How Can a Shy Introvert Become More Approachable?

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You and other dating coaches often note that women need to be warm to attract men. I understand how warmth puts people at ease and openness allows for connection to develop. What do you recommend for shy and/or introverted types, especially ones who are abstract thinkers and not immediately relatable to most people?

People often write me off as snobby and aloof when they first meet me. I have made great efforts to reduce the frequency of making this impression, but it still happens. Sometimes it is shyness and being overwhelmed by stimuli around me that makes me go “deer in the headlights”. Other times, I am absent-minded, caught up in my daydreams and thoughts, and I know I am difficult to engage. I struggle with very literal chit-chat, being at a loss for words. People do say I am a great listener though!

I know shyness can be worked on, and as noted, I have worked on it a lot over the past 10+ years (I am in my early 30s), but it seems it is still not enough. I have been more conscious of smiling and body language, but at times it can seem contrived, which also turns people off. I still find myself mostly misunderstood when I first meet people, and everyone tells me I am perpetually single because I am too reserved, unless in the company of close friends/family. In general, men do not approach me or take any interest in me. I am fit and considered pretty in the face, well-groomed, and more interested in people’s internal qualities, not superficial stuff like height or money. However, I notice women who are really emotionally gushy and talkative will grab most of the male attention.

I don’t really make apologies for introversion, understanding it not to be a flaw, but having its own set of equally valuable traits. The problem is that these traits are not immediately discernible, and people will project a lot of negative traits onto you in the meantime. Good friends admit to me they had a negative impression of me at first, and even once they got over it, they say it took yeeeeaaars to really get to know me. Once people get to know me, then they tell me I am very kind, patient and empathetic, so I am not a cold person at heart.

What can I do to convey my positive qualities more readily and make better first impressions (namely, be more attractive with my demeanor), without putting on a fake personality?

Thanks!
Michelle

I pride myself on a few things:

    – Offering ten years worth of thoughtful, balanced, data-driven blog posts on dating and relationships.

    – Always trying to get better, to evolve, to understand women and men at a deeper level, to offer both empathy and constructive criticism to help my readers find love.

    – Admitting when I don’t know something.

I gotta be honest with you, Michelle: I don’t know how to answer your question.

Hold out for a guy who will appreciate you as you are…

I’ve tackled questions about introversion before.

I’m well aware of the introvert’s Bible, Quiet, which provides insight and validation to introverts who struggle in a world dominated by extroverts.

But apart from telling you two things you already know, I don’t know what I’ve got for you:

    a) Hold out for a guy who will appreciate you as you are (even though you come off as aloof and it takes “yeeeeeaaars” to get to know you).
    b) Keep working on becoming more extroverted and social. Not because there’s anything “wrong” with introversion, but because it’s more “effective” in dating to be warm and engaging.

Keep working on becoming more extroverted and social.

If you have 90 minutes to make a strong first impression on a date, it’s hard to do it if conversation with strangers makes you uncomfortable and self-conscious.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got. But I’d love to learn how to help my introverted clients in a more tangible way.

So readers, what do you have for me and Michelle? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Rampiance

    I will add to my previous post that my daughter and I worked at places where the customers make efforts to get to know the employees ~~ it makes a big difference that there was some effort coming from the customers to be kind and friendly.

  2. 22
    B

    I believe you can take all three of the main points here and apply it OP. There are some great answers here but yes you can do all three: FAKE IT, BE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF, and ACT LIKE YOURE MEETING   A FRIEND. Take a little of everything and use it to your advantage.

    I was   terrible first date when I started dating but I was super inexperience and I came off cold, mean, reserved, very aloof but I knew inside I was much more than that. I need to connect with the girl inside of me who was warm, understanding, intuitive, nurturing, funny, engaging, and curious! Yes that ‘girl’ was me, not this cold aloof exterior I had on. I had to bring her out, I had to hold her hand and literally bring her from inside out. I PRACTICED PRACTICED PRACTICED. And I was always a curious human being! I wanted to know everything and everyone, even if I didnt verbalize it, I thought it. And I had to practice to put it all out.

    I used online dating and joined several sites. I continuously scheduled dates from 1-9 guys per week and I rotated dating. I stopped thinking and started opening up. I chosed to be human and try to have a connection, from talking about movies to favorite super heroes, to food and travels and loves and etc. It was amazing. It took me a year but I got better. And then suddenly being more extroverted and social   became second nature and it felt more natural than ever. It was authentic, I wasnt giggly or fake, but I was engaging and warm and I knew these guys knew that and it had a wonderful impact on them and me.

