The life of an introvert is like a novel. A novel with a lock. Some people have the key, but very few know what the book is about. Most get as far as the introduction. Some get to the rising action, and only a few make it to the end. Like most things in life, getting to know a person takes time.
Here are a few tips to help you get to know a person better in university amidst the pandemic.
- Start a conversation
Even though we are living in a time where humans are running away from each other, a conversation will not kill you.
“It is better to talk to a person than it is to a computer. We get something back from a person, even if it is only a smile,” said Dr Chris Hewer, a psychologist at Kingston University.
Stronger connections are made through conversations. As long as you wear a face mask and keep a two-metre distance, you should be fine. Also, relax. No one can see your face fully. You can make as many funny faces as you please and no one will ever know.
Here are a few conversation starters to get you underway:
- What did you do during lockdown? Did you manage to do anything productive like learn to drive, catch up on forgotten hobbies, etc.?
- Were you or any of your family members affected by COVID?
- How do you feel about the way we are being taught?
- Do you think that this pandemic will ever end?
- When they finally create a vaccine for coronavirus, will you take it?
2. Show a bit of vulnerability
Have you ever felt that you found a friend in someone, only to find out that they don’t really know you as well as you think they do? Welcome to the life of an introvert. As an introvert, you will find that you know more about your friends than they know about you. This leads you to ask yourself two questions.
- Am I that reserved?
- Is it that they just don’t care enough to remember the little information that I have shared about myself?
These types of questions make you think about what you might be doing wrong and how you can change to please your extroverted friends. STOP!
Instead, be more involved in the conversation. Don’t think of it as giving them ammunition to hurt you with in future disagreements. Think of it this way: Friendships are all about trust. Showing a bit of vulnerability symbolises trust. Friendships flourish when there is trust.
Don’t just listen to conversations. Be vulnerable and ask questions and add your own opinions as opposed to giving advice. For example:
- Do you think I should…?
- I am sorry but I do not agree with…
3. Always be yourself
Never change your personality to please anyone. If some people only get as far as introductions with you, it’s ok. Learn to be happy with who you are. If you are not happy with the way you are, how can you expect someone else to like you for who you are?
4. Stop cancelling plans! Some social interaction is good for you
Here is the evidence:
- Mercy Care reported that social interaction “betters your mental health” and “lowers your risk of dementia.”
- It also “lowers your stress levels”, according to Medical News Today (2018).
5. Show your face on video calls
Yes, you read right. It can be scary to even think of showing your face in a Microsoft Teams or a Zoom meeting. It’s also very easy to turn off your camera and microphone, hide all your reactions, your facial expressions and what you are really up to.
Think for a second. Why do you do this? Could it be that you are afraid that all the attention will be on you? Could it be that you feel like you are automatically volunteering yourself to respond when a question is asked? Or could it be about how you think you look to others? STOP!
Did you know that when your camera is off, you are more susceptible to being distracted? You could be scrolling through social media, binge watching Netflix or making a cup of tea and nobody would know.
But what if your lecturer calls on you to respond to a question when you have stepped out of the room or when you are otherwise occupied with things unrelated to the session?
A girl who is distracted from her online lesson. Image by Bruce Mars/Unsplash
Yes, it can be unnerving to think that you will be the centre of attention if you show your face. But guess what? It is not about what you look like, it is about communication.
Think of it this way, you are accommodating the extroverts. They haven’t been out in ages; they are seeing fewer people each day. Seeing your face gives them motivation to carry out daily tasks. It reminds them that world has not gone mad. It reminds them that they are not alone.
You have to remember that your lecturers and your classmates are humans too. You need to remind them that there are people on the other side of the screen and that it is not just a black screen with a bunch of invisible, analytical eyes and terrifying initials. It is time to give your initials a face.
Misconceptions about introverts
A common misconception about introverts is that they are reserved, distant and cold. However, this is not the case.
The truth is that introverts are not completely comfortable with expressing their feelings. Whether this is to protect themselves or the people around them from hurt because they tend to overthink things. Things like: What will they think of me? Am I boring them? Will I offend them with what I say?
Dr. Chris Hewer said: “An introvert is someone who focuses on the internal world. Particularly the world of feelings and thoughts. People don’t fall into two categories.”
You can be extroverted and introverted at the same time.