How can I become more extroverted?
February 9, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Have you successfully made an intentional transition from introversion (socialization = draining) to extroversion (socialization = sustaining)? If so, please step inside and share your insights with me.

I have always been an introverted person. Partly I put this down to social anxiety and a sort of contempt during my teenaged years for my adolescent peers, which probably caused me to lose out on some opportunities to learn how to socialize well. Mostly though I think that it is just an intrinsic personality trait of mine which developed along the way into a pervasive worldview and series of life choices that have reinforced that trait. I have recently decided that I would like to try to turn that around a bit or at least develop some ways that I can overcome the sort of emotional exhaustion that I often feel following even very pleasant social interaction. (Note: I do like to get out and socialize, it just wears me out.) I am not really looking for ways to socialize more effectively (that is a separate issue) but rather for ways to help make social interaction a more nourishing and energizing activity for me rather than one which is draining and exhausting.

For the purposes of this question, my working definition of introversion vs. extroversion is basically the one that is espoused in this somewhat-famous comic. That is to say, for right now what I am going with is the idea that while both introverts and extroverts may find socializing perfectly pleasant, for introverts it is an activity that fundamentally costs them energy whereas for extroverts it is an activity that charges them up. I realize that this is not a complete or perfect definition of the personality types (and that the whole introvert/extrovert dichotomy is hardly unproblematic in and of itself) but it reflects this aspect of my own life experience very well and for right now it is an excellent way of illustrating the transition that I would like to make.

My feeling is that these two ways of experiencing socialization are not wholly intrinsic to one's personality, but that they are at least partly representatives of two different outlooks or worldviews, and I would like to work on changing my worldview so that I can eventually come to see socialization as something that will make me feel good and energized rather than something that might mean I have to take a recovery day the next day. If you feel you have insights into how I might make the transition from a more introverted to a more extroverted experience, especially if this is something that you have managed to do yourself, then I would be most grateful if you would be willing to share those insights with me.

I realize that I am about to get a dozen different people telling me that I should seek therapy, but this is something I would prefer to work on on my own and I am OK with it taking some time. Also I do not have mental health insurance, am broke, and already have a calendar that is badly overloaded. I have a fair amount of experience at developing coping mechanisms and building internal change on my own, and would like to apply that to this situation rather than try to work it out with a professional. As always, thank you to everyone for your understanding and your thoughts.
posted by Scientist to Human Relations (24 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what your reasons are for wanting to do this, but you may be interested in reading Quiet by Susan Cain. Her research suggests that introversion is something inborn, i.e. not something you can just change. She also explains reasons why introversion is often a good thing. I find it telling that many introverts want to know how to "become" extroverts, but extroverts pretty much never want to become introverted.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:42 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not sure it's possible to change our basic nature of introvert or extrovert as you have defined it (which, by the way, is the same way I define it--introverts need to recharge after even pleasant social interactions; extroverts need time with others to recharge after spending time alone). However, I do think that it's possible to reduce the factors that make social interaction extremely draining, and to find certain less-taxing ways of interacting.

I was a very socially anxious, introverted child. I am still introverted in the sense that I find I need time to recover after social experiences, even if they are pleasant. However, as I have gotten older I have become less socially anxious, and I also find myself a little less exhausted by social experiences. I still need alone time to recover, but less of it. So if you can find a way to reduce your social anxiety (e.g. through techniques you find in self-help books if you can't afford a therapist), you may find you have more energy to "spend" on social interaction.

Also, experiment and take note of which kinds of social experiences drain you more. You might find, for example (as I do) that larger groups, or people I don't know very well, or don't feel comfortable around, make me more exhausted than hanging out with smaller groups of very good friends. If you figure these things out about yourself, you can tailor your socializing to activities and situations that are less likely to drain you completely.

Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I enjoy the opportunity to socialize. I reflect on good social experiences as ones where I met interesting people and learned new things or got to experience some new activity that I enjoyed.

However, I still find it "draining", and I don't think anything can be done to change this. What you can do is manage your social activities more carefully. Choose social activities wisely, give yourself something to "do" (eg, meet person X, find someone to talk about topics A and B, look forward to catching up with someone you haven't spoken to in a while, etc.). Most importantly, don't drain yourself on trivial social activities which will tire you out and cause you to miss other, more valuable social activities.

