Ever since I was able to speak, my parents instilled in me the mantra of “Only speak when spoken to” – a trait that works well when you’re like four, but not so much when you’re a working journalist having to deal with people every day.
I, Kauthar Gool, am sad to report that despite having more than a year’s worth of experience in writing and journalism, I still have not broken out of my shell. This is a big problem, not only for me, but for shy kids and young adults everywhere!
Below I’ve listed the top five things that go through our minds at any given time. Let’s just say it’s really hard living life as an introvert!
1. We don’t like people
Maybe that sounds a little harsh. What I mean is we often don’t like talking to people and generally like keeping social interactions as quick as possible, unless we really feel comfortable and relaxed around the person we’re chatting to.
2. We are generally very awkward and clumsy
For me, even walking from my desk to rest-room can be a challenging and awkward experience. I go through an entire multiple choice quiz in my head while performing this basic human task, thinking, should I:
A.) Smile at my colleagues as I walk past?
B.) Pretend to be texting on my phone?
C.) Glare at people and occasionally look down when they start glaring back
Sadly, I often choose option C, which makes me come across as stuck-up and unfriendly and doesn’t give people a chance to get to know me for the gentle person I really am. This is often the case with shy people, we seem rude, when we’re really just scared of getting judged by others.
3. We hate being excluded
Now this may seem like a contradiction to the above mentioned traits introverts tend to exhibit, but imagine you’re sitting at your desk at school or work and all you can hear around you are chatters about fantastic weekend plans you haven’t been included in – it hurts to not get invited to places with colleagues and to be side-lined without people even getting to know you first.
4. We have a small circle of friends – great friends
After narrowing down the weirdoes that are willing to spend time with our eccentric selves, we manage to find a group of people (mainly extroverts) that love us and accept us just as we are. I call them extroverts that adopt us as their pet projects.
5. We’re actually awesome people
Introverts are often the coolest people around, but simply have trouble expressing themselves. We like rock music and pizza and high-waisted jeans just like everyone else. We may not like talking much at first, but when we get started, boy oh boy, will we chatter your ears off! Sadly, we’ll hardly ever make the first move, but please try to understand that we are quite normal and just a little reluctant to put ourselves out there.
If you’re an introvert like me, I’ve got a few tips for you to kept you kick that shell to the curb and show the world just how wonderful you are.
Try and speak to a few new people every day.
I don’t just mean the regular ‘hi’and ‘bye’. Ask them how their weekend was or even compliment them on their outfits – people will appreciate your trying to making a connection and see you as a more open individual.
Don’t be afraid to be silly
Laugh when others laugh and don’t be afraid to include yourself in group conversations – if you have an opinion, share it. Not everyone is going to like you, but they’ll appreciate your courage to express your views.
Make eye contact and smile
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But we introverts shudder at the idea of too much human contact. I’ve found that simply smiling and emitting positivity when communicating with people can make a huge difference in how they perceive you.
If you’re an eater, eat. If you’re a writer, write. I’ve found that telling people I’m shy really helps. When you put yourself out there, people tend to respect your bravery instead of using your weaknesses to try and bring you down.
Obviously there’s no magic wand. As you can see, I know the theory, but it’s not always easy to apply it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! Who knows? We may make some life-long friends through simply trying to connect with people – if they reject us, move on with love and positivity knowing that at least we took the first steps in trying to improve our interpersonal skills and relationship with others.