    I have probably met close to 300 men from online dating and I went on to even make great friends. I am 26 now and have a great dating life. How I approach dating is, the inital contact can be slightly fake, YES I smile and hug right away as an introduction. I treat these guys like they old high school buddies and were just catching up, but its feels more natural than it sounds. Once conversations pick up, the real me appear and we have best conversations and I always end up having the best time. The best dates are those I learned something about myself while I am learning more about them. And usually by end of date, I hug them bye and thank the guy for a great time. I also learned you cant go wrong by being polite or cordial as well, so many guys meet cold women that theyre surprised politeness is a   thing some women still believe in while dating!

    From your letter to Evan, I can see a warm curious intelligent girl who feels trapped inside. Practice, practice, practice and also you got to WANT this. I wanted to become more and be the version of me and I knew the cold exterior wasnt me. NOW the engaging, funny, articulate girl on the outside is the REAL me. Its a journey and its also an incredibly fun one. Dont forget to have fun too lol. Good luck =)

     

  3. 23
    E

    Yeah, this is me.   I recommend reading “The Highly Sensitive Person,” which I found only 2 weeks ago and am still digesting.

    Is there a self-esteem component to the way Michelle comes off in the world?   There certainly is for me.   I have a hobby that puts me in contact with a lot of teenagers (I am 35).   It is the only place I feel like “myself.”   When I am engaged in this hobby, I feel confident and powerful and fun.   The teenage boys notice – last month one of the newcomers mistook me for an NBA cheerleader!   But elsewhere, I shrink into myself because I have such low self-esteem.   At 35, I cannot remember a man hitting on me once – I am invisible. And I go out alone to bars and dinner at least twice a week!   I’ve told interested men (friends, colleagues) point-blank that they can do better than me, and I mean it.   Younger.   Prettier.   Less baggage.   No stray gray hairs:)

    I think I am too old to change but maybe Michelle isn’t, and maybe she also has more reasons to feel better about herself than I do.

     

     

  4. 24
    Dandy

    For the OP – I can tell you from experience that faking it does not work (at least for me).   I tried being bubbly and extroverted and I was told I was irritating, annoying, and was once actually asked to please go away.     And it doesn’t help that I don’t have a “typical” female voice.   Just be yourself and you will find someone eventually.

  5. 25
    KM

    I agree with B.   Combine approaches — and practice a lot.   Go easy on yourself and acknowledge each time you get out of your comfort zone.   I’m 48 now, so have had years to practice and it’s gotten easier to be in social situations without feeling drained, but to do well, I have to “psych up” or be with my good friends who absolutely can’t believe I consider myself an introvert, with how much I can talk.

    My career has me interacting with many different people each day (healthcare).   To me, Introversion means that interacting with many people is draining, and spending time away is recharging.   Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working with and helping people, just have to be careful not to become drained.

    However, being an Introvert is not the same as coming across as cold, aloof, etc.   To me, that’s a separate aspect related to communication and body language.   I think one can be introvert and be perceived as approachable — and also as unapproachable.

    Often I have to pretend to be more outgoing than I’d be naturally, because this is what most patients expect.   I don’t consider that to be “faking,” because this is how I’d be with my close friends.   I just have to use greater effort to go against my introvert nature.   And I acknowledge that in order not to burn out, there is a maximum number of people I can interact with in one day without burning myself out.

    Keep practicing, observe what works for others (do they smile more, ask certain questions, open body language), and practice until it becomes more natural.   It’s a process.   Maybe consider a coach for public speaking or something along those lines that can give feedback on voice and body language.   You’ll get there — take one step at a time, and don’t give up.

  6. 26
    DP

    I’m in the same boat as a shy introvert.   Honest friends and men I’ve dated say that their first impression of me was that I was aloof, bitchy or snobby.

    I have found personally that a lot of extroverted men really like introverts, you just need to get past that initial first impression.   Online dating worked for me because like many introverts written communication is my strength.   I did however, only go out with extroverted men.   It’s just a dynamic that worked for me.   Practice made it easier and as a bonus I got to meet a lot of cool people on top of making new friends and meeting my current boyfriend.

    As far as men asking me out in real life situations I found it tends to happen more when I get out of my head and be in the moment.   Often times I come across as a woman on a mission because I’m   wrapped up in my internal world.

    I never fake small talk or being bubbly.   I just talk about things that interest me and usually that works well enough for most men.