My best comparison to socializing is exercise: I find exercising draining, in that I am tired by the end of it. If I don't do it, I find that I have all this excess energy that I need to burn off. Furthermore, if I tire myself out so much that I don't have enough energy to go to the gym, I feel sad that I squandered all that energy and opportunity on something not valuable to me.

The better question is not, "how can I become an extrovert?" The better question is, "Given that I am an introvert, how do I become more social?"
posted by deanc at 12:44 PM on February 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'm also an introvert. I just read a book that offered some great ideas about how to better enjoy the times that I do spend socializing with others. The author of The Introvert's Way talks about a lot about introversion in general, but she has some great coping strategies about how to deal with specific sorts of situations. It's not so much about "becoming an extrovert", but rather how to make those situations less stressful. Also, the writing is pretty funny.
posted by kimdog at 12:47 PM on February 9, 2013

I'm really quite introverted. The best part of my day is getting in from work and closing the door, because I know that I don't have to deal with any more people for the rest of the day.

That said, I really enjoy socialising, when I'm prepared for it. Some tips:

1] Plan the gathering. If I know that I'm going to meet Alice, Bob and Carla on a Tuesday afternoon for coffee, then that's something I can look forward to. I rarely accept off-the-cuff invitations because I'm not prepared for them. Maybe this is anxiety, or something. I don't know. Being ready for the experience of seeing people enhances the experience greatly, and the best way I've found of doing that is to arrange things.

2] Socialise in a different fashion. It's not socialising itself that drains me, it's being around people who dominate the conversation, don't talk about anything other than that which interests them and generally hog the limelight. I can totally be energised by social interaction if it's the right kind. Generally, that involves discussing an idea with people who know what they're talking about. I had a fascinating conversation once with a doctor who discussed various things that I'm interested in about the human body with me.

3] Don't be around people who drain your energy. I have a few of these people in my circle of people that I know, and I do my best to avoid them. One of them is a self-confessed drama queen. I know that the conversation is likely to be all about her and the fact she had a minor thing happen to her. I can't be around her much, because she sucks up my energy and leaves me with none. And then there's an energy-panic, which leaves me avoiding people even though it would probably be good for me.

4] Make friends with other introverts. If you can find an introvert, you'll have a friend for a long time, mainly because they'll understand your need for space and quiet, and they'll know that you understand their need for it too.

5] This is hard for me, but try not to see extraverts as black holes where your energy goes to vanish. Some people will suck it up, for sure, but some people will get it. A lot of the time, extraverts are just doing what comes naturally. Get a bunch together, and the energy becomes more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, they don't get that you're not necessarily going to gain by being there, but actually lose. To them, being around people means more energy, so there's always plenty to go around. An introvert works in a fundamentally different way, one that is as alien to them as their way is to us.

Personally, I'd love to see Caring For Your Extravert. Good luck.
posted by Solomon at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree that you don't need to switch from being an introvert to extrovert, just maybe adjust how you frame this difficulty.

The trick, for me, is to engage in social activity that I actually WANT to engage in with people I WANT to be around, and to give myself the OK on declining an invitation here or there if it's not something I really want to do. I work a lot, and my free time is little, and it is incredibly rewarding to spend time with friends doing things I enjoy. I have found, as well, that as my shyness [separate from being an introvert!] has decreased significantly over time, and my definition of "things I like to do" and "people I like to be around" has increased over time.
posted by so_gracefully at 1:20 PM on February 9, 2013

I agree with everyone above that it may not be possible to change. I have gotten a lot better, by necessity, at socializing in what are to me worst-case circumstances - large groups, no familiar faces, in which I am required to interact (meetups and conventions are two of the big ones.) And I *like* these events, a lot, and go out of my way to attend them, but I still need to plan around them, because they wipe me right the fuck out no matter how much I enjoy them.

The only times when I don't feel drained is when I'm socializing one-on-one or very small groups with specific people - some people, usually other introverts, just don't have the same effect on my that most people do. Other than that, I work around it (and enjoy the benefits, like being able to live along and work from home without going mad.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2013

I don't know that you can change whether or not you are an extrovert. I had to take the the Big Five personality assessment as part of a class and one of the things they stressed was that personality traits are stable in adulthood and most of the research suggests that extraversion/introversion is one of those major traits.

You can learn social skills, which can (in my experience) reduce some of the cost of human interaction. Something like Toastmasters tends to help with some people.

