By: Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are well into a new semester at school, the perfect time to be meeting new people and making new friends. This is a great time to be an extrovert, someone who enjoys being around people, but it can be a good time for more introverted people as well. The term ‘introvert’ seems to have a negative connotation, as if it is bad to be introverted. Because of this there are a lot of misconceptions about introverts (they hate socializing, they always want to be alone, etc.) that are not exactly true, and you can read more about that here if you are interested.
One stereotype I dislike about introverts is that we hate to be around people. The fact is that most introverts do want to socialize and do want to interact with others. The problem is that it takes a lot more energy out of introverts than it does for extraverts.
Let me explain. It involves a little science, but bear with me.
According to Hans Eysenck’s theory of arousal, introverts and extroverts have different baselines of arousal in their brains. Extroverts’ brains are naturally less stimulated, so they seek out situations and behaviors that stimulate arousal. Introverts, on the other hand, have a higher baseline. This means they are generally over-stimulated, so they seek out situations that will lower their arousal level. Being around people, especially a big group of people, can be exhausting for an introvert. So while extraverts get their energy from being around people, introverts get their energy by being alone.
I do not think being an introvert is a bad thing. Granted, we may not see ourselves as ‘social butterflies’ and more extroverted people may not understand our need for ‘me time,’ but there are some benefits to being introverted. Having more alone time means getting more work done; we have more time to think and be introspective about the world around us; we don’t always get caught up in other people’s drama; we can be very introspective and thoughtful; and we tend to be very self-reflective, a great trait to have if you ever want to improve something about yourself.
If you’re an introvert but you want to be more comfortable being around people, there are many things you can do to make this happen.
- Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Instead of spending time in the same library section or lounge area between classes, try going to a different building or a different room. You might be surprised how many new people you meet there. Some of the best friends I’ve made I have met while I was stepping out of my comfort zone.
- Try joining clubs or groups that meet your interests – there are plenty of them out there!
- Try giving small talk a chance. It may seem boring and uninteresting, but some of the best connections are made through mere small talk.
- Quit worrying about how many friends you have or don’t have. There is a huge difference between the quantity of friends you have and the quality of them. I may not have the largest group of friends, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything in the world.
- Be honest with others – and with yourself. Oftentimes introverts try to put up a front to seem like something they are not just to fit in. As cliché as it sounds, it is better just to be yourself. The greatest friends you will have in life are the ones that accept you for who you are.
- Stay in contact. If you meet someone, have a great time with them, and never contact them again, they will get the impression that you do not like them. Even just a simple conversation every now and then can make all the difference.
- Meet more introverts. Who can better understand you than someone who is just as introverted as you are?
- Ask questions. You don’t have to talk about yourself if you don’t want to. Get to know the other person better. Plus, you’re showing that you have an interest in them.
- Take time for yourself as needed. It’s great to go out and meet new people, but you will still need time to yourself every now and then. Everyone deserves a break.
- Relax. The more tense and nervous you are when you socialize, the harder it will be to socialize. Don’t be afraid to loosen up, smile, or even throw a joke into the conversation – laughter really is the best medicine!
Whether you’re introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in the middle, do not miss out on this crucial time to meet new people and start making connections. This is the best time for you to start opening yourself up to the people around you. You will make some of the best friends of your life while you are in college. I know I did.