not peg me as an introvert now unless they really know me. I was terrible at sales btw. I think that it may pay off to simply force yourself to be social in an environment you don’t completely control.

hominid's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me – Good point. When I was in my early twenties, I worked for a company that sold video conferencing equipment and services for adult education. I would do presentations and training to large groups. I felt extremely comfortable and found it real easy to talk to people. But I think it had to do with the audience. Talking with professors is easy and fun. Talking with my neighbors, who work in marketing and financial management, is terrifying.

Coloma's avatar

No. I’m an extrovert that always feels pressure to keep the conversational ball rolling. I am getting better at not feeling pressured and can fall into silence if nobody will play back with me, but… for my personality type nothing is more frustrating than trying to get some flow to a conversation with those that can’t keep the ball in the air. lol
I have a surprisingly introverted side as well and am either on or off, not much middle ground. Half social butterfly half hermit but nothing stimulates me more than having a lively and witty exchange with another.

GoldieAV16's avatar

*Nobody wants to hear about the latest study concerning neurotransmitters and beer.
*Nobody wants to hear about evolutionary psychology and recent studies about height preferences in romantic coupling.

I SO wish you were invited to the parties I get invited to. You could sit by me.

Cupcake's avatar

I agree with @GoldieAV16. I would be happy to sit and chat about our deeply held opinions and beliefs in a mature, concise and respectful way.

Either look for another introvert to be awkward with, or find an extrovert who can get you out of your shell a bit. Or keep filling up your plate with snacks and eat very slowly. I find that I constantly drink water to avoid talking at parties.

Coloma's avatar

@Cupcake Haha…I am the extrovert and I just drink, period, and go off and amuse myself when I cannot drum up any interesting social banter.

hominid's avatar

@Cupcake: “Either look for another introvert to be awkward with”

I did find one last year. He’s a rocket scientist (literally), except he can’t discuss his work. He works for Raytheon (defense contractor). We spoke for nearly an hour on the ethical and legal issues surrounding new technologies. He was also willing to engage in a small “debate” about vegetarianism and the local foods movement.

Sits next to @GoldieAV16 and @Cupcake and starts conversation about this and that

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

I am not a big talker in social situations. I am a good listener and find that people always seem to open up to me since I actually listen and I’m not ready to cut them off mid sentence with what I want to say. I can’t stand people who get on their soapbox and knock you over the head with their soap.

Seek's avatar

I usually am able to find another person who is just as introverted, nerdy, and uncomfortable as I am, and we stick together for the rest of the time.

I see someone else already mentioned that.

Barring that idea, a good quantity of Gin and Tonic can make it much easier to pretend to listen to the average person’s inane small talk.

cheebdragon's avatar

You don’t care about their interests and/or what is going on in their lives, yet you expect them to care about you & yours? That’s just not how it works, my advice is to accept that you might not posses the qualities required to be a social butterfly.

hominid's avatar

@cheebdragon: “You don’t care about their interests and/or what is going on in their lives, yet you expect them to care about you & yours?”

Not at all. Re-read my question. I have no expectation that anyone will find anything about me interesting or acceptable. I just want to find ways to attend occasional social occasions and “pull it off”.

cheebdragon's avatar

Fitting in

Sorry, you’re right you didn’t say that, @hearkat said it and for some reason i thought it was you…my apologies!

(I still think you will like the link though, it’s true as fuck.)

Cruiser's avatar

@hominid…if you sat next to me and initiated a conversation about this you and I would have at least a 12 hour conversation about it. I am well versed and overly experienced in the cause and effect of alcohol and not something I learned in AA either. AA believes being an alcoholic is a disease…in a way it is….it is indeed a disease of choice. Alcohol is just one of many choices and ways to mimic this dopamine response in the brain that tells us that beer, a martini, a romp in the hay, a Coca Cola, a Kit Kat candy bar, or a snort of cocaine feels so damn good and you want more and more and more…

If you want to talk more about this though…you will have to buy me a beer! ;)

hearkat's avatar

@cheebdragonNo. I did NOT say that I don’t care about other people’s interests or what they have going on in their lives. How on earth did you contrive that ridiculously over-generalized statement? In fact, I am very empathetic and people often compliment me here as well as in face-to-face interactions, for being a compassionate listener and offering supportive advice.

I also did not say that I expect others to care about my interests and life happenings. Not only do I not place expectations on others (beyond common courtesy), but I don’t talk about my life because I know it is not interesting to others, but it is how I like it. I am very happy and I keep to myself. The times I reference my life is when I use my experiences as an example related to a situation someone else has brought up. I’m sure I make conversationalists feel awkward because I don’t talk, again, as is mentioned before – I’m comfortable with silence, if others find it awkward, it’s their problem.

What I actually said was that I said that I don’t like idle chit-chat, and I don’t want to hear about the drama others create in their lives, and referenced micro-managing their kid’s existence as an example (based on a person I have to spend time with who won’t allow her adult children to grow-up). The point being that I hate ‘drama’ that is manufactured by the people who whine about it, because it is clear that they need something to whine about so people will feel sorry for them. I have a keen drama-detector because I used to be a drama creator, as well as being related to several who could win prizes.

When someone carries on about such pointless stress that they are responsible for, I can feel my stress hormones rising because I want to tell them how they only have themselves to blame for their “problems”—but that has never been successful (as mentioned in my original comment), because the defense-mechanisms on these folks (as on myself, when I was that way) have highly sensitive triggers. I don’t hide my feelings well, and I don’t want to, but it is exceedingly uncomfortable being in a situation where one has to subject themselves to listening to the pointless suffering of others.

Seek's avatar

Hear, hear on the idle chit-chat thing. Seriously, I know what the weather is doing, yes, traffic sucks, your boss is a douche and your kids are driving you up the wall. Whatever. Is there anything else we can talk about without going through a half hour of that crap first? Because by the end of the traditional “let’s start a conversation” script, I’m exhausted.

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