For myself, I scored the lowest on the extraversion variable the tester had ever seen, but I enjoy human interaction and have a large circle of friends. It doesn't mean you're incapable of enjoying people and interacting well with others. You just have to be aware of how you are different than some people, and play to your strengths.
posted by winna at 1:22 PM on February 9, 2013

I can impersonate an extrovert very, very well. At any gathering, where I don't know anyone:
I scope out the place, and find a drink (need not be alcoholic) because then, I have something in my hands.
I look for small groups (1 to 3) of people who are talking, but not necessarily fully engaged, like old pals from grade school or in-love couples (these types will be polite, but they're not interested in enlarging their world at the moment.)

I sidle up, stand there, nodding politely, smiling. and then either ask a question or introduce myself. ( I pick small groups, because there's safety in numbers--single people might be polite, but then I'm more likely stuck carrying the conversational ball alone.)

If the group breaks up, I can probably tag along with one of that group and meet more people. If not, and I'm not fitting in, I excuse myself and find another group. Lather, rinse repeat. If I see someone I know, I'll join them, but usually drag them along to another small group.

This way, I'm meeting people, joining in various conversations, and also socializing with others I know or just met, and making more groups. After a full evening of this, I go home and collapse. This sort of activity does not fill me with energy, but it's part of life, and in my social as well as professional world--meeting and chatting is vital to success. I want people to like me, and I want to like them--at least for the evening.

It's not ever helpful to think of extraverts as energy vampires, nor as introverts as dark clouds, just waiting to rain on the gathering. People are usually interesting, if given half a chance. I'm good at actually listening, not just thinking up what I'm going to say next. I don't try for witty remarks, I give my full name, and I try to use people's names in the conversation at least once (Dale Carnegie taught me that.)
posted by Ideefixe at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

And to add--even though you didn't ask for a "how-to" guide--the more you practice, the more enjoyable social events can be. When you leave, even if you're tired, and you need to be alone to recharge, if you've had fun, you're more likely to look forward to doing it again, and you won't have to burn up psychic energy dreading some party or conference, but will anticipate having a good time, which is far less stressful.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:35 PM on February 9, 2013

After having enjoyed a couple of true extroverts, I got so that sometimes I try to emulate them. Honestly, it IS kind of energizing to get someone talking about the things they're passionate about, despite my social anxiety and introversion. It takes a lot of energy to approach people and compliment them and get them talking, but once I started emulating the natural extroverts (and didn't care so much if someone didn't want to talk to me), it became almost easier to meet new people than to carry on a conversation with my beloved old friends. There's so much new ground to cover!
posted by ldthomps at 1:37 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Change is maybe too strong a word, but I decided at a point in my life to stop letting my introversion cripple me. I think a lot of people would describe me as an extrovert today.
I frame it to myself as being polite: at any gathering I say hello to everyone and ask how they are doing, then actually wait for response. Most people love talking about themselves. I state my opinion in debates (even if it makes me feel unconfortable). I get incredibly tired and sometimes I 'hide' behide someone truly extroverted.
The worst thing for me is talking to a crowd. But I do it. I prepare carefully, and worry, but in my view, it's like overcoming any other handicap, you train and you go.
Don't imagine you can get rid of the discomfort - accept it as a fact of life, and make space for recovery in your schedule each time you have strained your limits.
posted by mumimor at 1:51 PM on February 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Social anxiety and shyness are NOT the same thing as introversion. When I figured out this distinction I became much more comfortable with my introversion. It will take planning, especially if you already have a full calender, but spacing out obligations where you must be around people with things where you can recharge really helps.

Work on your social anxiety problems and the times you DO want to be around people will be much more enjoyable and much less draining.
posted by missriss89 at 2:41 PM on February 9, 2013

Best answer: This is an interesting question. I think we need to dig more into the concept of introversion - that is, yes, we define it as feeling drained after social interactions, but what is actually causing the drain? The energy can't be going just no-where. There has to be some aspect of your behavior or management of social activity that ultimately ends up using up your resources. This is a reason why I sometimes don't like the idea of introversion - not that I doubt it exists, but because different people will have a different make up of reasons why they get drained, some of which are easier to solve, some of which are harder to resolve.

For me, this is really easy to pinpoint - as a deaf person, I have to focus on lip-reading a lot, and if you've ever tried to lipread consciously, you'll notice how much attention and focus you have to give to the other person. Now imagine doing that subconsciously as your default mode 24/7 - you can see why that gets tiring, and worse of all, you can't really switch it off since you've been conditioned that way.

