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Ask HN: Is being an introvert okay?
138 points by finemann on Sept 26, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 92 comments
My social skills are going down exponentially day by day. I am an undergraduate at a university. I tend to be communicative with people who share similar interests (physics, hacking, heavy metal etc.). Is this for the worst? I know that HN is not a social advice site. But I believe that there'd be a couple of guys having had experiences like me who could give me some advice :)

You'd be surprised how many of us really are introverts. I talk about this subject with successful people quite often at conferences like TED, because it's so difficult and painful for me to be social even for a few hours a day at these events.

Almost everyone says the same thing, "Oh no. I'm an introvert. This is exhausting to me. I can't wait to get back to my room. But I can keep it up for a couple necessary hours."

A lot of people that seem so "on", that seem like extroverts, are actually just faking it for a short burst. Even a lot of big-name music stars are actually painfully shy when off stage. Sometimes it's the reason they want to be on stage: because they don't know how to mingle in the crowd.

So don't feel bad. Embrace it. Don't waste time with shallow socializing. Just keep working and improving.

Then when you find that rare kindred you really connect with, have deeper friendships with them, since you're not diluting your time with the shallow chatter.

> Almost everyone says the same thing, "Oh no. I'm an introvert. This is exhausting to me. I can't wait to get back to my room. But I can keep it up for a couple necessary hours."

That's it right there - introverts are people who recover energy by being alone or in smaller, more intimate, less crazy groups. Extroverts recover energy being with other people.

There's a difference between being introverted and reclusive - there's plenty of ways to connect with people that'll recharge as an introvert. When I lived in Boston, I talked to the owner of Samurai Restaurant and she let me set up a little place in the back and play Go with a friend for a few hours so long as we ordered a bit, or have small meetings there. It was cool, minimal, private area with lots of space, kind of hidden and half-underground, and we had a lovely time drinking tea and playing Go or talking philosophy or whatever.

If you're introverted, you've got to think a little on how to socialize and be recharged from it, but you definitely can find something that's suitable for you and run with it. In fact, it's almost required to stay mentally healthy. Introversion is good and fine, reclusiveness usually has bad side effects.

I think there's a wide spectrum of introvertedness, and sometimes people tend to lump together shyness, social anxiety, lack of social skills and lack of self confidence in with being an introvert.

For the introverts who can function normally and simply find socializing exhausting, thats great for them, but there are also introverts who are deeply affected by those other problems (myself included), and I feel like they/we are at a big disadvantage.

I don't know to what extent this applies to the OP, but he sounds a bit like me. I've progressively become less social since high school (to the point that I'm often referred to as "the quiet one") and haven't really tried to do anything about it, even though I'd like to.

To fake being an extravert is not that difficult when you've mastered the skill of meaningless chit chat. However, I've noticed that to acquire that skill you need an active interest in the person you're communicating with. I've noticed that people with a natural interest in other people seem to be perceived as extraverts. To learn that interest in other people can be a challenging task and after twenty years of practice I still haven't mastered it myself...

In his book, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There", Marshall Goldsmith says that everyone has the capacity to be like Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton is a legendary communicator who makes anyone feel like they are the most important person in the room[1]. When are we like Bill Clinton? When we want to make our best possible impression - first date, job interview. The difference is Bill Clinton does this all day long, with everyone. Extraordinary energy.

[1] But on Tuesday, Obama could not praise his one-time rival too warmly, jokingly recounting how Clinton's famous schmoozing skills had persuaded him to attend.

"I think everyone knows what it's like when Bill Clinton asks you to make a commitment," Obama said.

"He looks you in the eye, he feels your pain, he makes you feel like you're the only person in the room. What could I say? I was vulnerable, just like all of you have been vulnerable, to his charms."


I wonder why would one want to put an effort into making people feel like they're most important person in the room? Obviously, there are a lot of interesting people around, why spend time and energy into communicating with others?

I always assume that everyone I meet has at least one interesting story to tell. Then I set myself a task to get them to tell it to me.

I think the difference between making a friend and making an acquaintance is sharing stories. Emphasis added in italics below

> At the Jefferson Boulevard entrance to the campus, the guard at the gatehouse broke into a smile upon hearing Haden’s name. The guard, Eric Johnson, stepped out from his kiosk and explained that in his early 20s, he worked for a messenger service. One day he completed a downtown delivery to Haden, who stopped to converse with him for a few minutes.

With the exception of his time at Oxford, Haden has spent his entire adult life as the guy everybody knows as soon as he walks into the room. His friends say Haden’s gift is that he leaves knowing everybody else’s stories.

"He has such compassion and humility," said J. K. McKay, who caught Haden’s passes at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, Calif., east of Los Angeles, and at U.S.C., where they were coached by McKay’s father, John.


I am sorry for uprating this post by just 1 point.

I spent a decent amount of my life thinking there was something wrong with me for being an introvert. This is mostly because everyone who isn't introverted sees it as really weird.

I'm just happier alone, or with a small group. And now I accept that, and it's great.

Even though that's true, I loved selling Dyson vacuum cleaners when I was a kid. I still love persuading people to see things my way and speaking in public. So you can be introverted but still able to work with people. It's a developed skill, and I was lucky enough to pick it up through retail in high school.

It's okay to be an introvert if being that way makes you happy. If what you're saying is that you're lonely, that's a different kettle of fish.

Finding fellowship can be a challenge. Being at a university helps – you've got a great shot at finding more like-minded people. If you can strike a balance between alone time and people whose company you genuinely like, you're in good shape. I know it's easier said than done, though. It may help to accept there's nothing wrong with introverted inclinations. People like people who are true to themselves.

