I give a lot of advice on going out and meeting people that involves going out and being as social as possible, which is great if you’re naturally an outgoing person (or willing to fake it). Sure, it’s relatively simple to meet strangers at parties and bars… if you’re the sort of person who thrives on crowds. But what if you’re the sort of person who’s drained by crowds or just doesn’t like having to introduce themselves and have to make the same small-talk over and over again?
It’s an unspoken truth that our society is geared more towards the outgoing among us; being able to mingle and hop from conversation to conversation or group to group like a social butterfly on crank is a valued skill when it comes to in-person social networking. People who tend to make the most noise and attract the most visibility also tend to be the ones who get the most attention… and thus the most success when it comes to dating.
But just because you’re more introverted doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a life alone. It doesn’t even have to be that difficult. Sometimes it just means having to change your dating strategy to play to your strengths.
What An Introvert Is / What An Introvert Isn’t
Before we talk about dating tips for introverts, it’s best to define at least some terms here… and the first and foremost is the mistaken idea that introverts are somehow shy or have social anxieties.
An introvert is – very simply – someone who’s personal energy (physical as well as mental) tends to be drained by social interaction and recharged through more solitary pursuits. Introverts tend to prefer, or even thrive in, more solitary activities rather than dealing with large groups of people. On the whole they tend to be a more reserved and less outspoken than extroverts. Some introverts prefer lower levels of stimulation and find incredibly busy venues – such as loud noisy bars or parties – to be stressful and disorienting and can be prone to overstimulation.
Someone who’s shy on the other hand tends to avoid social gatherings or interactions out of fear or anxiety. They tend to shun large groups or encounters out of a phobia while introverts tend to prefer solitary pursuits.
Obviously, like many things, introversion and extroversion tend to fall on a sliding scale. Some people are just the quiet type who tend to be quiet and not speak unless they have something specific to contribute, while others are dedicated loners who’d rather avoid people as much as possible.
Introversion may be mistaken for shyness… but it can also be seen as “reserve”, the “strong, silent type” or even appealingly hidden depths. Still waters run deep, after all and there’s no reason why you can’t make that work for you. A little bit of mystery and a reputation for being observant and clever – if a little reserved – can work wonders.
Where To Meet People?
The first and seemingly most daunting challenge for an introvert is: where are the best places to meet people?
While there is value in being able to break out of one’s comfort zone on occasion, most introverts aren’t going to be comfortable with making what’s known as a cold approach: that is, approaching a complete stranger and attempting to start a conversation that hopefully leads to a relationship. If you’re not the sort of person who likes small talk or approaching strangers, what are your best options? Well, the best places are ones that not only benefit your temperament and play to your strengths… not to mention find people you’re likely to actually connect with. You’re not going to dig for oil in a city street1 and the odds are that an introvert isn’t going to find true love at a shot bar.
So where do you start looking?
The first and most obvious answer are online dating sites. Online dating can help ease some of the pressures of trying to maintain a constant conversation; you’re able to take your time to consider what you want to say rather than trying to be clever off the cuff. You’re also better able to narrow down your field of search to specific interests or personality types rather than trying your luck with a cute random stranger at the Whole Foods or your friend’s party. If you’re a writer, then online dating even plays to your strengths; you can use your way with words to reach people more effectively than you could if you happened to approach them in person.
Now, in fairness, online dating does tend towards more extroverted behavior – after all, you do have to make the initial attempt to talk to someone (especially if you’re a guy) and there’s a certain level of expected “getting to know you” chit-chat. However, if you’re someone who prefers to take his or her time about getting to know someone, online dating is a great way to meet people.
Taking a class, whether it be studying a new language, brushing up on an old hobby or trying a new activity like yoga is a great way to meet new and interesting people in a low-pressure, low-stress environment. A shared goal or activity gives you something you can talk about and relate to right off the bat. More interactive classes, like cooking or art courses means you’ll likely be working in smaller groups, which provides an opportunity to get to know people in a more organic, natural way rather than trying to ask the usual “interview” questions that bore all of us to tears. Social clubs can also be a great way of meeting new people in a smaller, more controlled manner.
Volunteering your time can help you give back to your community while also introducing you to new people at the same time. While some volunteer opportunities – such as working for political campaigns – may not necessarily be of interest to someone who tends to be more introverted, donating your time to the Red Cross, homeless shelters, your local museum or the Humane Society can be ideal. Much like with classes, volunteering gives you the means to meet and get to know someone in an organic and natural way without feeling like you’re obligated to put on a performance, as well as helping to ensure that they likely have the same goals and interests as you do.
Plus, it’s hard to be intimidated or anxious around someone who just helped you muck out the puppy kennels.
Use Your Social Circle
Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you don’t have friends; you just tend to prefer to interact with them one-on-one or in small groups. Your friends can be one of your most valuable untapped resources when it comes to meeting new people in a comfortable environment without the pressure of having to go out and approach strangers. Rather than asking to be set up on a blind date or trying to force yourself to be more outgoing at a party, try letting your friends know you’re interested in meeting some new people… so maybe they could bring another person or two they think you might get along with the next time you all go to the movies or have a Game of Thrones marathon.