So here's me trying to deconstruct this. Thoughts to consider the next time you're talking with the other person:
- How much focus are you giving to the other person?
- Are you automatically able to filter out the important bits of conversation, or do you end up listening to more of the sentence? (E.g. in verbal communication, are you able to pick up "key words" and respond based on that?) Listening is an energy-consuming process!
- How much energy are you devoting to taking what people say into consideration, and formulating a response?
- Are you paying attention to how people perceive you? Not necessarily being actively self-conscious, because this can be a sub-conscious thing!
- How many people do you have to manage, and how good are you at multi-tasking?
- What external factors are there impacting the mode of conversation that you might be not be used to? Is there thumping music, is it dark, is there a large group etc.?
- How much energy are you using when you're "idle"? Could go back to how much you're focusing on how people perceive you; another reason why could be you might not be "shutting down" non-essential internal processes, so the external stuff has to go on top of that.

So to answer your question more directly, I think you CAN, at least in theory, change yourself to be an extrovert, if you can only identify what inefficiencies (and they might not even be inefficiencies - focusing on people and actually listening is a good thing!) you've learned in your conversational style. I've noticed that a lot of people who self-identify as being introverted have a similar story to you - that is, they had to pick up conversation skills in a less natural fashion. Naturally, this lends itself to a number of learned behaviours that may not be efficient and may be eating up your energy in a bid just to function. Of course, this is WAY harder to do than is said - a lot of these behaviours will just be naturally integrated yourself as a manner of being, so identifying and rooting them out is really, really hard. And I'm not even sure if it's something you want to do.
posted by Conspire at 2:53 PM on February 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Conspire is getting at the kind of thing I was asking about in my question. It seems like a lot of others are maybe treading a path that I tried to head off in my initial question, but I guess I didn't do a very good job of explaining where I'm trying to go with this self-improvement project so let me clarify.

I'm not shy, and while I do have some anxiety I don't know that that's really what is happening here. I do need to work on my overall social skills, but that too is something that I am actively improving. What I am looking for are ways to a: expend less energy when spending time with people, particularly new people, and b: recontextualize social events such that they become exciting and energizing rather than draining and exhausting.

Recall that whether or not I am enjoying myself in any given social setting has nothing to do with whether it is wearing me out. I can have a lot of fun hanging out with people (and often do) but feel worn out and emotionally drained afterward. I am not looking for a way to "appear" extroverted by being super outgoing and friendly, but rather for a way to "feel" extroverted by recontextualizing social interaction as something that is nourishing and sustaining.

I appreciate Conspire's suggestion to pay attention to the actual sub-activities within the heading of "socialization" that tire me the most, and to think about how I might be able to spend less energy thinking about them. I also think that ldthomps' suggestion that I look at socialization with new people as an opportunity to discover new awesome people and find out about them -- in general I am trying to focus my social mode from being less about me and more about the people I am talking to.

Thanks for the responses so far. I hope I have managed to clear up whatever misunderstandings people may have had. I disagree, by the way, that this is an impossible quest. I see no reason why it should be an easy one, but in my experience it is absolutely possible to change one's mode of experience – albeit the process usually requires a significant expenditure of time and a lot of persistence and introspection.
posted by Scientist at 3:39 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to hate my introversion and spent my life looking longingly and wishfully at the lives of extraverts, thinking that if only I could be like them my life would be wonderful.

I spent so much time and energy trying to find ways to be like extraverts and pushing myself to be chatty and outgoing and engaging, but I was miserable. I never felt like I really connected with anyone, I felt like a fake (because I *was* faking it) and I didn't really have any real friends.

The day I decided to give up trying to be an extravert was the day my whole life changed. I accepted myself, talked to people I genuinely felt drawn to and stayed quiet around, or moved on from, people I didn't feel comfortable around. All of a sudden I was making friends left, right and centre. People can instantly tell when someone is forcing gregariousness, and it's just painful for everyone. A conversation with a real person is so much more enjoyable.

This acceptance of my introversion enabled me to feel truly comfortable in my own skin, and lo and behold, to my absolute astonishment, being the REAL me helped me to *naturally* build up my confidence around others, and all of those extravert abilities I'd been coveting for so many years were no longer things I had to try to do.

I am naturally more extraverted now because of the confidence I gained from people who liked me for me, not for someone I was trying to be.