I had a similar experience: I tend to the introvert side of the spectrum, but when I got stuck in a job booth I was suddenly calling people across to talk to me. If anyone made eye contact with me, they were doomed. :)

And the really funny thing was, in contrast to normal situations where "being social" exhausted me, I found I gained energy from the interactions. Yet I was still my normal introverted self after it was over.

Funny how a situation can change your effective personality. :)

Why are you growing away from people? There has to be a reason.

I faced a similar battle and realized I was just growing a lot faster than the people around me and just needed broader experiences. In the end, I learned to focus on QUALITY of relationships, not QUANTITY. I learned that one amazing woman is better than a hundred models. I learned that one loyal friend is better than a hundred cool ones.

Not all who wander are lost...

Pick up First, Break All The Rules to learn the difference between talents and skills.

Being extroverted is a talent. If you're an introvert, no amount of willpower is going to make dealing with strangers more fun. That said, you can be good at it. Some of the top public speakers and sales people are introverts. But when they walk off the stage, they need their space.

That said, my advice is to find ways to be happy with being who you are. And you're hardly going to be alone out there. I've seen figures indicating that about 3/4 of programmers are introverted. There is something about interacting intensely with a computer that does not appeal so strongly to extroverts. So, depending on what you want to do, being an introvert could be an advantage.

I've also noticed that after an intensive bout of programming, I actually lose social skills. Maybe it's a bicausal relationship.

Absolutely. I spent a lot of life thinking I was an introvert. Turns out I was just spending a lot of time focusing on math and physics and computing, and the state of concentrating fiercely on something and trying to tune out distractions -- especially distracting humans -- is nigh-indistinguishable from "introversion".

I actually rather like interacting with people, but I also like to think deeply, and I can't talk and think deeply at the same time. So I have to alternate if I want to stay happy.

What timescales are you talking about? I've certainly noticed that it takes me quite a long time (over an hour) to context switch away from intense coding to a situation where I'm happy having a serious conversation with people (answering whether I want another coffee doesn't count).

When I first read this, it kinda surprised me. Like something one of my kids might ask, maybe. I guess it really has been such a long time since I've had to consider the impact being introverted was having on my life. After all, I have a husband, two children, a plethora of hobbies and an excellent job. Sometimes I tripped over my own introversion, sometimes other people tripped over it instead. Other times, I approached interacting with other people as a sort of experiment -- though this made me feel like a bit of a sociopath, because as it turns out, most extroverts are disturbingly easy to manipulate.

Anyhow, this is more or less what I've told my kids: take a deep breath, listen and learn. Most introverts are excellent listeners, with an above average capacity to synthesize. People like to talk about themselves and they like to talk to people who are actively listening. You can learn a lot about how to make people happy by just listening to them. Of course, it takes a lot of discipline to not talk. I often get rabid logorrhea in social situations, even amongst people I know well. Just keep breathing, ask a few questions and let the other person do all the work.

If you're introverted, you NEED time alone. It's how your body, mind, and soul replenish themselves. It can feel like a hindrance sometimes, but it's how you're wired. The good news is that it's not inherently an obstacle to a fulfilling social life.

My advice is to determine how much "me time" you need every day. Give it to yourself, but be careful not to succumb to any anti-social tendencies. The fact is, people are important, and good social skills will serve you as well as, if not better, than good hacking skills. (For one thing, the more people you know, the more opportunities come your way.)

I think the main problem introverts have is we have trouble "just hangin'". This is because it's physically draining to just idly fritter the day away with others. Unfortunately, that's where a lot of social bonding comes from. The way I've gotten around this is to limit my time in group settings -- but when I'm with people, I make sure I'm "on". A party, a dinner, a night out, a meeting, whatever. As long as I've had time alone to charge up, I'm good to go.

Some other posters have mentioned public speaking. I've noticed that introverts are often GREAT performers. I know this is true for myself. Public speaking, acting, music, introverts seem to really come alive on stage. I think the reason is twofold.

For one, we're already pretty comfortable inside our own skins, and for another, it's an outlet to express whatever it is we need to express without the draining meandering of ordinary dialogue. If you're having trouble branching out you might try an acting class. I've found these to be awesomely rewarding.

After many years I've come to think of my introversion as a glorified speech impediment. If you let it get in the way, it will, but if you put a little effort into it, it's something people won't even notice after a while.

And oh yeah, on campus you'll likely come across some "cool loner" types from time to time. Most likely they'll be on a motorcycle. These, my friend, are introverts. Careful observation of how they navigate social situations could prove valuable.

39 responses and no one's linked to Jonathan Rauch's blockbuster "Caring For Your Introvert" yet? Hold on to your butts:


"It's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation."

Thanks :)

Yes, it's ok. If you accept that in yourself. But ever go to a party and not talk to anyone and have a miserable time? And gone to a party and talked to people and had a better time? My advice is pick a non-computer related hobby. The hard part is that it has to be something you are generally interested in and would like to become better at. For me, a hobby was Salsa dancing. I was enthralled by the instructor dancing with his sexy partner at my very first lesson. I was hooked before the lesson even commenced (demo was first). The sooner you push yourself willingly, the better. And remember, showing up is 50% of the struggle when it comes to situations where you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Today, I hung out with three female friends and went to an art show and had lunch with them. I just finished studying a couple chapters of a textbook on computer graphics. I'd like to say that hanging out with friends was more fun but it wasn't - I prefer my own company to that of others. Good luck, think of talking about technical topics like talking about the weather. As other posters have said - find out about what people like, what people feel. Share the experience of being insecure. Go up to a woman that you feel drawn to and stand there and say "I have to say. I'm very nervous to talk to you but I had to walk over and say hi."


