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I prefer the comfort of my bed and Netflix to a loud night out on the town. Give me a good book or two, light a candle, and I’m set for hours. Very rarely do I make plans with friends during the week, and I’ve gotten really good at scurrying into a new aisle at the grocery store when I see somebody I know.

This is the life of an introvert. And if you’re reading this, chances are you can relate because you’re an introvert too! We love and demand our solitude—which means we aren’t particularly fond of big social events, large crowds, or anything that requires our being the center of attention. I have no shame in this and you shouldn’t either! But we can’t deny the fact that this becomes a problem when life requires us to walk a day in an extrovert’s shoes.

Meeting new people in college and interviewing for jobs post-college were two big hurdles I had to clear. Thanks to a little advice from my extroverted brother, I did so successfully—but I still work every day at being more outgoing and social when need be. And the following guidance is helping me to do just that:

    1) Set an intention.

    As with all new endeavors, you should first set your intentions and be sure to make them realistic. “Setting realistic goals helps you stay focused and calm. If your ultimate reason for being more outgoing is to make more friends and have fun, then break that down into smaller goals,” Bianca Rodriguez, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, advises. “For example, plan to talk with two new people at the party you’re going to tomorrow night or ask one coworker to join you for lunch this week. Setting smaller goals helps you to see your progress and feel more motivated to keep going.”

    2) Celebrate small victories.

    You should also celebrate little accomplishments along your journey. “If you are a particularly introverted or quiet individual for whom being outgoing is challenging and daunting, don’t ask too much of yourself in the beginning,” says Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert. “Doing something as simple as striking up a small conversation with a grocery store clerk may feel like a major step in the right direction for you—and you should treat it as such! Be proud of overcoming fears and anxieties regardless of how relatively small your accomplishment may seem. The important thing is that it was a big deal for you–not anyone else.”

    3) Be interested.

    Also, be interested and engaged when you’re branching out and talking to new people. “One of the better ways to engage in conversation when you’re not particularly comfortable is to ask questions about the other person,” explains Licensed Psychologist Tanisha Ranger. “But it’s not an interrogation, you’re not running a background check here. If you are genuinely interested in knowing more about people and/or understanding what makes them who they are, this part will not be too difficult. People, in general, do like to talk about themselves and will likely experience you as very likeable.”

    4) Build on your personal strengths.

    It will also help to utilize your personal strengths, as explained by Heidi McBain, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: “If you’re a good listener, come up with some great conversation starters, and then ask good questions to keep the conversations flowing. Plus, most people love to talk about themselves, and their personal likes and dislikes, so they will probably feel really positive about your conversation as well!” McBain goes on to say that if you’re typically introverted, you should schedule in some down time at social events so you can recharge. Doing so will help you to capitalize on your strengths even further when you step outside of your comfort zone.

    5) Stay true to you.

    And finally, but perhaps most importantly, stay true to who you are. “We live in an extrovert-centric society, but you don’t have to be anything that you’re not. There’s absolutely no shame in staying home, being alone, doing what makes you most comfortable,” Mental Health Strategist Mark Henick explains. “That said, you also want to push yourself and find ways to be uncomfortable. Growth only happens when we’re uncomfortable. You only learn your limits by testing them.” Furthermore, he says it’s okay to be afraid; in fact, it’s good to be afraid: “Sometimes we get so tied up in our head about all the things we think we can’t do, we forget to find out what we actually can do.”

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