How to Win Friends and Influence People When You’re an Introvert

An introvert laughs with her friends

There are simple things that you can do without having to become an extrovert or exhaust yourself socializing.

As someone who shows many signs of being an introvert, I struggled for years with socializing and making friends. In school, I kept a small circle of friends and was told by my teachers to speak up in class and socialize more. 

I remember comparing myself to my dad, who has this uncanny ability to befriend anyone he meets and always seems to attract people wherever he goes. I was convinced he was an extrovert… but then I found out he is actually an introvert who learned to navigate his way through his “extroverted” career out of necessity. Some might call him an extroverted introvert.

My dad used to work as a medical representative, which meant that every day he would visit different doctors’ clinics or work on expanding his network. Not a typical career for an introvert, but it was how he mastered his social skills.

Funnily enough, I too have chosen an extroverted profession. I work as a nurse and deal with many different people — with many different personalities — every single day. In my career, I thought there was no better time than now to put into practice what my dad has taught me about how to win people over and make friends. 

So, here are his best tips. These are simple things that you can do without having to become an extrovert or exhaust yourself socializing.

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How Introverts Can Win Friends and Influence People

1. Be genuinely interested in others.

I would make a not-so-wild guess that my dad was probably quoting Dale Carnegie with this tip because he has the book How to Win Friends and Influence People sitting on his bookshelf. I have found that most people generally like to talk about themselves, and asking them about their lives is a surefire way to get conversations going.

There was one thing that made me pause when he told me about this advice, though. What happens when I do all the questioning, the other person does all the answering, and then it becomes a one-sided conversation?

I have, in fact, been in this situation when I decided to befriend someone at work. I did the above and we had a one-sided conversation where, for the entire duration of our encounter, I listened to her talk about herself. Not a single time did she ask, “What about you?” Quite disappointing, I have to say.

But on a brighter note, this approach helps me determine which friendships are worth pursuing from the start. Now it’s clear that one quality I look for in a friend is someone who asks me questions and lets me share my thoughts. Introverts might have quiet personalities, but we still have plenty to say.

For the most part, I’ve developed quite a few friendships by being genuinely curious about people, finding out what we have in common, and using that as a starting point when we meet again. For example, I have a colleague who initially intimidated me, and I wasn’t sure how to connect with her. Then I learned that she, like me, enjoys baking in her spare time, so I asked her about it. That conversation led to more personal discussions and meaningful interactions.

2. Ask them about something they value.

One of the challenges we introverts face is making small talk. There’s nothing more boring and generic than talking about the weather or how the commute was this morning.

One way to start a conversation in a more meaningful way, showing the other person that you care, is by asking them about something they value. How can you identify these things? They might be items they either proudly display or subtly mention from time to time.

For instance, it might be the screensaver on their phone, showing a picture of their pet. Or maybe they’ve posted about their son’s birthday on social media. Perhaps it’s a trophy or certificate displayed in their office.

For example, I work with a very quiet and soft-spoken doctor from another country. She usually keeps to herself, so I don’t think many people even knew where she was from. But I knew her country had just celebrated their New Year, so I asked her how it went. She was surprised that I knew about it and was pleased that I asked. I can still remember the look on her face, which told me that this small gesture was appreciated.

Here are some more ways to turn small talk into more meaningful conversation.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

3. Remember details about them.

I used to work in a small department where everyone knew each other, and I maintained a good reputation as a senior nurse. But when I moved to my current department, I remember how apprehensive I felt. My new workplace was ten times bigger, and I worried I would just be another face in the crowd; no one would even notice me.

This might be a good thing for some introverts, but I worried that getting to know people would take a lot of work. So, I decided to win people over one at a time.

The best way I approached it was by remembering small details about people. Nothing makes people warm up to you more than when they realize you’re someone who cares enough to remember little things about them. Plus, this is one of our introvert strengths — we naturally notice the small things!

For example, I take note of things that people mention might be important to them, such as their kids, pets, a cause or hobby they’re passionate about, or maybe a dream or goal they’re working on.

This may seem like a lot of work, especially when it involves a large number of people, but it does get easier over time — and I promise it will be worth it. I’ve often asked colleagues about something they mentioned to me months ago, often in passing, and it’s always met with a delighted “Oh, you remembered!” 

4. Make them feel important and appreciated.

It is a well-established fact that expressing praise and gratitude is important for maintaining morale, according to research published in The Harvard Business Review. However, many people hesitate because they don’t realize how much their positive words can impact others.

Moreover, many people are concerned about their ability to convey praise skillfully, which leads them to refrain from giving compliments altogether. This is a shame because appreciation and compliments are something everyone should give — and receive — frequently and generously.

Like all hospitals worldwide, morale in my department hit an all-time low after COVID-19 struck. Because of this, I started a well-being project where my colleagues could nominate others who had gone the extra mile. The nominees then got their photos displayed in our department corridor, along with a description of what they were being appreciated for.

As a result, I’m now known as the well-being champion, and I’ve had the opportunity — and privilege — to present this project to upper management, who intend to emulate this on a much larger scale. The best part about it is seeing firsthand how much positivity it has brought back to my workplace and how it continues to create a ripple effect among my peers.

5. Find the good in people, even the ones you dislike.

Let’s face it, not everyone will be your cup of tea, and you won’t be everyone’s either. The good news is, you don’t have to be friends with every single person you meet. (You’re not an extrovert, after all! Ha!)

However, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to at least be on friendly terms with people, especially when you work in a large department like I do. So, keep this in mind: What you project onto others is usually what will be reflected back at you.

I say this often, as I have experienced it firsthand. And when you don’t like somebody for one reason or another, it can get a bit tricky.

One thing I have learned is to try to find at least one good thing about the person. That way, it’s easier not to completely dislike them. If you find this hard, keep trying. The number of times this approach has changed the trajectory of my relationships with people I previously disliked is remarkable.

For example, I used to have a colleague I didn’t particularly enjoy working with. I found out he was going to be absent for a while, asked him about it, and learned his daughter was sick and he’d been flying back and forth to tend to her. This made me see him from a different angle, as a devoted dad, and not just as the difficult colleague I knew him to be. This changed my attitude toward him, and in turn, our interactions improved. Over time, he became one of my favorite colleagues, and I actually look forward to seeing him every morning.

Introverts Can Win People Over Too

My journey as an introvert has been greatly shaped by what I’ve learned from my dad, my favorite extroverted introvert. Discovering that his uncanny ability to connect with people is something he learned — not something he was born with — gives me hope for improving my own social skills.

Not only have I overcome challenges as an introvert in an extroverted profession, but in doing so, I have also come to discover and appreciate the power of authentic human connection. And that’s my wish for you, too.

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