Where To Go On Dates
Now, let’s say that you’ve found someone intriguing… just how do you negotiate the potential minefield of actual, y’know, dating? Damn near everyone hates the “getting to know you” part of dating, but introverts tend to especially loathe it. When you pair that up with noisy pubs, music venues, crowded bars… it can be enough to make you tear your hair out in frustration.
Ideally, the best dates for introverts are ones that revolve around actual conversations, not just small-talk. Ones that prompt you to a deeper, more meaningful conversation than just playing Bob Costas interviewing John Legend for the first time.
This is a notable exception to my general rule about coffee dates. While I’m normally not in favor of them, they make excellent dates for introverts, especially if you pick a cool, laid back coffeehouse rather than your local Starbucks. The best ones encourage conversation and engagement rather than “get your coffee and get out” or using it as a substitute office. Many will even have boardgames – a quick game or two of Connect Four , dominoes or checkers can be entertainingly cheesy and just cute enough while you’re chatting.
Let’s see: a chance to take in some culture, debate about the merits of one style of art over another (or whether a particular piece should even be considered art at all) and the opportunity to look at some amazing works that remind us of the wonder that is the creative spirit and makes us feel… museums and gallery shows are great choices, especially if you happen to have an artistic or creative streak in you. Science and natural history museums also make for excellent dates; who doesn’t love to imagine outer space or the remembering the childlike wonder that dinosaurs inspired in us all? Bonus points: visit the mineral section and plot how the two of you would conduct a daring theft of all of the precious gemstones.
Zoos and Aquariums
Zoos and aquariums are natural conduits for conversation and the sharing of thoughts and experiences and the occasional “aawwwww” or “squee!” at the baby animals and zoo-borns. When you don’t necessarily feel like talking, you both have the option of enjoying the silence and just watching the animals cavort. Aquariums in particular always seem to inspire a certain reverential silence; something about the way the light filters through the water in an otherwise darkened room seems to demand hushed voices as you take in the unworldly wonder.
General Dating Tips For Introverts
Don’t Pretend To Be Something You’re Not
There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, and you shouldn’t try to act as though you aren’t. Trying to force yourself into enduring a massive party or a crowded restaurant just for the sake of a first date is a recipe for misery. If you’re an introvert, don’t hide it. If you have an online dating profile, mention it up front. It’s not a horrible secret like a crazy aunt locked up in an attic, it’s a cool part of who you are and you should be proud of it.
Some folks may not necessarily “get it”; some folks have a tendency to assume that if you don’t enjoy things the way they enjoy them, then something is wrong. They’ll try to help – with all good intentions – but it can be frustrating for everybody if you try to force yourself to fit a completely different personality type. Better to help them understand how you see things rather than try wedge yourself into a mold that will only leave you feeling drained, frustrated and annoyed.
Embrace The Awkward
Sometimes you’re going to find yourself in situations that will be uncomfortable for you, whether it’s a case of overstimulation or just not being comfortable in large crowds… or even just not sure what to say because you don’t really “do” small-talk. When it happens, don’t be afraid to admit that the problems exist in the first place. You don’t want to point fingers, place blame or make your date feel guilty for the situation – you’re just giving voice to how you feel. “Hey, just so you know, I don’t really do well with large groups,” or “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting some serious overload hanging around here. Mind if we step outside where it’s quieter for a bit?” and a self-depricating smile is much more charming than the awkward silence and uncomfortable body language. Discomfort is contagious while being open – a strategic show of vulnerability, even – can actually work in your favor as well as making things easier to handle.
Go Easy On The Booze
A little alcohol goes a long way as a social lubricant to ease you into socializing mode, especially if you’re in an environment that you aren’t normally comfortable in, but be careful not to overdo it. Something to calm your nerves or brace yourself is good… but it’s unfortunately entirely too easy to pass the magic line between”relaxed” to “sloppy drunk”. Keep it to one or two drinks max, especially if you’re on a first date.
Don’t Get Hung Up On Labels
It’s tempting to assume that being an introvert somehow limits your dating options; some people assume that introverts can only be happy with fellow introverts and that all other relationships are somehow doomed.
I hope I don’t have to point out just how limiting and defeatist this sort of belief is. The fact that you are a more solitary person or feel drained by large crowds doesn’t mean that you can’t have a wonderful relationship with someone who’s more socially forward and outgoing. I’ve known many couples – including close and dear friends – where one person is more outgoing and extroverted and the other is decidedly more of a loner. In fact, one couple of my acquaintance have been happily married for more than 30 years. The key is mutual acceptance, respect and compromise. An extrovert who understands that an introvert may want some alone time to decompress and recharge – and gives him or her the space they need is someone who is a valuable partner. Similarly, introverts can help their extroverted partner enjoy their need to socialize and even find a way of participating that makes them comfortable.
Every relationship has it’s challenges, regardless of how somebody’s personality is wired. A willingness to accept, understand and adapt… these are qualities that make any relationship work, no matter how outgoing or solitary the couple may be.
- Sorry, I’ve been listening to a LOT of Meat Loaf lately [↩]