back to top

11 Ways I Deal With Being A Social Introvert

I'm not grumpy, I'm just recharging.

Posted on

I'm a social introvert. AKA an introvert-who-actually-likes-people. AKA a walking contradiction.

Instagram: @comics

We like peace and quiet and our own company. But we also often do like being around people and want to make friends. We're happy to socialise, but know that afterwards we'll probably need at least a day's "recovering time" (i.e. sitting in our bed binge watching Game of Thrones).

And there are a whole bunch of specific problems that come with being a social introvert. i.e. going to a party, then running out of steam halfway through and needing to leave like, NOW.

Instagram: @comics

Or making too many plans and having to panic cancel 50% of them.

Over the years, I've picked up a few tricks for dealing with the complexities of being both an introvert and socially-inclined. I've rounded them up in a list, in the hope that maybe they'll help you too.

Heat Vision / Via

NB: I'm not an expert by any means. I regularly fuck up. These are just things I've picked up from the many many times I've fucked up.

1. Manage your expectations.

Michael Hinson / BuzzFeed

Socialising is my marmite: I'll either love it or hate it. Which is largely due to my unrealistic expectations of what socialising will be like.

Either I'm wildly optimistic, fantasising beforehand about the witty repartees I'll come up with, the dashing good looks I'll have suddenly developed, and my eventual crowning as official prom queen of the party ("we know this is unusual, but we've crafted a crown out of paper cups and would be honoured if you'd wear it") – and then end up hugely disappointed when I end up saying nothing the whole night, and feeling awkward.

The next time I have to socialise, I'll then dread it, convinced it'll go terribly. Then it'll end up being totally fine and I'll remember how enjoyable being around people can be. Repeat this cycle ad nauseam.

The solution is to try and keep your expectations as realistic as possible – know that it might go badly, but that it also might be OK. And that no matter what happens, it's unlikely that anyone will do any impromptu arts and crafts for you.


2. Get a planner and use it.

Rachel E. Miller / Ellie Sunakawa / BuzzFeed

One of my biggest problems as a social introvert is burning out. I want to do *all the things*, and get overambitious about how much socialising I can actually take. So I organise loads of socialising, make myself go to them, and wonder why I feel like crap by the end of the week. A proper planner with a calendar is the biggest way to prevent this. It lets you look at all your plans, and make sure you have enough rest days between events. My rule of thumb is to keep at least two days in the week free for recuperating – I highly recommend working out how many days a week you need by yourself, and sticking to it in your calendar.

I just use the standard calendar app on my phone, but if you want the mother of all planning systems, you should look into starting a bullet journal, a life-changing organising system that is a diary, planner and to-do list in one.

3. Know that it's OK to say no.


This is probably something you already know, but it took me ages to get to grips with this. You do not have to say yes to everything you're invited to. If you are planning a night of staying in and watching television, those are legitimate plans, and it's ok to turn down an invite because you have a date with your sofa.

4. Establish what environments you like.

Instagram: @comics

At the grand old age of 26, I've finally begun to get a grip on what social situations I like, and the ones I don't. I do not like: large groups of people I don't know; places where there's lot of noise and I can't hold a conversation without yelling; anywhere that doesn't have a dark corner to retreat to, like the comic book anti-hero I wish I was.

From there, I can work out what my limits are, and where to compromise. I'm ok with going to a loud club if I'm with a small group of close friends. I'm ok with going to a pub with a larger group of people I don't know as well as long as it's fairly quiet. I now know what things to say yes to and what to say no to.

Work out what environments you feel most comfortable in. You'll have a lot more power to ensure you're don't end up somewhere that's going to make you want to retreat.

5. Practice your small talk.

Zoe Burnett / BuzzFeed

Confession: unless it's with someone I know and am comfortable with, I'm pretty terrible at small talk. My energy at parties and gatherings is a finite thing, and my gut reaction is to not waste it talking about the weather. Which leaves me with a dilemma; I want to engage with people, but am also bad at making conversation that isn't an intense, deep discussion about my ~feelings~ or inappropriate love of cats/cheese/comics. I have a small group of friends that I am *super* close to, because my social interactions when meeting people are usually limited to, "OMG LET'S BE BEST FRIENDS" or awkward silence while I try to figure out what to say.

I am definitely still bad at small talk, and sadly I don't have a foolproof way to get good at it (if you do, PLEASE LET ME KNOW). But, I have gotten at least a little better over the years by making myself do it rather than just avoiding it altogether. Practice makes perfect right? And the more you keep trying to small talk, the better you'll get at it. I think. Maybe.