  7. 27
    Sum Guy

    Hi Michelle,

    I understand your story, I’m an introvert and until my mid-30’s I found small talk hard…or more precisely even when I could fake when viewing it as just another intellectual challenge, I didn’t really care for it.   I’ve a different view now and much more comfortable with extroverting, so it’s very possible one day you’ll get there.

    That, however, doesn’t change my advice.   Even though I can do the social scene, and have fun at it, introversion is how I recharge and it is still  in my soul.   I want to fond someone who aligns with that.   I’ve found the best way is to find someone you can have deep conversations about things you love.

    Even when I was shy, if I met someone at a party that shared an interest (say in physics or history, two of my favorites) can talk easily and for some time.     I’d suggest going to meet-ups where people share an interest or using Marks 2/2/2 rule I saw to see if your potential date shares one of your interests.   Then talk about that.   I suspect after talking about that for an hour you will feel comfortable talking some about other things.

    Lastly, here’s a real bonus for an introverted woman in the dating/relationship world.   Men like to spend time on their hobbies, which most of the time means being off without their girlfriend.   It is so common to hear men complain how this stresses their relationship.     Certainly there are insecure and controlling women (as their are men) but for the sane folks I think it is more an extrovert/introvert thing.   Extroverts have a harder time accepting their partner spending time away from them to have fun.   Introverts, on the other hand, well understand that you sometimes just need alone or apart time and it does not mean your partner is loved any less.

  8. 28
    Ana

    Two words: online dating.

  9. 29
    Mary

    As a typical introvert, I’ve done a boatload of reading, introspection and meta-analysis about introversion and have learned a lot about it and about myself.   I now consider myself an evolved introvert, meaning, I’ve fully accepted my nature, and have figured out what works best for me in social situations, which is to split the difference, so to speak, or “fake it” (a bit) as someone above suggested (I think Susan Cain even recommends the “fake it” approach).    I know I’ll never be the engaging life of the party, but neither do I need to hide in the bathroom the entire time avoiding interaction.   If I’m at a public event where I don’t know many (or any), eye contact and a gentle smile go a long way as far as helping to dispel the air of aloofness as I work my way around the venue.   If conversation is required, I find a way to turn it back around to the other person(s), by  being observant  of what’s around me  and what I  hear people saying, so that I  can make an observation to be commented on, or better yet, ask an open-ended question, and get the other person(s) talking.   If I can channel the attention away from me, I find the interaction a bit less draining.   So I try to make any conversations I have mostly about the other person, if possible.

    I think I’m like most introverts in that we are drained by superficial chit-chat but are energized by deeper connections and conversations, and so if possible, I look for openings & opportunities in conversations to make deeper connections with someone — explore something we share in common or perhaps discuss a more deeply-felt conviction  we both might share about something.

    Humor also helps – I can occasionally  come up with funny quip to interject based on an observation of what’s around us and that doesn’t require much  more than a few words  and  help break the ice.   I get a few laughs, and I  move on.   I’ve contributed, made a tiny connection with laughter that’s been fun, rather than draining.

    Granted, some social situations are so loud, noisy, crowded that they’re prohibitive of anything more meaningful than very superficial chit-chat, and if you’re a soft-spoken introvert like me, that makes it even harder to make oneself heard, much less make a connection.      In those situations, I have found that I’m better to cut my losses and leave, if it’s at all possible and socially appropriate to do so, after I’ve eked out all fun and/or usefulness from the event, even if it’s fairly early and the extroverts in the room still have hours of social energy left to expend.     More power to them!

    Meeting potential romantic partners at these things doesn’t seem to work for me and I’ve made peace with that.   Instead, I use those events for other purposes – enjoyable music, food & drink, an interesting speaker, professional networking, etc.   I do much better getting asked out  via online dating, and since dates are typically one-on-one, where an introvert typically shines, I do okay from that point….

  10. 30
    Mel

    As an introverted introvert, my advice is to be yourself. You probably get excited and therefore would be perceived as warm/open/approachable when you’re talking about/doing things that are really interesting to you…so do those things with people you like. If what you like is being alone and reading books or staying home alone, you’ll have to add some outside-the-house activities. You have friends, so if you don’t know what you like (besides solitary stuff), glom on to their hobbies for a bit to find something. After having “faked it” for many years, I’ve finally realized that authenticity is way more attractive than an act.

  11. 31
    Honest girl

    Alcohol does wonders for for me 👍

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