I'm always amazed that as soon as I stopped seeking to be someone else, I gained the confidence for which I'd always wished.
posted by Zaire at 5:42 PM on February 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Dale Carnegie has been mentioned before. I listened to How to Win Friends on audiobook on my work outs and it's helped to reframe social interaction as less of a chore and more of a game that can be enjoyed where you're doing your best to make the other person feel good about themselves. There are also a number of social cues that I've had problems sussing out over the years and it's somewhat empowering to be told what people expect. While it hasn't exactly taken the burden of social interaction completely away, it's lessened anxieties to a degree and has made it a bit more fun.

However, I question the idea of a written epiphany here being able to completely shift the paradigms you have about social interaction. I think you're right about the illusory permanence of the introvert/extrovert polemic; it often feels like there is just something that you're not getting from social interaction that others seem to latch on to easily. Some of it has to do with expectations, some of it with juggling your often thoughtful but complicated values and identities, and a lot of it to do with your background and how you were raised. But the reason why you shouldn't preempt the inevitable 'see a therapist' solution is because the task of unraveling all of this can't be done with principles alone. You are, after all, a special snowflake and what you're asking for is something that most have filed away as unnecessary bordering on nigh impossible. If it can be done, it's likely that the person who will have your answers is someone who deals with people all day long in an honest, heart-to-heart fashion and it's likely that they would have to spend some time with you first before they could give you any answers.
posted by dubusadus at 8:17 PM on February 9, 2013

Best answer: I'm an introvert who also has chronic fatigue. Social interaction is always exhausting for me. Always. Without question. Like, need-to-go-lie-down-now physically exhausting.

BUT I rarely feel "worn out and emotionally drained" by these interactions and I DO have social interactions that are "nourishing and sustaining". In fact, sometimes I will go do something social when I'm not feeling great precisely because I find it emotionally nourishing to spend time with certain people. Still need time alone afterward, though.

I think that there's less misunderstanding anong the responses you're getting than you may believe. There was a time when I DID feel emotionally drained after a lot of my social interactions, and the things that helped were a) avoiding people who were emotionally draining (I don't mean categorically but that there were individuals in my life at the time who required too much emotional effort for me to be around), and 2) overcoming my self-consciousness in social situations. It seems to me that your idea that you need to think more about how you are interacting with people so that you can expend less energy on how you are interacting with people is a recipe for increased self-consciousness, which may give you the opposite of the results you're hoping for.

Maybe the introvert/extrovert framing isn't really what you're looking for, because it does sound like you're saying extrovert=good, introvert=bad, even after hearing from a number of happy, more or less well-adjusted introverts who are suggesting that accepting whatever your natural tendencies are may make social interactions easier to navigate and thus less exhausting.
posted by camyram at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Camyram, I am going to have a nice long think about that and then revisit this thread later. I think I may have asked the wrong question.
posted by Scientist at 11:18 PM on February 9, 2013

Seconding the idea that you might not be looking for the introvert/extrovert framing either. I think the issue with this distinction is that it's just a model and not necessarily a reflection of reality - which often isn't made very clear especially on Metafilter where the two terms are often thrown around as an unquestionable truth. In reality, the model is quite artificial and doesn't really hold up to scrutiny: what's someone who just treats social interaction normally supposed to be? What if you get energized in certain environments and by certain people but exhausted by others? And so forth.

In reality, I think the introvert/extrovert model is best at explaining to people "hey, different people have different views on social interaction, and you should be aware of that." In other words, it's great for promoting sensitivity. Where it can often fall flat is if you're using it as a tool to box yourself in. Like I said in my last response, calling yourself an introvert says nothing about your specific, special ways of dealing with people socially. Not only that, but it's quite restrictive in how it implies there are "naturally" two rigid boxes in which we can compartmentalize people into neatly without giving due respect to the internal processes that may cause someone to skew one way or another. I'm sorry - but I get really fed up when I hear stuff like "extroverts have no internal self!" You can't pigeonhole half of the population like that!

So I would really advise you to step outside of the box here as well. You have very specific social goals in mind, but I don't feel that the blunt and overly simplistic model of introversion versus extroversion will be helpful for you here. Instead, I would look at you yourself as a person independent of that and consider what attributes are contributing to the stuff you want to change. I would agree that it might be self-consciousness: you strike me as a highly analytical type, and if that's your default "mode" in conversation, perhaps that's the reason you're getting tired here (it used to be and is still some extent my default mode until I recognized I was tearing everything apart with over-thinking when it wasn't necessary and forced myself to stop).
posted by Conspire at 1:12 AM on February 10, 2013

I like Conspire's first answer because it says a lot of things that the other answers were trying to give but reframed it in a way that you can understand.