>Go up to a woman that you feel drawn to and stand there and say "I have to say. I'm very nervous to talk to you but I had to walk over and say hi."

Please don't. That is, unless you have material after this line, which is unlikely unless you are already skilled in chatting up strangers. You'll create an awkward situation. She'll probably give you a forced smile, and then you'll panic because now the you've opened with a sketch line and nothing else to say. I've definitely done this a number of times. I am speaking from the pain of experience.

You'd be better off finding something innocuous you like about her, and why, then opening with that. 'I like your striped socks. Where did you get them?' Then you have something to talk about for a bit.

That aside, I struggle with this too. I just spent the day at a friend's birthday party with 95% new people, and I am socially wiped. My suggestion if you want to progress in the social skills dept: practice. Make time for it.

I wholeheartedly agree with the find-a-new-hobby advice. Salsa class is a _great_ example because in a given night you get ~10-30 interactions with new women when you rotate. It is rapid fire practice. Also rock-climbing. People are friendly and social. I always ask about techniques to climb X, which can lead to a decent convo.

And finally, go to every social thing you are invited to. Everything. Even if you feel shitty and want to hole up with your computer. It will get easier.

"Please don't. That is, unless you have material after this line, which is unlikely unless you are already skilled in chatting up strangers.You'll create an awkward situation."

Please do. Of course this is what is going to happen, I have done that too, but it is fantastic to fail, because it is the only way to improve and success. You will discover that the world doesn't end from you making mistakes, in fact you had the courage to try.That is the important thing, that and to persist!.

"Material after this line?" Ohh my god, believe me girls know when someone is shy and will help him if they want but what they all hate is being considered machines over human beings. PUA's techniques are already heard a million times by a pretty girl today. And is not what you say("material"), is how you say it.

Those that not even try will not have success ever, because they don't try in the first place.

I'm definitely not suggesting making up some fantastical story in the 'PUA' style, or using a canned opener, or generally treating the girl as some machine that has a set of locks you need to open. At some point you have to have some shit to talk about. When you aren't good at talking to new people, you are nervous and 'in your head' which reduces your involvement with the conversation and amount you have to say. Sooo you need a plan. You need material. Simple (positive!) situational stuff is great.

Plus, if you have a plan (material!) you will come across as more confident because you aren't making it up on the spot.

Also, girls rarely 'help' you unless the environment is social. A friend's party is easy. She will 'help' you; you are already vetted in lacking creep. Bars are moderately easy. Just act like you are awesome. Salsa is easy as they are there to meet people. A cute girl on the train platform will not help you. You gotta be god damn don juan.

Trust me please don't. they will talk to you but you don't have a chance. girls don't want to date a weirdo. just be a normal person and talk to them like a normal human being that you aren't attracted to about normal stuff. once you have established you aren't a creep THEN try to turn the charm on.

Based on my personal experiences, one thing I'd add to this conversation is that your level of introversion may be more mutable than you may think. People often talk about the trait like it's very stable and inborn, and I think it is to an extent, but it can change over time.

I give myself as an example. I'm 30 now, and up until my mid-twenties I could easily be considered introverted. I always got a strong 'I' on Myers-Briggs type tests. Other people told me I was introverted all the time as well,

I agreed. I loved my alone time, wasn't super motivated to socialize with others, and got drained by being with people.

I also happened to have weak social skills, and wasn't happy with that. As I improved my social skills, and gained the ability to better enjoy other people's company, I noticed a lot of my so-called inborn, introverted personality traits were lessening as the years went by:

-I wasn't getting drained by socializing any more, because it was easier, more fun, and didn't use up as much mental effort.

-I still appreciated my alone time, like everyone really, but I didn't crave it as intensely.

-My internal motivation to socialize and be around other people went way up.

-In time I started to want to hang around bigger groups of people and do louder, crazier things when I went out. It was almost like I got used to smaller events, and sometimes needed something more stimulating to get my social 'fix'

-I just got more chatty and outgoing in general.

Looking back, I feel a lot of my introverted tendencies were a result of a social skill/comfort deficit I had. They felt like a core part of my personality at the time, but looking back I don't know if they were.

That said, I still love spending some days all by myself doing nothing. But it's good to have the ability to switch into a social mode when I want to.

This might sound kind of silly, but I noticed that I tend to tense my stomach up during social interactions. I've recently attempted to stop doing that so much, and I think they've become significantly easier as a result.

Just curious, what university are you at?

I am in the exact same situation. I just moved in to my dorm 3 weeks ago and I don't have any good friends yet. I tend to just play guitar in my room, and when I get a stir crazy I head to the library and read some math books or do some programming.

For me, it is a conscious choice that has fluctuating results. I choose to be introverted because I am not intelligent enough to socialize frequently and accomplish what I desperately want to accomplish. I am an average guy trying to work at a level far above my own, and doing so requires every second of my time (Sunday is my recharge day, if any of you were wondering).

But I have been getting lonely lately. It's strange, because I've always been this way and it has never affected me before. Maybe it's because I'm in New York City and surrounded by people doing things with other people. I remember there being an article recently about people feeling alone in New York City - I am starting to feel like that article had it all wrong, that it is very possible to feel alone here.

I do wish I could find people with similar interests though. I had a lot of friends back in high school who listened to metal. I haven't found anyone here yet. I know there are people here who are passionate about math, but I am not even close to their skill level. And I think all the programmers are hiding in their rooms as well.

It is difficult to be in this mindset though. When I am socializing, I desperately want to be alone, and when I'm alone, theres that tiny thought in the back of my mind that says I should be meeting people. Back home it was overwhelmed with my obsession with learning and practicing, and I thought it would be the same here... I don't know. I'm rambling.

