An extrovert asks: How do I become more of an introvert?

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I had a question in my inbox that really made my day last Thursday. It was from a guy who asked the following:

How do I become more of an introvert? I can’t seem to think before I speak, for example, and it gets me in trouble. And I’m an adult, so I should be able to entertain myself, alone, without having to chat up everyone who passes by.

In this era of the media, teachers, parents, bosses, and most everyone else thinking that you can’t go wrong being too “outgoing” or extroverted, I appreciate someone realizing that there are great advantages to knowing how to enjoy things in a more internal way sometimes too. Do you have any good suggestions for him?

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

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17 Comments

  1. I really don’t feel that ‘thinking before you speak’ is an introvert/extrovert issue, it’s a self-awareness, education (not necessarily book education but more social education/awareness), and empathy issue.

    Learning some communication techniques is always a good start (How to Win Friends & Influence People is still a top book in this area). Even something as simple as counting to five or 10 before you speak can be a good primer.

    And a really easy litmus test: If you even remotely think you’re going to say something that might offend whomever you’re talking to, picture yourself in a roomful of people that are of the similar background, race, sexuality, etc. Would you say that same thing to all of them? If not, then you probably shouldn’t say it to one person. If yes, then yeah, there’s some social education that needs to happen.

  2. This question is a challenge for those of us that have the opposite problem. But it may be similar to the self esteem problem that many introverts have.

    I think you need to figure out what you are feeling when you have this overwhelming urge to speak out or seek out others. Are you feeling anxious? Lonely? Do you feel that you are unwanted or unimportant unless you have someones attention? Slow down and examine your thoughts and feelings. They will give you a clue to what makes you do things.

  3. I have to agree with the previous commenters on this one, and I’ll add one small thing: a little mindfulness goes a long way. You say you “can’t seem to think” before you open your mouth, but of course, you can. All of us, whether introverts or extroverts, find ourselves doing things out of habit; sometimes, this is because it’s what we’re comfortable with, and others, it’s because we’ve never stopped to think of a different way of doing them.

    So the solution, in your case, might be to take a cue from your introverted friends. Next time you feel the urge to say something, pause for a second. Gather your thoughts, and try to tailor what you’re saying to that person or group of people.

    Also don’t forget that a big part of saying the “right” thing comes not only from what you’re saying, but from the cues someone else is giving you. This means taking the time to actively listen to, and appreciate, what someone else has to say. Don’t be so eager to speak that, when someone else’s talking, you’re putting more effort into thinking of your response than you’re putting into hearing what they’re actually saying. You’ll have time enough for that when they’re done (really, it doesn’t take that long to formulate a response) and you’ll generally find that what you’re saying to them will be more appropriate to what they’ve just said to you, rather than each of you talking past the other. Don’t be surprised if you find your conversations not only feeling more natural and comfortable, but also a bit deeper as a result.

  4. I too agree with above comments. You need to constantly bare in you mind that this is the issue that you dont like, speaking without thinking. Knowing this will start to automatically allow you to learn to think before speak. This is already the start you have made, posting something you realising that you want to change/improve.

  5. I’m someone who has spent most of my life accommodating others to very little personal advantage to the point where “being left alone” now trumps “being ‘liked/loved'”- I’m an INTP, but believe me: it’s the latter issue that lead to the former, not my temperament of itself. Anyhow, I’m not a big fan of this sentiment, but I’ll weigh in anyway.
    Learn that a good apology us about the other person and/or the issue itself, not you.
    Assume the same of good conversations.
    While most MBTI analyses put the blame on introverts for being non-communicative, I find that this is rarely the case with someone who wants to remain in ANY relationship, no matter what their temperament is. What I do notice is that, contrary to the stereotyping and judgement the frequently passes for analysis in this area (honestly reminds me of this article most times: http://www.ohio.edu/people/thompsoc/Body.html), I’ve found that introverts can be rather adept at reading each others’ body language, whereas extroverts many times are not. Extroverts tend too busy looking for “feedback” to their own projections, and if they’re Js as well, they don’t even notice feedback that’s not in line with their own, often binary, expectations. It’s as though they need someone to shout over their own thoughts and energy in order to hear them, instead of listening by quieting themselves and allowing the other person room to express themselves. Learn to listen to non-verbal cues this way: without focusing on what they mean FOR *you*. You’ll find your judgement becomes less crowded and more accurate over time. When in doubt, ask a question. Make sure your question is devoid of assumptions- none of those “stop beating your wife yet?’ typed. Try the phrases: “what do you mean by” “may I ask” and “i dont understand/im not familiar with____; what does that mean to you?” “is this a good time for you to talk/ to get into this?” And over all, learn to be comfortable with not having a definitive response to everything or needing one from someone else.
    You also sound like a sensor or feeler. You need to be around other ESxx or ExFxs -nobody else an keep up with the demand too well. Help those who aren’t like you out by looking for that stimulation in people who can provide it and let everyone else off the hook until they’re ready 😉 find a noisy sportsbar or megachuch outreach thingy or improv class or somethin. The third will help you the fastest with your feedback needs, as well as learning how you’re perceived. Goo luck!

  6. A good way to do this is schedule some time for yourself, alone, each week. Go to the library, somewhere where it isn’t really socially acceptable to engage people. Read a book, or some magazines.

    It couldn’t hurt to unplug from daily life once in awhile. Leave your phone at home or in the car. Stay away from your laptop.

    I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I feel self-conscious around people I don’t know. I prefer to be a person of few words, and I definitely need time away from people regularly to recharge.
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  7. It is great to hear that someone wants to do QUITE THE OPPOSITE of what our society says. I think what they would need to do is reflect on whether them being vocal, or chatty all the time is a good thing. Then perhaps they need to try and listen more, think about what they are going to say before saying it and only say what is truly necessary. I find meditation retreats work really well…because you are isolated for a number of days and you have to practice living silently.
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  8. I’m personally an introvert who is at the same time very open – an extrovert … I have no problems with analyzing my inner self and at the same time to express is to other people and talk about it freely and without contraints …

    I do really like listening to other people talking about themself and I do an extra research to get to understand them thoroughly …

    The problem is that this just attracts people too much … and makes me feel disracted …

    That’s why I need to become more introvert …

  9. The thing is that I am very good at analysing my inner self and the inner selves of other people … and at the same time I enjoy sharing my thoughts, cause I feel it is natural, open, honest and should be done this way by everyone …

    People often say that I can really identify the essence of their feelings, thoughts, ideas and retell it to them even better than they themselves could do this … that I know them better than they do know themselves … like I help them understand themselves better …

    The only problem is that it makes me too distracted … and I feel like I should concentrate my thoughts on something specific, not on everyone around … it ocasionally feels like I am wasting my time by doing sth which is not the best thing I could do …

    The thing is that when I stop doing this sharing I feel less open and it seems to be wrong …

    That’s why I am trying to find articles on how to become more introvert …

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