Sometime last summer I was visiting a bunch of family and friends at their house, and there were lots of people, and then later on that evening I met up with another friend of mine and her friends for dinner, after which we went out to a bunch of bars. At a certain point after hanging out with my relatives, I got a bit tired and cranky, and then went out to visit my friends for dinner, which got kind of stressful because I was running late. Now you might ask yourself, "how can I become more of an extrovert so these experiences will be energizing?", because everyone wants to be the social person who has a blast going from event to event. But the answer is similar to what we gave here: namely, pick up and leave when your time is up so you feel good about the experience before feeling like, "I just want to go home and recover." (For example, this would have allowed me to leave while I was still enjoying myself and got to the next social engagement without running late, compoundig the stress). Avoid the people who are going to suck up all the energy in the room, including yours. Find something to occupy yourself (like a person or an activity) that stimulates you. If you like, you can tell yourself, "this is what extroverts do to keep up their energy!"

In my experience, there's a certain inflection point in a social experience that tips it over from, "The best time ever!" over into, "ugh, I feel exhausted after that." As you sort of learn what those points are, you can work around them and avoid them to keep your energy up.
posted by deanc at 7:25 AM on February 10, 2013

Briefly, since you are going to maybe reframe your question...

What I am looking for are ways to a: expend less energy when spending time with people, particularly new people, and b: recontextualize social events such that they become exciting and energizing rather than draining and exhausting.

What works for me sometimes--

(a) Care less about people and what they are saying, on a superficial level. What they say at a given moment doesn't really matter, and the same for you. At the same time, (b) Find a way to get fascinated by people and/or to love people more. When I go into an event thinking about the interesting tidbit I might pick up or the magical, "wow, you're human and that's amazing!" moment that might come as we all let go and talk with each other, I have a good time. If I go in hating on humanity, thinking people as enemies, examining each and every interaction, it's not fun.

Mantras I can might are "Something wonderful may happen" and "There are people here worthy of love and respect" or "There is someone here who can teach me something." Those help keep me on the right page while letting the smaller details go. And when I'm talking to someone, I will more likely think, "Hey, this person is teaching me," or "One of those reasons they are so loveable is ___."
posted by ramenopres at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will second Susan Cain's Quiet. It reframes the discussion of introversion and extroversion into high-reactive and low-reactive temperaments, and demonstrates that neither one is intrinsically better than the other. I found the chapters on how high-reactive individuals (ie. those easily over-stimulated by their environments aka introverts) take on extravert-like behaviours really helpful.

The key Cain raises is that, if you're focused on doing what you enjoy, pursuing what you like (eg. helping people learn) and know how to balance it out, you can take on highly extraverted behaviours without feeling drained (eg. being an engaging and charismatic lecturer). Some of her insights I already knew from experience, others I had no idea about and it was really reaffirming to read how other highly introverted people have come up with ways to deal with their flow of life.

Personally, I don't think you can switch from one side to the other. I think Cain's got it right with high-reactive and low-reactive: it's innate and physical. But you can extend those boundaries and feel out what amount of interaction you're comfortable with and how before you're over-stimulated and need to recuperate. You can also focus on what you want to get out of social situations and experiment with that.

For example, whenever I am in a new group situation, it's usually because I want to meet new people. So I make it a goal to remember everyone's name and one personal fact about them because I am naturally curious. When I focus on that, the socialising bit doesn't drain me and I even sound engaging without trying to. I found that slight shift in thinking made it much easier for me to mingle with strangers. And also through experience, I know how much of that I can do and how many people I can meet in a given night/week/month, and I don't feel bad about staying at home once I hit that limit.
posted by tksh at 12:54 PM on February 10, 2013

Completely Serious: Dungeons and Dragons. Or some other version of roleplay.

A very good friend of mine learned how to be extroverted through playing a jester-type character. Prior to doing so, he was very nice, but a non-entity in social situations.

His theory: in Tabletop RPGs, players often idealize a character that has aspects they desire. In playing that character, players can slowly learn about those character aspects.

Of course, this was in High School, when he was still developing. Not sure if I'd be applicable to you.
posted by justalisteningman at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2013

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