Know why you like to be alone, and do it for the right reasons. But don't think that it doesn't come at a price. I know I'm going to have to find someone with similar interests soon, as I'm starting to feel like I'm living in a sea of people who don't interest me at all. And that is a bad feeling to have, especially when you know its not true.

Hey there. I just finished off a year in residence, so I think I can offer a few pointers. Especially regarding metal. First of all, if possible, play your favourite metal really loud. A metal head (or RA) will knock on your door. Second of all, if you have a band shirt, wear it sometime. A fellow metalhead will find you. This works.

During your first few weeks/couple months at residence, you gotta try to force yourself to meet people. This is when people will be the most open and ready to make friends, and blow off stupid mistakes. Keep your door open when you play guitar. Likely, someone will drop by, if even to see where the guitar sound is coming from. If anyone else has their door open, drop by and try to get a hook into their interests.

That said, it is a common enough situation. I can easily count off a lot of my friends in my programs as being in your situation. I've found myself in those situations as well. Part of it is simply not being comfortable in a particular group. When you're hanging, you want to be alone cause you're not comfortable, but when you're alone, you remember the comfort that you use to get when with your group of ESTABLISHED friends.

Unfortunately, there is no easy "fix". I really don't want to say that being introverted is a problem, but finding yourself in the situation in university (especially first year) where you have no one else to turn to when crunch time rolls around, or some shit hits the fan can be deeply troubling.

That said, if you're in a challenging program, it's likely that you'll get another opportunity to bond whenever midterms/projects/finals rolls around. Bitching and toiling through work can do some wonders to getting to know people/building relationships. I think that's the entire mentality of how engineering programs are put together. Just pile on the work, and they'll unify in their bitching.

My one suggestion would be to avoid labeling yourself as an 'introvert' too quickly. I went through most of my childhood/adolescence as the shy/quiet type with few friends and not a whole lot of social interaction, and would have been quickly labeled an introvert. But it turns out I really like socializing with new people and doing things like going to (non-techie) parties or similar nightlife type things, although I'm still not the most outgoing person among the people I know.

Am I an extrovert? Was I really ever an introvert? Are you? Does it really help to label yourself one way or the other?

Asking whether you're "OK" or not is a useless question.

A useful question to ask would be whether it's worth running experiments on yourself to see if you can affect your introversion. For example, if you always start a conversation with a stranger at lunch on Tuesdays and Fridays, do you become more comfortable with this as time goes by?

Another useful question to ask is whether it's worth reading about introversion in order to gain insight in to what it is and how to deal with it. Your starting this thread was an implicit "yes" answer to this question.

But it's totally useless to ask whether you're somehow "OK" or not as a result of being introverted. Thinking that you're not "OK" is an evolved adaptation for hunkering down because you're afraid you might get kicked out of the tribe and therefore be unable to survive/reproduce. This isn't something you need to worry about in the modern era. In other words, due to the marvel of modern technology and societal structure, you are always "OK".


I came to this late, and I see most of the replies are focussing on the issues of introversion v. social skills. I just want to highlight these two lines:

My social skills are going down exponentially day by day. I tend to be communicative with people who share similar interests

At the risk of reading too much in these two lines: it is not unusual, as one gets older, to narrow down your acquaintances to those who (gasp) actually share the same interests as you. Many people find that their social needs are met perfectly well by people they have a lot in common with, and that life is too short to maintain relationships that are not genuinely rewarding.

So this is not a problem per se, provided that you personally are not unhappy about the state of affairs. The only issue with the catalogue of interests given (physics, hacking, heavy metal) is that if you prefer females as your romantic partners, you are making things a bit difficult for yourself, statistically speaking.

To truly answer your question, you need context. First of all, remember that everyone has an introverted and an extraverted side. It's just a matter of which one is dominant. A person who is totally introverted would be completely unable to interact with anyone else on any level. A person who is completely extraverted would be unable to do anything without relying on other people. So you can see that it's important for everyone to be both introverted and extraverted.

So with that in mind, being an introvert is a good and wholesome thing as long as you realize that you have an extraverted side that needs attention too. For instance, I make a conscious effort to do something sociable on occasion even if I have to drag myself. In doing so, I can engage my extraverted side without having to turn myself into an extravert.

Yes, it is OK. However modern business tends to select strongly against introverts. So my advice would be to look for some classes on public speaking, or possibly look for a nearby chapter of Toastmasters.


When you get out into the business world, you'll find that standing up in front of a group and giving presentations is an important skill. It might be for something as simple as explaining why X is the wrong direction and Y is a better direction. You'll need to be able to sell yourself when it comes to business - after all, that is what a job interview is.

Actually, introverts are probably more likely to like giving presentations than extraverts. Extraverts need social interaction (ie conversation). Introverts are probably more likely to enjoy having everyone shut up and listen to them for a change. :-)

Nor does it mean "bad at selling yourself". An introvert who is speaking about a subject that they are passionate about is a force to be reckoned with.

Yes, it is okay.


...university is a time where everyone around you has broken away from their previous social habits and are actively looking to form new bonds and try new things. The sheer number of people with this attitude that you will be exposed to is not a situation that will repeat itself throughout your life.

My advice, from a fellow introvert, is to try to take advantage of it while you still can.

If by introvert you mean prospering in solitude, being the master of your own fate, seeing things differently, being an independent free spirit, an automatic recluse from the busy, meaningless world, then yes, it is okay to be an introvert.

And if by being an introvert you mean the constant state of insecurity, being the lonely outcast, constantly agitating, trying to regain a long lost connection with mankind, hopelessly trying to be something you're note, then by all means no, it is not okay to be an introvert.


