Little and big social goals?
February 16, 2018 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Help this socially anxious introvert brainstorm some little goals for increasing sociability!

When I think about improving my social life I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed as a lot of the time I'd rather just be indoors reading a book, or sitting at a coffee shop writing a journal entry, or engaging in some sort of individualistic sport like running or biking by myself. When I look up from these activities, however, I often start to feel lonely and unhappy. Unfortunately, I also have a decent amount of social anxiety... I can certainly be social and articulate but I really have to be in the mood and it doesn't feel like that comes along super often sometimes. A lot of the time if I go to a social event I latch onto one person or the people I know and either just chat with them or don't particularly feel like talking. I'm definitely not a social butterfly.

I was thinking recently that to improve my confidence and push myself a bit on the sociability front it would be easier to focus on little social goals instead of feeling like I have to transform who I am as a person into someone who is super bubbly or the life of the party. Eg here are some goals I thought of:

- host a dinner at my house once every 3-4 months
- say hi to 1 new person at my yoga class
- invite someone to go shopping with me
- learn the names of more of the support people at my job (eg, security people, cleaners, etc.)
- when I go to X social event, really focus on smiling more and asking people questions about themselves

I thought I would ask the hive mind for other ideas. I realize it's a bit context specific (eg, some of my goals might be very specific to my life and where I live/who I interact with) - but if you have any ideas of goals that you've made for yourself or might want to make or more generic goal ideas, please share! I feel like it might be easier as an anxious introvert to focus on small-scale actions rather than on the vague feelings of not being good enough ;)
posted by knownfossils to Human Relations (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve been working on having “hang-outs” at my house. Basically an open house—I pick up a few snacks and drinks, and from X time to Y time on a given day, anyone can pop over and hang out. It’s pretty unstructured. I tend to be at home anyway, and it forces me to clean up and be available—but I also get the comfort of being in my own house. If no one shows up, oh well, I get a clean house out of the deal and do whatever I was going to do anyway. Generally a few people show up and we chat and eat some food and maybe throw in a movie for background noise or play a game. I have a large kitchen and a ton of small appliances, so next week I’m having a baking-themed hangout. A bunch of people will bring some recipes, and we’ll make cheesecake and ice cream and maybe something in the crock pot.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:56 PM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

Make a mindful effort to say yes when people invite you to do things.
posted by Fig at 1:43 AM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

- learn the names of more of the support people at my job (eg, security people, cleaners, etc.)
posted by Gnella at 3:37 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Book clubs are easy, slow, and fairly common. I am in two right now and it's two social nights a month.
posted by typecloud at 4:56 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your ideas are great and so are the those in the comments. A few more:

* Try to set up a friend date once a week - ask someone to get coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks with you, see a movie, go to an art exhibit, go running or biking together - something like that. This is for maintaining and nurturing the connections you already have - as long as you have friendships you value this is probably more important than the activities that are intended to help you meet new people.
* In addition to dinners, consider hosting easier events that will give you more opportunities for connection - potlucks, game nights, etc.
* Volunteer for some sort of commitment and mentally commit to showing up regularly for at least 8 weeks (about once a week). I did this once and an extravert "adopted" me and we became really good friends.
* At something you do regularly ask another person a question about themselves to get to know them a little better - what was your weekend like, how long have you been doing this/how did you get into it, etc.

Good luck. My natural tendency is to not seek out company until I realize I'm lonely and that's really not a workable strategy.
posted by bunderful at 5:58 AM on February 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am a broken record on some of this but I think civic activities can be good for this or other sort of volunteerism, something where there is a shared goal that isn't just "socializing." There can be a lot of different ways to do this so you can line it up with your interests a bit more and then either do a bit more light conversation while doing some sort of job (think packing boxes at the food shelf) or you can have some expert knowledge that you help people with (think helping someone get started at a blood donation center, or participating in a bike repair workshop or something). A few things that I do

- pub trivia
- serve on the conservation commission board
- regularish coffee date with a friend approximately weekly

A few things other people suggest

- working at a pet shelter (if animals are your thing)
- helping out with Friends of the Library stuff
- potluck (a little easier than hosting)

I've also started working more on my interactions with the feeling that "Weird begets weird" Like, I often don't want to talk to people but that's sort of my thing and if I am out in public I should make an effort. So I set aside a few minutes to chitchat with people and often find that I feel better at the end of it and not worse. The trick for me is making sure it's short (i.e. I wrap it up if they don't) and generally positive (i.e. if they're all like "My terrible day, let me tell you about it" I try to wrap that line of discussion up) and I try to end up with "Hey good to see you" because I think that just improves everyone's day
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 AM on February 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

Volunteer for a political campaign. I'm a natural introvert, and it's always hard to get out there and canvass, but it gets easier and easier each time I do it. I'm now cold-calling people (for money even), and my heart has not spontaneously exploded in fear and self-loathing. Feels pretty damn good, on a personal level, ignoring the fact that I'm doing something practical for candidates and issues I'm interested in and support.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2018

Try to follow up on things people told you earlier the next time you see them. For example, if someone said that their dog is sick, later you can ask, "How is your dog doing?"
posted by Eevee at 11:39 AM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've done this! I:

Hosted a potluck once a month
Set a goal of having a conversation with at least one new person per week
Reached out to at least one friend per week whom I hadn't seen recently
Accepted every social invitation I could.

Setting concrete goals was really effective in getting me out more.

If you're able to, the biggest single way I found to maintain a decent social life was to have a standing once-per-week get-together. I found friends to watch a TV show with; others do pub trivia, exercise with a group, etc.

I also put reminders on my calendar of things to follow-up on with friends. Like the date of a friend's surgery so I can ask her how it went, a month after someone's dad dies a reminder to check in on them, etc.
posted by metasarah at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

IDareTo (Android) and Shuffle My Life (both).
posted by WCityMike at 12:23 PM on February 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I joined a group on Facebook called geek girls and then started a book club within that and made some friends from there. It's easier to start in a group like that because people are already trying to make new friends, whereas I find things like volunteering and talking to people at work often doesn't blossom into a friendship where you hang out outside of that activity. I also made some friends apps where I went on a date with that person, found we were not compatible for dating but would be good as friends.

Lately Ive just been trying less hard and it's working for me. Sometimes it's more about finding open and friendly people who are already looking for friendship than it is about going out of your way and hosting people. I have some good friends in my city now, but they all live pretty far
I haven't figured out how to make friends in my neighborhood yet.
posted by winterportage at 1:15 PM on February 17, 2018

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