An introvert asks: How to manage in a brand new environment with a big group of extroverts

44

The below was sent to me by a 22 year old student named Abby who has just started law school at a large university. The other members of the class seem to want to be together constantly, but she’d like to know how to manage as an introvert without seeming unfriendly or making a big deal of being an introvert.

I have spent years of my life thinking something was “wrong” with me, starting mostly in high school. Since I started law school in August, these feelings have become even more intense…it feels as though my entire class became friends instantly. They all do things together during the week and on the weekends. I participate once in awhile but often only because I “force” myself to go. I feel as though many of them have noticed that I’m not around as much as everyone else, and so I constantly get questions on why I’m “antisocial.” My question for you is, how do you handle being an introvert who people initially perceive as an extrovert?

What I mean is, I’m a friendly person and, when in small groups, I’ll talk to anyone. I had friends and was elected to a couple of class officer positions in high school and don’t tend to have a lot of enemies. However, I often prefer being alone to being a part of group activities, and it takes me awhile to really “warm up” to someone enough to want to spend any time with them. More or less, I’ve been told it appears as if I’m nice enough but just don’t like people or think I’m “better” than everyone else, which is not the case. I don’t want to go around telling people “I’m introverted” so that’s why I never hang out with you all…at the same time, I hate the idea that people think i’m “antisocial.” I just need more time than they do to make friends! Anyway, any advice would be much appreciated.

Share.

44 Comments

  1. Wow, I can really relate to your situation. I was always being perceived as being antisocial or “stuck up” in school. It’s can be a lost cause to try and explain why you are the way you are, at least from my experience. Which is understandable, us introverts only have our own life experience to relate to. Even though we do understand how we are different it might be hard to explain to someone that doesn’t get it.

    I would suggest, rather then try to force your self to get involved, that’s just not sustainable. Find one person that you can connect too and build a connection with them. As you build that up, they will realize how awesome of a person you are and help you by being your ambassador.

    At the end of the day, if no one really gets you, then you’re better off being anti-social and finding people who do get you.
    Nick Laborde´s last post ..Our Life- Our Choice- Our Responsibility

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention An introvert asks: How to manage in a brand new environment with a big group of extroverts — Introvert Zone -- Topsy.com

  3. Here’s what I emailed to Abby before posting her question:

    I felt the same way, for many years, because somehow I’d never learned what “introvert” really meant. When I’d hear the word, I’d interpret it as “inept,” “nerd,” and all the other things I didn’t want to be. I was a lot older than you are when I finally learned what it meant, and it really helped everything make sense.

    Extroverts seem to have boundless energy for doing things together, and I don’t think there’s any way to force ourselves to keep up with them entirely. I really sympathize with you. I can imagine that a first-year law school class is very closely knit, and you definitely need to be thought of as part of it instead of having to do it all alone. There will be transcripts of classes, advice about profs and their habits, all kinds of things that you’d be at a tremendous disadvantage without, even if you didn’t care what others thought of you at all. Since you were well thought of by your peers in high school, it sounds like you have great social skills and just need a way to slow things down right now. It’s in our nature to want to stay on the edges of things and gradually get more and more involved, but somehow the ones who keep asking seem to get very offended if we seem at all reserved.

    It’s a shame we can’t just be honest with people, but I don’t think people understand or receive the “I’m introverted” thing well at all. Maybe in 50 years they’ll know better. Meanwhile, can you just pretend that you have to study totally alone in total quiet on a given night when others are cramming in more and more social activities? After all, this is law school, so I’d hope they also have to study a lot too.

  4. Although this is totally against being introverted, this might be a good time for Abby to break out of her comfort zone for a bit and actually hang out with the bigger group. It’s just at the start and she will need the help of these people down the road especially since they’re all together in law school. The excitement of hanging out in a big group almost always wears off after a while and Abby would be free to be alone or spend time with a smaller group as she wishes. At least in the beginning, she has already established herself as a member of the group and not a quiet outsider who’s difficult to approach.