Seriously though, if you think it's okay, then it's okay. If you want do be more social, go ahead and do that. I used to be introverted in high school and maybe I still am at heart. But I learned to enjoy social gatherings an casual social connections just as much as meaningful conversations with close friends. I made myself go to parties and join dance clubs and what-not and I couldn't be happier for it.

I would say that there's no need to learn how to gel with people you don't like. I'd consider trying to learn how to like others, though, which actually is different.

Find out what others like the way you like things. And talk to them about those things. This will give you something to chat about, teach you something about a subject you didn't know about before, and possibly earn them some respect in your eyes.

But beyond that, just seek out people who do share your interests. There are plenty. Me, for example. There are too many people out there who you will get along with great instantly to stress over those who are basically asleep.

But when in a pinch, it's good to try and get them to talk about something they can teach you about.

Good luck to you. And if none of that works, ping me at daniel@danielmiessler.com, and we can chat physics (I'm an amateur) and metal (old school).


Thanks a lot mate :)

Don't allow the fact that you're an introvert to be an excuse. e.g. "I'm an introvert, so it's OK for me to no talk to these people." With that being said, I believe it's OK. However, let's consider what being introverted really means. It just means that you find it more difficult to talk/relate/network with others. Some of the most outgoing people I know are really introverted - you would never know.

A few tips: 1) Always smile. 2) Don't develop preconceived notions that prevent you from building relationships. 3) Force yourself to talk with others. 4) Avoid making negative comments. Try to be enthusiastic.

If you practice this religiously, people will never know that you're introverted. I know, because this is me - no one in my social circles would ever believe me if I told them that I thought I was naturally introverted.

Smiling makes a huge difference. People see you as friendly and react positively toward you.

I'm a girl with the most opposite personality type imaginable but my suggestion is to find someone like that - who you share a lab or elevator with - and try to find some common ground. Once you do that person can become your "social conduit" and when you do need to meet people or give a speech or go to a party they can help out. Most outgoing people love making more friends, even if they have little in common on the surface and if you program you can always repay their social skills by designing a webpage for their latest party or social networking profile. Hopefully if you have one solid link to social skills you can spend 99% of your time listening to metal and coding in peace and the other 1% socializing without the stress!

Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever underestimate networking and getting to know the right people in the right places. Ever.

Introverted is one thing, I am as well. I like my time to think, explore, etc. But being shy and not liking the differences of others because it is things you don't like is a cause for concern.

Additionally, not taking the time to learn and thus practice the necessary skills to networking appropriately will only place you behind the 8 ball, so to speak, in what you do. Being introverted can very easily put a lower ceiling on who you meet and how they can help you, or you help them.

Being an introvert has nothing to do with having bad social skills, mate. It's just perception directed towards yourself, feeling good being alone, etc. but it does not have to result in bad social relations. It's common among geeks to be introvert just like extraverts occupy f.ex. PR and media, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Frankly I don't get what advice are you seeking - you can't force yourself to hang with people you don't like or are not attracted to, do what makes you feel good.

> Being an introvert has nothing to do with having bad social skills, mate.

Well, they aren't the same thing but they're definitely related.

I think the title question isn't very good. It's a sort of leading question. Why, of course it's OK to be an introvert. By any reasonable definition a large part of the world's population are introverts, and introversion itself isn't a mental disorder.

So most people (especially on HN) will say that's OK to be an introvert, but the more interesting question is how good are your social skills and how they affect your life. I think there are two interpretations for the post:

A) I have such and such issues, and maybe I'd be happier if I changed this. I assume there are people who have been in a similar situation, please advice. Examples of this kind of issues:

"I have anxiety when speaking in front of a large group of people."

"I haven't had a serious relationship for the past year."

"I wish I could be more assertive."

"I wish I could do better in parties / I wish I had more friends."

You probably don't need a therapist to solve these.

B) I have such and such issues, do they indicate psychological problems? Should I consult a therapist? Examples:

"I have anxiety when talking to people in general/I can't talk to strangers even when it's expected (asking for information, having a job interview, etc)."

"I've never had a girlfriend / I have problems talking to women."

"I have low self-esteem / I'm not assertive at all and people take advantage of me."

"I don't have any friends".

For these you'd probably need to see a therapist.

> Being an introvert has nothing to do with having bad social skills, mate.

Well, they aren't the same thing but they're definitely related.

I don't agree. Last I checked I match most of the points describing an introvert and I consider myself one. Some of my friends from IT field I know very well also match the description. None of us has problems socializing, partying, meeting people, picking up girls or maintaining relationships.

For me, the key points of being an introvert is feeling comfortable being alone with yourself (not to confuse with lonely), living your way and not being very concerned about acceptance of other people (opposed to extravert). None of that means that you have a disability to socialize, you just perceive social relations in a different way, and as long as you are happy with that, there's nothing wrong. As you stated, if one feels that has issues, he should probably change that, but IMO it's not the 'being introvert' part to change, just their social skills maybe need some improvement. Extravert people also can have social problems, that can lead to even stronger issues as they seek acceptance of outside world.

For these you'd probably need to see a therapist.

Social skills are things you just can learn, as any other skill. Therapy states that sth is wrong, there's nothing wrong in lack of knowledge.

Hmm, I'm not sure how we disagree. I said that being introverted is not the same thing as being socially unskilled, and you and your friends are examples of this. Still, there is a correlation in the sense that most people with poor social skills are introverts. If you disagree with this then I guess we must have very different definitions of "socially unskilled".

I disagreed that having social issues is related to being an introvert. Maybe I'm not right, just my POV.