What I'm trying to say guys, is KEEP GOING WITH THE SMALL TALK. I believe in you. We can do this. We'll get there.


6. And set up a buddy system if you're going somewhere that small talk is likely.


Small talk is often hard for introverts, both social and regular, but to get better you must practice. OR, you can set up a buddy system! i.e. if you're going to something you know will be small talk heavy, take an extroverted friend with you. They can small talk all night without taking a break, taking the heat off you – just smile, nod, interject a comment when you feel like it, and bask in the glow of their social prowess.

7. Don't be scared to take breaks when you need to.

Haejin Park / BuzzFeed

Midway through a recent house party, I needed a break from all the people. So I went and sat by myself in an empty room. When I rejoined the group, the host suggested everyone move to the room I'd just vacated, prompting a young man to ask, "but isn't that where that poor lady is recovering?"

Reader, I was the poor lady. I asked my friend about it, and our conversation went like this:

"I'm the poor lady, aren't I? Why am I a poor lady?"

"Everyone was asking if you were ok, so I said you'd had too much rum and needed a minute."

"But I haven't had too much rum, people are just exhausting."

"See, this is why people think you don't want to be friends with them."

Which sounds bad, but actually, IT WAS FINE. It's ok to go and have some alone-time. The world won't end. I went back after my people-break, refreshed and revived, and by the end of the night everyone had forgotten about it. The young man and his friend did ask if I was OK, to which I said "oh yes, I'm fine, just desperately anti-social." One of them looked at me like I was batshit crazy, but the other immediately nodded his head in understanding. That is a 50% success rate my friends, and I will take that.

If you want to mediate while you're having your alone-time, check out this list of relaxing apps.

8. Avoid coffee, or at least, try to cut down on it.

Instagram: @buzzfeeduk

It's been argued that introverts should avoid coffee – where extroverts benefit from the caffeine kick, introverts don't perform as well after drinking java.

I'd argue that this applies to social introverts as well. While we may straddle the gap between the two personality traits, in my experience coffee doesn't do me any favours. I imagine my social capabilities like a battery (and I am going to run this metaphor into the ground): I have a limited amount of social charge; I drink coffee in the hope it will wake me up and give me a boost; instead it makes my battery run at double speed. Not only do I burn out much quicker, I also become jumpy and a bit manic. If you're a regular coffee drinker and find it helps you, by all means keep drinking your cup of joe. But if it doesn't make you feel as amazing as it's supposed to, I'd consider cutting down.

9. Refine your friendship group.

Elizabeth Hickey / BuzzFeed

As I've gotten older, my will to organise plans with people I feel meh about has dropped astronomically. Much like with small talk, I know I have limited energy, and I want to spend it on people I know I will have an amazing time with.

Be open to making new friends – I'm not saying shut people out. But you're not obliged to go for dinner with that old uni acquaintance who's popped up after five years to "reconnect". And you definitely don't need to force friendships with exes or toxic friends. Basically, if you know you're not going to feel great after seeing someone, ask yourself why you're bothering.

10. Embrace doing things alone.

Elizabeth Hickey / BuzzFeed

"But Emma, the point of this is that we're SOCIAL introverts, and actually want to hang out with people!" I hear you. But I'm not saying embrace doing *everything* alone. I'm saying that being ok with doing *some* things on your own will FREE YOU. I wrote a whole article on it here. But the gist of it is this: being ok with doing things on your own means you get to pick and choose if you socialise or not. Maybe you want to see a film or go to an event, but your social batteries are low. Instead of going with a friend, further depleting your batteries and leaving you potentially coming across as a grumpy dick to them, YOU CAN JUST GO ALONE. Sure, there might be other people there who might try to talk to you, but you can ignore them – you don't know them, so it's totally acceptable to look awkward and mutter something about having to go, erm, over there now.

Being OK with doing stuff alone means you have all the power. You can socialise when you want to, but even when you're not in the mood for human company, you can still get shit done.

11. Be honest with people.

Katrin Davis / BuzzFeed

We're all complicated human beings. We all know what it's like to feel like a walking contradiction.

Be honest with your friends – you like to socialise, but sometimes you just need to be alone. Maybe it's a bit confusing how one minute you can seem totally comfortable in a social situation, and the next have taken yourself off to scroll through your phone. But any person who claims to make perfect sense all the time is lying through their teeth.

The only thing you can do is communicate with the people around you, so they know what's going on. If they're good friends, they'll understand – or at least try to. And remember, above all else, that you are a beautiful, rule-breaking moth – social introvert is at the end of the day just a label, and you are very much more than that.