    • Actually, I agree with Jen to an extent. As a fellow introvert who has learned to “fake extroversion,” I actually have done that. Whenever I have gone to a new job or group or leadership program, I participate in all the team building, “after five parties” and happy hours…in the beginning. Then I retreat. It’s strategic. Go to one or two parties or happy hours (after all, how are you going to find friends?). Then go retreat at midterms (or whatever time you choose). Like cb said, you all are law students so you’ll all have a lot of studying at some point. So if you say, “I can’t hang out this weekend, I’m studying,” they shouldn’t interpret that as you being “antisocial.” Figure out how many group activities you’re comfortable going to at the beginning and for how long (like you’ll go to a happy hour, but only for an hour). Then, you’ve done your part. You’ve reached out and showed that you’re not stuck up or shy or afraid of people or whatever.

  5. I am very familiar with this situation. I am sort of intravert myself. Well, my solution to this situation is simple. If people don’t want make friends with me – to hell with them. It is much better to have a few really good friends who care about you, than to hang out with people who really don’t give a damn about you.

  6. As an introvert, I already experienced this situation so many times but the only thing I never experienced is to be called as ‘antisocial’ and maybe that is a hard accusation. For me, I prefer to stay in the library and read books and magazines than staying outside with a group of people that is so extrovert. Maybe I can say, one of my defense mechanism if someone approach me if why I’m always quite is that, I just always telling them that I’m sick.. as simple as that and for me, there’s no problem on that..

  7. When an introvert asks for space it doesnt mean they hate people or that theres something wrong with them or that they dislike you. To an introvert like myself that sometimes seems to be the case but I slap myself and tell myself better.

  8. I don’t think Abby has a lot to be worried about. She should just be who she is and be comfortable with it. I also don’t think people are that stupid to think that she’s really an extrovert. She should give the people around her more credit than that – I’m sure they’d understand her personality and would respect that about her.

    • It is your personality. People are different but it doesn’t mean that people who are extrovert are better than you. And you cannot say you are antisocial either because you mentioned that you are comfortable with small groups and it just takes time for you to warm up to people. I’m sure you will find friends that you are going to be comfortable with. I believe that being social doesn’t mean partying and going out often with friends. Being social for me is being concerned about other people and be involved in other people’s lives and not just having fun with them.

  9. Jeffrey Franklin on

    Great post, exactly how I feel. So tired of being viewed as antisocial or “emo”.
    But I did what Christine said
    At the start of the first new college semester I would just go out with people, but for a limited time only. Then after a few activities and parties, I just stopped doing so. At least this helps give impression that I’m an extrovert and make a few friends.

  10. I am actually an extrovert type of person. However, I used to be really introverted. I only had to force myself into social situations (sure it was nerve-racking at first) but soon I began to lighten up naturally.

    My advice to you would be to try something new and out of character otherwise you could miss out on all the great opportunities that life has to offer.
    Chris@swiss ball´s last post ..The Truth About Abs

  11. Like most people have already said, it’s nice to lay a foundation first with the group that you’ll be interacting with for a certain time in your life before you start holing yourself up. It shows other people that you’re not antisocial or emo, but that you do need your time and space alone from time to time too.

  12. I think i almost feel the same way just like Abby sometimes. Its hard to deal with large group of people, because sometimes you feel like you wont be accepted or you don’t belong. Me, i love being alone most of the time. Its just comfortable for me to be that way.

  13. If I were in your case, I’d still try to reach out and mingle once in a while. I know it’s hard but I’d still try. If in case though that it wouldn’t work out well, I’d just stay in my room most of the time and read books or surf over the net. Cheer up!

  14. There are things that we cant change for many reasons. One being personality trait. As an introvert, you can get the benefits of k productivity while working alone. Solitude is also useful for thinking and creative work, so being introverted can enhance your other skills. Don’t just look at the dark side of it.

  15. hmmm! I have the same question as Abby. Anyway, I think almost individual here are struggling the same when it comes for being introvert so its ok to express myself here ‘coz I consider myself one. During my childhood and even high school days I have an extreme tendency to enjoy being solo. Badly, I prefer to work on my own and not enjoying the company of others. However, I’m longing to be with the them but I really don’t know how. Well, I’m glad I found myself here and learn many things from the experiences and advices you shared. Thank you so much!