It's a curious thing, but most of the extroverts I've known self-describe as introverts. The thing about introversion is that there's little to no payoff from interacting socially, so lack of social skills tends to be correlated. Without a strong positive feedback loop, the skills don't grow, and over time, atrophy.

As much as you may enjoy your alone time, you must realize that getting to know people is more important in the long run than being comfortable now.

This is especially true in the startup world where knowing the right people and having smart people on your team is arguably just as essential to your success as all those late nights hard at work you may put in.

The only way you get to meet these "right" people, is to meet A LOT of people, and that means pushing outside of your comfort zone.

Being an introvert is not directly related to poor social skills. It means that you get your energy from within, from being alone with yourself. Others drain that energy from you and that's why in settings where a lot of people are around, you feel uncomfortable, and wear out very quickly. Extraverted people get energized from being around people, which is completely the opposite.

You can succeed in life being either way. Actually, a recent study showed that now close to 50% of the Fortune 2000's CEOs did acknowledge to be introverted! All that it means, is really that you need to respect your needs, and keep yourself on a schedule where you have enough alone time to charge up, and then pick the place & time to unleash all that energy to others.

You are so lucky that being in 2010, you can now also interact and network with many people the electronic way ;) This is not a replacement for the real thing, but it can definitely help you improve your social skills in an environment that does not drain your energy, nor makes you feel uncomfortable.

The bottom line? Embrace yourself, be who you are and nurture your passions & what excites you. I personally know many very successful introverts, so don't let this be your excuse for not reaching out for the stars!


As a fellow introvert, I recommend forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I highly recommend learning to partner dance (swing dance, country western, or salsa). Dancing is great practice for social interaction + girls!

Yes, it's exhausting to socialize, but you'll grow your social skills, and you can use those skills when you really need them in the future.

Some skills come naturally to people, other people have to practice to get good at them. Social skills are no exception.

1) I've noticed my desire to be around other people is often influenced by my reactions to recent conversations. If I talk with someone and then think "That must have been so awkward for them" I'm less likely to go out and talk to someone the next day than if I say "That person was really interesting" or "I learned a lot more about that person that I didn't know." Lots of times it could be the same conversation; your interpretation counts for a lot.

2) Turning conversation into a game helps; asking "what's the most interesting conversation we can have?" or focusing on getting to know just two or three people at a party instead of being overwhelmed by the whole group.

3) I agree with Derek Sivers's comment that, correct me if I'm wrong, tolerance for social situations is a skill that you can build up over time, like your ability to focus.

4) It can be useful to have some autopilot topics; see Kaj Sotala's notion of cached thoughts, http://lesswrong.com/lw/2co/how_to_always_have_interesting_c..., stories you're really good at telling, or funny things you've seen (a guy on the street wearing gladiator sandals is one i've been telling recently)

Let me begin by saying that I FEEL anti-social, introvert with a need for solitude to re-charge, and as a monkey see-monkey do-personality with minimal repertoire, when it comes to social navigation, and overly serious in all circumstances containing 20% people, I don't know. Except, when I'm slightly inebriated.

When I got my first Mac, an SE/30, back in 1992, it came with a Meyers Briggs Type Indicator program. The result placed me barely inside "introvert", right next to the dividing line between extrovert and introvert.

(http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-bas... for details on what and how.)

I have retaken the test 3 times since then, and twice experienced extrovert/introvert result as "extrovert", barely inside extrovert. For comparisons the other three parts of the test (placement as thinking or feeling, sensing or intuition and judging or perceiving) have remained the same over the years.

Since the questions in the test as well as calculating result follow strict rules, I am led to conclude that the two times I tested "extrovert" were periods of happiness and security in my life. Just enough endorfin and dopamin juice in my brain to lead me to evaluate my own social skills and desire for social interaction slightly more positive than normally. (I wasn't drunk during these tests... :-D )

What say ye? Are we introvert and extrovert from brain chemistry and previous programming? Can we change? Should we change? Or just make the most of it, rather than compete with those, who've had their whole life to learn how to navigate by the laws of extrovertism...?

Or maybe I am an AMBIVERT - someone shifting between Extro and Intro. Being new to the term it does sound alluring, but kind of defies the whole purpose of placement...

But comparing to my biorhythms, which I have 16 years of experience with, it could seem there is a correspondence to the placement of my emotional highs and lows - high emotional curve plus high mental curve gives me the courage to stand in a crowd and feel comfortable (without the drained feeling afterwards). Whereas low emotional curve almost always spells Introvert.

Hmmm... more thoughts to receive.

There's nothing wrong with being an introvert. However from a career perspective it's incredibly valuable to have social skills. As somebody who's pretty introverted myself by nature, I find that it's useful to get out of my comfort zone and discover situations I enjoy being social in -- and I have to keep reminding myself to do this. There's lots of great advice in this thread; experiment a little and see what works best for you.

In some situations is better (more safe) to be an introvert. In certain job contexts, with a lot of competition and gossip going around, is better to tell the other people the least amount of information about any weak point that you have. Well, they are friends or enemies?

I don't know if I am an introvert people, I think I should talk loudly and speak a lot in the right context, but I think there are my sharps in this swimming pool trying to get some bite.

I think I would enjoy a lot at a party with hundreds or thousand of introvert people, they are a lot more preferable to those that never listen, never stop talking, never thing before speaking and are motivated to propagate any new gossip aimed to laugh down someone.

Perhaps there are not introvert people, only people not in the right context and that are used to take it slowly when making new connections.

Of course its a okay. You can go through life just fine not interacting with people / not enjoying it.

But if you don't want to be that way, what you have to understand is why you "tend to be communicative with people who share similar interests" (<insert technical stuff> ).

