Being social at work can feel impossible when you are naturally an introverted person.
It is even harder when the culture in many work environments is to highly praise, reward, and promote the most interactive and engaging people.
If you are a quieter personality, does that mean that you are not a team player? Or, if you are uncomfortable with conflict, does that mean that you can’t earn a promotion?
When making the choice of whether or not to be social the impact can be bigger than you. It plays a part on you and everyone you work with.
And once you are sold on trying, where do you begin?
The path to becoming more social starts with you. You decide what’s right for you and what is purposeful. Even if it is not comfortable.
Own where you are and decide where you would like to be. And if your goal is to be social, or at least to attempt to be a little more sociable, you can. And you will.
What Does It Feel Like to Be Social?
Being social is hard. For those who don’t feel the struggle of connecting with people, it may not be easy to understand.
Somewhere inside it feels as if everything that you would do or say does not fit in the book of “how it should be done”.
Eye contact is wrong. Words said are wrong. The way you stand is wrong. If you even think of a way to enter a conversation, you definitely are coming up with the wrong idea.
And when all you see is the wrong path, you cannot find a right one.
Also, let’s be clear. The idea of taking a leap of faith and just be more social sounds and feels terrible.
No one wants to feel as if others will judge them in their wrongness. Or to wonder if someone really thinks they are weird behind the smile meant to mean that everything is okay.
Bottomline you can feel awkward when you try to be social. And when you try to fit in, the problem can feel like it can’t be fixed.
Where do you begin to be social? And should you even bother to try?
First, Is It Actually Important to Be Social?
The short and potentially unsatisfying answer is that it is up to you.
While there are many points of view and study that indicate the benefits of socialization and being social, it is not a requirement of life.
However, there is evidence of how it may enhance life.
Through interaction with others you can gain insight to yourself, an increased opportunity to learn new things, and access to resources and even affection.
In absence of connection with others, the reverse can be true. You can be disconnected from social norms, have reduced access to learn, and feel more isolated and lonely.
However, neither the presumed positives nor negatives are guaranteed and very much depend upon to what degree you are exposed to or restricted from others.
So Why Do YOU Think Being Social is Important?
Being social is important if you deem it important to you.
If you are anti-social but at the same time looking for ways to be social, you likely are not completely happy with your current state.
When you are less social, it may be harder to interact with people at work. Being anti-social results in increased anxiety, having access to less information, or being less productive, for some people.
Many work environments lean on their employees communicating with each other as a form of on-the-job training, establishing communication systems, or increasing productivity and problem-solving.
Therefore, when you don’t talk or connect with others, your job may not get done to its full potential.
Another perspective is when you are not social, others do not know how to connect with you.
When others attempt to connect and you engage very minimally or inconsistently, co-workers may seek alternative sources when possible.
Work can be demanding enough not to have to pull information from someone who would rather not speak.
Also, extroverted people tend to gain the favor of others more often that those who are introverted.
An outgoing personality can be deemed as charming, charismatic, or simply fun.
Alternatively, introverted people can inadvertently come off as standoffish, unapproachable, or unfriendly. This image can give others the indication that your presence is more of a burden than an asset.
The problem with these misinterpretations is that they can lead to missed opportunities.
Introverted people at times can have fewer opportunities for promotions, special projects, or presented interface with higher-level leadership.
It’s just harder to sell the attributes of a person who is not willing to engage or show themselves.
For these reasons, it can be important to be social. Even if acquiring the skill for use only on certain occasions, the dividends can be worth the struggle.
What Is Your Brand of Anti-Social?
Every person is not anti-social in the same way.
Some people can talk up a storm with their family, but become quiet as a mouse at work.
Others can speak well in front of a crowd of strangers but clam up in a one-on-one conversation.
Still, others can feel physically ill at a networking event but can be comfortable in a meeting with a new client.
Being social can be no problem one day and become a crisis the next.
For this reason, it is important to know what exactly takes you out of your comfort zone when you attempt to be social.
Alternatively, knowing what puts you in your comfort zone is good.
You may be more comfortable with your team because you work with them often, are accustomed to their personalities, and feel that they know you well.