    Until next time!
    -> Nelson Huorani

  16. Nice post! It helps me to understand those people who had this kind of attitude. I usually have a hard time to understand to people who are introvert because on my part these people tend to shut down their mouth even though they have bright ideas to share. Usually these people are keen observers to their surroundings but they are so shy to speak up. I hope these will overcome there fear so that they can also socialize to others.

  17. Thanks for your post. It is very informational and very helpful to me since being an introvert is one of my problem in my self. I have a hard time in overcoming this kind of attitude and this is one of the reason why my mom gets angry with me all the time. Thanks for your advice it makes me realize how important it is to share your thoughts and ideas to others. Now, I do believe in the saying that “there’s no harm in trying.”

  18. I really do agree that an introvert person needs to adjust very well on their social aspect of personality. My Friend named Nick Jude used to be an introvert before and he is usually comfortable in small groups rather than a crowd. I tried to ask him questions regarding what are the things that made him hard to socialize and he simply says that he really needs to know a certain person better before he tends to interact on it. I think it’s also a one way for him to build his trust to other person! I really wish I may be able to know him better more than him knowing me as a person. Anyway thanks for your post! More Power!

  19. Hey, hope you have got through the hardest part and things are better now. But I read your post and started contemplating on my own life experience… I am not very communicative in the sense that do not give an impression that you know me for ages and I do not have a talent of conversing easily with strangers… and I always feel deficient for it. And sort of guilty. But now after a lot of years I have started to realize that perhaps, I am an introvert and, perhaps, as long as I cannot do anything about it, there is no sense in torturing myself for the way I am… Good luck to you too…

  20. Being an introvert person does not mean that they are aloof or antisocial individual. According to the book I’ve read, person who are introvert loves to be alone but it is not a sign of depression or shyness. They also have social contacts with other people and talk some friendly conversations but most of the time they love to be with their own thoughts. -Jockey

  21. That is a situation that I have found myself in, and I’m sure many have as well. In reality, not everybody is hugely sociable, some just feel pressured and go along with it. Maybe they think it will help them in the long run or something. I think plunging yourself into these situations actually helps the introverted though, so it’s something I strive to do more of.
    Matt´s last post ..Hello world!

  22. I can absolutely relate to Abby’s situation. So many people at my high school thought that I was “stuck up” for not being as social and outgoing as other people. I’ve tried to be more extroverted and it actually made me feel a little more anxious. The key takeaway is that you should always be yourself. Although you want to be friends with these people, you don’t want to become friends with them as a person that you are not. If you don’t feel like saying something, then don’t say anything. It’s important to become more confident with who you are to help you become more outgoing, rather than just being outgoing and becoming a false version of yourself. Anyways, as someone had mentioned above, I think you should pick out a handful of individuals you really enjoy being with within the group and try and get closer to them before trying to get along with the whole group at once. Usually, if you get closer to one person, that one person will automatically introduce you to their friends in the group, and your friend’s friends will become your friends and so on. It may take some time, but if you are genuine about meeting people, then it should eventually fall into place.
    Robin Michelle´s last post ..First Teleseminar of the Year

  23. I think some are confusing shy with introverted. Shy people would like to socialize but their shyness holds them back. Once they get over that they become extroverted. Introverted people enjoy being alone and do not want to change that part of their personality. It sound like the person posting is a true introvert. I am an introvert as well and it can be frustrating how other may treat you. I feel that extroverts think your emotion revolve around them and your lack of socializing means you don’t like them, I know this is not reason for you. So I guess you have to make more of a point to get them to understand that.

    I would be as friendly as possible to them but make comments how you like to spend a lot of time reading, studying, working on hobbies, etc. When they ask to get together often let them know you appreciate the offer but would really like to spend some time doing, XYZ that you have previously mentioned. In time they will learn to understand you personality if they truly want to be friends.