Those people you think are highly sociable, at least more-so than you, are really just conversing about things that you either don't know anything about or don't find interesting.

So you can either: a) learn more about those things so that when they come up you can have good points to bring up or b) accept that those aren't the kind of people you want to interact with anyway because they don't share similar interests.

Like I can talk about music with just about anyone or the Tech Industry all day. But I'm only passable when it comes to Basketball, Football, Soccer or Hockey and in descending order.

Don't forget that with respect to point a, that the more you know about something, the more interesting it is. You may find your interests change as you attempt to integrate into a new tribe.

My advice is to face the unknown, but very little by little, you can be whatever you want. Our (small) decisions change us, read "the brain that changes itself", I have seen "introverts" become social beast, but not overnight, over the years.

The first thing is that you need to know what do you want to be in a very specific way, write it down, study it.Maybe you want to feel great among people, identify the current blocks or obstacles.

The most important thing is not trying to change overnight, you have already an "introvert" training of years: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/04/30-days-to-success/

You need to be able to get over your comfort zone regularly, my best advice is find a mentor, a person that is very social, talk to him.

Is it ok? Yes. Is it helpful? No. I speak from experience as an introvert (turned semi-extrovert, sometimes).

If you want to do well, you need to get along with people. You can do this to a certain extent by just going the extra mile to ask how people are doing, etc.

The way to get over it (mostly) would be something like Toastmasters. I haven't done that, but did take up another role that required me to get up in front of people and take questions, etc. once. I was awful, but I learned that the world won't end if I take a chance. The second best thing that can happen to you is to get let go or fired from a job and then quickly go get another one. After that point, you will have no fear from either crowds/strangers nor will you feel like you must retain your job in order to succeed. Fear is the mindkiller.

Okay for what? You have to know what you want out of life before asking what will work toward that.

I think the key is not falling prey to popular notions of what the word 'introvert' means. Very few people are introverts across the board. As you note, you yourself are communicative with people who share similar interests.

What may not be as plain to you is that shared interests take unexpected forms. You may not think of yourself as interested in sales, but chances are, if you end up developing physics simulation software and try to sell it, you will find you enjoy the process.

That's what happened to me. Techie turned sales guy (founder). Never thought selling software would be so much fun or so satisfying, but it is (probably because I wrote much of it). When I am selling software, I find myself as extroverted as any other sales guy I've met.

Aversion to interacting with people who seem dissimilar to yourself is a behaviour worth changing.

Introvert there.

Tried to force myself to be extrovert few times. That was a disaster. I was miserable. And it didn't help me find friends or whatever.

My advice - be who you're. There's no better way than just NOT pretending to be somebody who you aren't. I learned this the hard way... Now I just have few friends, some of them introverts, some of them not, and I'm happy with that. Other people think I'm weird, arrogant, closed etc. But who cares? Yes, it's a little bit harder to live as you are, but it helps in the long run.

Sometimes I go "socialise". At least other people think I'm "socialising". But that's rather grey-hat hacking other people and their networks...

P.S. Thrash till death!!

Many great minds were introverted. Or so I read.

Have you read about the Briggs-Myers personality tests? I found them quite interesting.

I'm an introvert like you... being with people normally sucks my energy and I need times of solitude to recover. That is how I am...

However I enjoy really small groups of smart people, to be around normally... 2 to 5...

I've been a teacher and also enjoy being in front of a class... 25 teenagers and just last week gave a talk to 100 youngsters... and I enjoy teaching a lot... BUT, after both things... I'm so tired that I need to rest, when teaching a class I need to sit down for half an hour and disengage... When giving a talk... I need a nap. literally I need to sleep.

It's okay to be the quiet one. That improves the chances of you being a good listener, someone that really listens instead of being tuned-out while composing your next line.

It's important for many reasons to strike a balance between work and play (and quality solitude), but don't be alone out of being uncomfortable with others. Try to seek a space where it works for you, where you can unwind, and you can be "in the moment".

By being in the moment I mean not thinking or worrying about what happened last week or last year, or what will happen next week or next year. Relax... take in the sounds around you. Get i tune with all of your senses. Hopefully as you unwind you'll find yourself breathing slower but deeper. Perhaps you can casually go somewhere with someone on a picnic, a hike, or camping. Visit the coast or a lake, enjoy the night sky. The things people stress over at school or work may not even matter years later. Don't throw your time away in a stressful limbo that's in-between work/study you're into, and the off the clock pleasure time. Get plenty of rest, regular sunshine, some exercise (at least plenty of fast walking), eat with variety and moderation. The rest and sunshine play a large role in healthy brain chemistry and various hormones. Living out of the moment is a bit like driving while texting. Life flows better if you're all there for it. Get in tune with yourself, discover how seemingly small things influence the way you feel.

Go at your own pace with people. Take time to figure out who you are, what you like, and who you want to be with. If you're thinking about your orientation, don't feel alone. Whatever you're going through know that there are many like you, and you'll get wherever you're going at your pace. The people that matter will appreciate you for who you are. Be tolerant of and not preoccupied with the rest. Be in tune with peoples' feelings, and learn to see who can sense and really care about yours.

You might experiment with different types of music. There's a rush from the energy of metal, but some other types may work better for relaxed intimate periods.

Do what you feel is right, even when no one else seems to. Learn to trust your gut feelings more than what people say.

Best wishes.

Obviously I don't know your personal situation, but in general I wouldn't assume that introversion = lack of social skills. If you are able to have quality relationships with the people you DO spend time with, then it's just a matter of being selective. If you find yourself completely unable to connect with the people you really like, then you may want to work on it. If it's just a matter of not feeling interested in spending time with tons of people, no big deal.