This can let you know that familiarity versus unfamiliarity is a place of comfort for you in social situations.
Also, when you script or plan things, particularly with work assignments, it may feel better to you.
For example, you may be fine to deliver a presentation because you have an outline readied and prepared in advance.
However, you may be highly uncomfortable if a higher-up walks to your desk for an impromptu status report on your project.
This lets you know that having more control and predictability can increase your comfort.
Knowing what situations trigger you to be more or less social can give you a blueprint of your path toward being more sociable.
How to Use Your Comfort Zones to Be More Social
Your comfort zones function as a solid base to attempt more exposure to being social.
Rather than jumping into high anxiety situations to combat being anti-social, ease into new social situations. This will be less anxiety-producing and likely more sustainable.
Here are a few softer approaches to give being social a real try:
Stay in your comfortable space, but try something new.
If your office space is a safe haven for you, try to stay in it when handling a new social situation.
For example, ask a co-worker that you need to speak with to visit your desk when free. Or, attempt a Zoom meeting instead of a live face-to-face discussion.
Be open to starting conversations with new team members, if only to say your name and what you do within the department.
If you are asked a question, instead of giving a short 3-word answer, be more detailed. Or simply ask a follow-up question to ensure understanding.
Either of these could lead to lengthening the interaction and sharpening your conversation skills at the same time.
Partner up with close colleagues when trying new things.
You may already have a strong relationship with a co-worker or two in the office.
If you need to hold a meeting with members of another department, have your friend stay in the room. Even if they are just a silent partner, their presence may give you the confidence to facilitate the meeting well.
Talk to your co-workers about their social anxieties and learn how they overcome them. You may learn new methods you have not thought of before.
Extend yourself to friends of your co-workers. Tag along on your co-workers’ lunches, meetings, or other engagements with the intention of meeting new people and speaking with them.
Having a partner to deflect to when you get increasingly anxious or run out of conversation can take the pressure off of handling these situations alone.
Do research in advance of new situations.
Attending a business networking event? Know the guest list and then learn about your guests.
What department or business are they in? What new launches or projects might be happening in their area of expertise?
What are the current events in their industry?
Now that you are familiar, you will have a conversation starting point should you be approached or if you feel bold enough to approach them.
This method is gold for those who rely on planning to gain comfort. Study before engagement and feel prepared for the “being more social” test.
Be in the best mood possible before you engage
Bad nerves are bad no matter what your status may be. But they tend to be amplified if you are already in a bad mood.
In advance of a pending tension-producing social situation try to relax yourself with good vibes.
Eat food you enjoy.
Listen to music that lifts you.
Talk to friends and family not about your tension, but about the potential positive aspects of your pending event.
Focusing your attention on more positive things versus agonizing over your soon-to-come social interaction can take the sting out of the event.
You also may loosen your posture, facial expression, and tone of voice through these exercises.
This may lead you to appear less tense, more approachable, and even to look like a more social person than you really are.
A good mood can go a long way to creating a great social interaction.
Whether or not to be social is completely our own decision. However, we have to acknowledge that it will impact how we are perceived in the world and certainly at work.
Being more outgoing does not guarantee you a better job or more money, but can have impact. If others do not know you or find it hard to interact with you, it likely is also hard to determine your true value.
Challenge yourself to be social but don’t feel that you have to stretch way out of your comfort zone to do so.
Take small steps and lean on friends and co-workers if you need to. Above all try to stay calm, be optimistic, and focus on what you would like to gain if successful.
Each of us possesses our own anxieties but also possesses our own gifts and attributes. Learn to be comfortable to share yourself more and to be social. As a result others will learn the real you.
You will gain more and suffer less in the long run and overall know that the challenge was worth it.
Do you have a social anxiety different than the ones reviewed in this post? How do you deal with it? Or do you deal with it at all?? Share your experience in the Comments below.
Looking for more ways to reduce anxiety and increase your balance in your workspace. Read our posts on 3 Ways to Change Your Work Life for the Better NOW and How to Create Your At-Work Sanctuary.