  24. Abby,

    Yeah, this post really caught my eye because even today, I wrestle with feeling comfortable in a group of extroverts. I especially had issues with thinking something was “wrong with me” and others thinking I was conceited. I’ve definitely gotten better at it though so here a few tips that have helped me:

    - Your alone time is golden. For introverts, it’s necessary so you’re right in attempting to keep that in your life. Find the time to be alone and recharge your batteries when you need to. Make up whatever excuses you think people will accept – you’re tired, you have a lot of studying to do, whatever. Then you’ll be able to be fully present when you ARE out and about with people.
    - Lightly make fun of yourself in front of others from time to time. Nothing serious – for example I have brown hair but I often say I have blonde roots because I can be ditsy. This lets other people know you don’t think too highly of yourself and combats the conceited effect of being an introvert.

    Plenty more but these are just a couple I thought might help. Best of luck in school!

  25. It always takes a bit of time to find like minded people. we just can not make friends with everyone. you need to find your best soul mate. that’s what i feel. and it definitely takes time. they will come in our way someday for sure.

  26. Brad Jones@GoodNews on

    Hey Abby,
    I just wanted to share one thing with you that may be helpful. But first, I just want to affirm what a blessing it is to be an introvert. Cherish how you have been made! It’s a blessing to be extroverted as well, but for different reasons. I suspect that some of your gifts include being able to deeply empathize with people, as well as being able to listen well to someone before you speak. Thus, you’re probably a very thoughtful and considerate person, who sees things from every angle. It is difficult, and even chaotic, to be in an environment full of extroverts (believe me, I know!). But here is my tip: take full advantage of situations in which you can thrive as an introvert.

    I have found that in a crowd of people, I kind of want to get away. But in a one-on-one situation with someone, I can thrive and be truly helpful to others. I have concluded that I need to be in environments where I can be a good listener and offer helpful feedback to others. A crowd of people hinders my ability to do this. But small, intimate settings (preferably with a friend, or with 2-3 people at the most) are perfect for introverts. I can actually listen, think, and engage in real dialogue that matters. My friends appreciate this, and moreover, this is the stuff of true, deep and lasting friendships. Just be sure that the environment is a rather structured one that is conducive to good discussion (like a coffee-shop, for example). To apply this to your actual question about being amongst a crowd of extroverts, I would just say one final thing:

    Although a large, chatty group may not be the best setting for you, you can take advantage of it by seeking out someone in the group who you would like to get to know better. And then you can make arrangements to get together personally, on a one-to-one basis. In other words, if the situation you’re in is less than ideal, then change the situation. People will come to appreciate your personal attention and considerate nature. And once friendships begin to naturally gel with others, the group dynamic will be easier to handle. So try not to focus so much on the group; instead, focus on individuals and get to know them personally and more deeply. This is only *one* way in which introverts can be a tremendous blessing to others. There are many other ways!

    Wishing you all the best,
    Brad

  27. I can relate to your predicament. The good news is this… an introvert can get better at communicating and getting along well with more extrovertish people. There are thousands of courses, books and videos on the subject readily acceessible. A little goes a long way on this case, and some practice will make an introvert seem friendly enough so as not to offend anyone. Having said this, there are many great lawyers who are less than extroverts. Many of them are great anazlyzers and strategists.

  28. This is a great blog. I’m glad I found it. My whole family, aside from my father, are all introverts. My mother and I have been discussing the topic a lot, as of late. I’m 22 now and have known for quite some time what an introvert was and the difference between introvert and extrovert. My problem has always been exactly how to go about functioning in a society that deems the extrovert to be of value. I do alright… I have a few good friends that I see from time to time (though I’d like to see them more but they’re all busy) and I usually am mistaken for an extrovert often so I can get by when I need to. The problem I’m having at the moment is that I’ll be starting college out of state in a few weeks and I’m incredibly nervous about orientation and moving around in groups throughout the day. I’ve always found myself to be misunderstood among kids my age because, to an extent, I’m sort of an anomaly in that I don’t place importance on the things that typical/conventional teenagers and young adults do. I actually find that I mesh better with older folks who have grown to be more patient and are just more interesting and interested. I imagine that as time goes on I’ll get comfortable with my new circumstance, especially considering that my college only has 900 undergrads. But for a college that expects service and work as part of its curriculum, it kind of doesn’t give me a choice when I have to go out and help people that I don’t know. I don’t know… sometimes I’m unconcerned about what people think of my silence and other times I just feel so alone.

Leave A Reply

CommentLuv badge