Being introvert doesn't mean being antisocial and being social doesn't mean publishing your life on Facebook and high-5ing every dudes you meet.

Just be yourself. Talk to the ones you want to talk and share things you like to share with friends. Be nice to the people you care and never be an ass even with people you don't really admire. That's the basics and it worked pretty well for me since I've met the girl I love and the friends with whom I've actually started our company lol

My perspective is screw what other people think. It is true that for whatever reason most people think introverts are bad, probably because they aren't entertaining enough.

But, once you can say screw it, you learn to treat such social interactions as a game, and you get adept at the entertaining aspect. In fact, I've found that I can say things that spark people's interest more easily because I'm an introvert and I understand what's going on better.

I don't know but just remember you still need a minimum level of interaction to stay positive. I think introverts are less sensitive to loneliness but it can still cause depression, they just don't notice until it's too late like a frog in boiling water. If you're feeling down, forget your damning logical analysis of your life's accomplishments and just go meet some friends. Works like magic.

Here is a long, recent article about introversion that helped me (a definite introvert) feel more at peace with my tendencies:


Bottom line: 50% of us are introverts, but in American society it's the extraverts that define the norms.

Being an introverted personality is perfectly fine. You don't need to be an extrovert to become a founder or CEO of a company. Don't compare yourself with someone you see in univ or try to become one. I know there will some difficulties when it comes to relationships but it is just a matter of time.

It's only a problem if it bothers you. Personally, I've learned how to appear more extroverted, but despite lots of practice I still don't necessarily enjoy doing it. Also, keep in mind that having lots of shallow relationships isn't necessarily as good as having a few deeper ones :)

So long you are not completely, entirely alone, you are fine. Know yourself, accept who you are and work to get a comfortable environment instead of trying to change; never mind if that's now how things are "supposed" to be and forget about those pesky extroverts.

Being an introvert and not having social skills are orthogonal things. The first is not a problem, but the second is. Not because it is 'a bad thing' by any objective moral standard, but simply because it will make your life harder than necessary.

I simply hate it when people define me. "You're X and Y."

I think it's even more careless to define myself (And incredibly boring), especially if that definition includes a shortcoming.

The person I was whilst typing this message is in the past, I am who I want to be in the future.

I think I am an introvert as well. My advice to you is to try getting out of your comfort zone as much as you can. By that I mean try to hang out with people who you don't share your interests with.

Am I the only one that is entirely moot about being an introvert / extrovert? It makes no difference if I spend a few weeks constantly socializing, or a few weeks entirely on my own.

I think it's best to find a balance. I'm both introverted and extroverted, extroverted just takes more energy but also results in more energy being given back to you from other people.

It would be, if you were naturally that way. The fact that you're questioning it seems to suggest you're not acting like yourself.

Seek help, from a friend, or maybe even a professional.

It is ok as long as you don't feel isolated. The moment you feel is hurting you or not allowing to live the life you'd like, it may become a problem.

while I was driving my car this morning I felt like to howl as a wolf full of energy, and the second thought was selling the sound (about ten dollars) to a small group of people. But I think that sound is not enough to convey the experience of vigour, it should be mixed with some music or strange sound. My question is: have you ever bought some sound that is suppose to activate your mental state beyong music?

Well, in case you want to hear a wolf hawk here is one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbCh_Stg2os but that was not me today.

In case you wonder what has this to do with the OP, the you are submitting too fast is the answer, sorry to be out of context here.

of course its ok. being whoever you are is ok.

but if you want to stretch your capabilities, consider taking improv classes or joining Toastmasters.

introvert + http://netmba.com = okay

Of course it's okay!

I was an insane introvert until I met my (later to be) wife. She pushed me into many different social events and clubs that even though I was around people like me, I just wanted to have fun and wound up being quite social. At my first job it was hard to gather a group for lunch, I tried every day though, second job was not hard but nobody with common interests. Third job nobody ate together so I made sure to always invite people to lunch until it became the culture (nobody gives me credit but I don't care). Being around people all the time helps a lot. Also helps if you have witty people to make fun of you and force you to develop wit.

In the end, social skills are like math, they are not spectator sports.

I am still an introvert, but I tend to be social, and enjoy being around other people. Often I like to be left alone, but now it is by choice. The line REALLY blurred within the last 3-5 years or so. The main point to take away is: Is being an introvert making you unhappy? Change it. Otherwise be what you are and be proud of it.

The key idea here is to understand you nature and adapt to it or going against it, depending on what you want.

If you're more comfortable being isolated and feel a pleasure by doing difficult tasks - go further and do some programming or research. You will probably succeeded above average, because focusing, concentration and avoiding distractions is the most important things.

If on the other hand, you feel uncomfortable and sometimes have an urge to be with people (mostly girls) - then you should change yourself, develop a new habits and smooth communication skills. In this case just go out and learn by doing.

Many introverts are trying to avoid unpleasant practices by reading tons of book on subjects. That is a mistake. Information cannot replace actual experience. Knowledge of a theory is not a substitute for a personal realization.

I'm an introvert, but because I'm the oldest child in a large family (and had to take charge a lot) and opinionated by nature, I appear to others as extroverted.

However I'm definitely introverted, so much so that I designed a game back in 2009 to get out of my comfort zone more.

It's called Rejection Therapy, and it's here: http://www.rejectiontherapy.com

It's not meant to change who you fundamentally are, but it will help broaden your horizons.

It is if you're okay with it.

Functioning and even prospering in modern society requires you to be plugged in and socialize. You can live fine off the grid and being an outsider but with each option you have the advantages or disadvantages.

Do you and what makes you happy.

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