While introversion and extroversion are more of a spectrum than a binary, people who are more introverted may crave the ease with which extroverts freely socialize.
If you’re wondering how to be more outgoing, you don’t need some kind of alter-ego or personality-switching spell—there are ways to try and make it happen.
How to be more outgoing
You don’t need to completely change who you are to become more outgoing. But it may take more effort than it would someone more extroverted. Take things day by day and consider the following tips.
Investigate where your shyness comes from
The first step in feeling more outgoing is identifying why you have anxiety in social situations. It’s possible certain experiences in your past brought this on.
“For those who want to start being more outgoing and make new friends and perhaps relationships, the journey to confidence starts by looking inwards,” said Louise Rumball, a dating and relationship expert, and the founder of ópenhouse, a therapy company. “Many shy people feel uncomfortable in social situations because they are concerned that they are being judged against those around them, which in turn drives a constant level of anxiety.”
Did you experience an event at school or at home that made you feel embarrassed? Did you get laughed at in school and shamed on the playground? Were you bullied? Any of these situations can lead to introversion as a coping mechanism.
“Looking backwards can often help us understand how our childhood shaped our personality traits in adulthood,” Rumball said, “and how they show up in day-to-day life.”
Sometimes self-exploration is best done with the help of a professional. If you feel like shyness is holding you back, you may want to consider therapy.
“Going to therapy is a great way to start to explore these traits that drive being shy or less confident in social settings,” said Rumball. “Once we have this understanding that others shaped us, rather than being born that way, we can start to work on rebuilding a belief that you are a wonderful, kind, interesting, person that people are interested in.”
If your issues with being outgoing stem from an undiagnosed anxiety issue, a therapist or psychiatrist may be able to help you.
It’s easier to start with small changes like meeting more people and build on those rather than trying to become a different person overnight.
“Socializing as an introvert doesn’t mean going to huge events or trying to be the life of the party,” said licensed clinical psychologist Shauna Pollard. “It can simply be connecting in small groups or introducing yourself to one new person. Tell your close friends that you want to try to be more outgoing and you are keen to meet more people and spend more time with them and wider networks of people.”
She also suggested asking about events or social occasions you could join. The people you’re closest with are best equipped to help you identify events that might be a good fit.
There’s nothing more exhausting than a group of people who only want to talk about themselves. In order for conversation to flow, someone always needs to be a listener. Good listeners help nudge conversations along by asking interesting questions at the right opportunities. It’s an easy way to make a great first impression.
“One of the best tricks to seem more outgoing is to ask questions,” said Chris Mitra, a confidence coach with An Inspired Life Coaching. “People love to talk about themselves, and asking questions makes you appear interested and thoughtful. It also has the benefit of taking the spotlight off yourself, something that introverted people dislike.”
… But give sharing a try, too
At a certain point, you should try to swap roles and share some of your thoughts.
“Be curious about others, but also be sure to share a little bit about yourself,” Pollard said. “Letting people know who you are is a great way to attract others who share similar interests.”
Try to self-soothe
If you’re having trouble getting rid of anxious feelings, it is possible to try and help yourself calm down via a process known as self-soothing. This can include a range of tactics.
“When you find yourself talking to new people who you don’t know well, take a deep breath to calm your nervous system and, if necessary, put your hand on your chest,” Rumball said. “[It] gives a silent signal to your brain that you are connected and safe.”
If these techniques don’t get you anywhere, you could also try to step away and experience some calming alone time. Go outside, in a washroom or in a less-crowded part of a gathering before rejoining the group.
Stick to your conversational comfort zones
If you find yourself at a loss for words, bring up a subject you care about and see what other people think about it.
“Think about topics that you are interested in and talk about those with new people you meet,” Pollard said. “This is a great way to figure out who has similar interests.”
Present your best self
Lots of people seem to know how to be friendly and outgoing. What do they have in common? There’s an ease to them—they seem to float through spaces. In part, that’s because they feel comfortable in their skin. How can you try to capture some of that magic? By making choices that’ll help you feel more comfortable in yours.
Mitra suggested focusing on looking your best, such as getting a new haircut or wearing something that makes you feel good. Depending on how you like to look, that might be a three-piece suit, a ballgown, a pair of pajamas or anything in between. What’s important is that it works for you.
Mentally plan ahead
If you want to know how to be outgoing, it doesn’t hurt to think like the best. Mitra suggested tapping into visualization, a technique that athletes often employ to great effect.
“Olympic athletes visualize themselves performing their sport before they ever do it live,” Mitra said. “The human brain will interpret those visualizations accurately, giving the athlete an edge. You can do the same thing when trying to be outgoing. Picture your social interactions as enjoyable and going smoothly in your mind’s eye. Then, when the actual event happens, your brain already has a powerfully positive experience to recall.”
Tap into social networks
Ever feel like everyone else has friends and you don’t? It might be time to piggyback off their success. Pollard suggested asking friends, family members or coworkers to connect you with other good people. There are lots of good online resources as well.
“Find a community with like-minded others online and in real life—volunteer, sports leagues, Meetup.com, running groups, travel groups, etc.,” Pollard said.
Remember, everyone in a social group or club was on the outside at one point. You could be next!
What to avoid when becoming more outgoing
Even if you’re making the right moves, being more social can be a tough process. Avoid doing the following or you may risk losing progress.
Don’t expect it to change overnight
Putting pressure on yourself to suddenly become an outgoing, vivacious person won’t help. As Rumball noted, changes like this happen over time.
Don’t go too far outside your comfort zone
Similarly, Mitra suggested, you shouldn’t try to take on social roles you aren’t yet prepared for.
“If you are generally reserved, having a dream of being the center of attention at the company Christmas party (complete with endless jokes and a killer dance routine) might be too much,” Mitra said.
Don’t rely on drugs or alcohol
Certain substances can help get people into a more sociable state, but it’s important not to rely on alcohol or drugs to help get you over your shyness.
Relying on substances will mean you’re out of luck in situations where drinking or getting high isn’t feasible. It also threatens to lead to an unhealthy and possibly outright dangerous dependency in order to function socially.
Don’t ignore boundaries or hints
If you’re experimenting with being more outgoing, you might be thrilled to experience a different side of life for the first time.
But it’s important to remember that even outgoing people have limits. It is possible to get too invasive, invested or imposing, even if you may not have been in that position before. As you become more outgoing, don’t forget to remember how you liked to be treated—the way it felt when people honored your boundaries.
Don’t be critical of yourself
Finally, if you’re wondering how to become more outgoing and struggling to notice any changes as you try to work toward that goal, be gentle with yourself.
“Soften your self-criticism where possible,” Rumball said, “and remember you are loved and worthy just the way you are, and those around you are likely to be interested in you too.”