Socializing for introverts
Moving, especially overseas, can present a unique set of challenges for those who identify as introverts. Introverts are often seen as shy wallflowers. Many introverts are actually quite outgoing and friendly; however, they also crave time and space alone. After 15 years and counting of military moves, I’ve learned a few ways to help ease out of the social cocoon.
Do it on your terms, and take small steps.
Every time we move, I’m often told, “Just get out and make new friends.” This can be easier said than done. When you’re ankle-deep in the sea of cardboard, committing to social gatherings is generally one of the last things on your mind. Be sure to engage in these on your terms. It’s OK to take your time and get situated before going gusto.
Significant change takes time and patience.
When you do feel the time is right, take small steps. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have made reaching out to others simple and less daunting. There are many pages for your local community and installation that can help you connect without leaving the comfort of your couch.
When your newfound cyber friends suggest meeting for coffee, resist the urge to shut down. Try saying “yes.” It’s easy to say “no” out of fear or rejection, fear of the unknown, or getting lost on the way to the coffeehouse.
Remember that saying “yes” doesn’t have to be a grand gesture — they’re not asking you for anything more than a cup of coffee. If it doesn’t work out, then at least you tried, and you can chalk it up to a life lesson. If it does work out, then you’ve found new friends and a new coffeehouse!
Find your passion.
Because introverts enjoy solitude and space, they often excel creatively. Many well-known and beloved artists and authors have introverted tendencies. Find what makes you tick and what makes you, you. Installations and surrounding communities offer classes and workshops that can help hone your skills. It’s an excellent way to network with others and put yourself out there while doing what it is that you love.
I promise that you’re needed and there is an organization out there that is a perfect fit. You don’t have to start big. Ask your squadron or unit representative what you can do to help out the unit you’re attached to. Many installations also have larger spouses’ clubs. The great thing about these clubs is that you can be as involved as you feel comfortable with. Spouses’ clubs often have smaller groups that plan activities monthly.
You will inevitably find yourself in a social situation that has the potential to be uncomfortable and slightly awkward. Take a deep breath and find others who are looking for the nearest exit. Smile and ask them a simple or basic question. “How long have you been here?” is a good and benign way to start conversation.
It’s OK not to take yourself so seriously. By nature, I am not a graceful person. When my klutzy, ninja-roll tendencies inevitably show up, I will be the first one to crack a joke at my own expense. It helps me not worry about the what-ifs of the situation and becomes a conversation starter.
It’s absolutely fine to want to stay inside, both literally and metaphorically. It’s also OK to branch out slowly beyond your comfort zone. You never know the amazing people you’ll meet or opportunities that might fall in your lap when you do.