How I Fake Being an Extrovert

May 27, 2011

Confession time: I’m a bit of a major, big time, socially awkward introvert.

My wife thinks I’m a very social person.  I have her convinced I’m a raving extrovert.

The truth is, I was a very shy, quiet kid…and I still am.  My wife doesn’t believe that, but it’s the truth.  I’m still a rabidly anti-social introvert.

There are tons of books and websites out there claiming to reveal the secrets for introverts to become extroverted.  I think they’re full of it.  I don’t think you can become an extrovert.  The fact is, I look at a lot of extroverts, and I don’t want to be like them!  I’m not an extrovert, and I never will be…

…But I did learn how to fake it, to pretend to be an extrovert.  See, it just doesn’t pay to be an introverted pastor or teacher or just about anything else.  So I learned how to be an actor in a world overrun with social butterflies.

I’m still learning, but it’s easier than you think.  Come with me, fellow anti-socialites, and you too, talkie!  You might learn a thing or two about being a real extrovert from a real introvert’s perspective.

Introverts > Extroverts

First of all, I know what you’re thinking if you’re anything like me.  It is a scientific fact that introverts are better than extroverts.  To prove this point, consider the following anecdotal evidence:

Who is better?

Chuck Norris or Justin Bieber?

Anyone with half a brain would say, “Is this a serious question?  Chuck Norris, or course!” Exactly.  And among Chuck’s many qualities that make him a perfect human being, he is an introvert.  The ‘Biebs?  Can’t shut up for two seconds, a huge extrovert.

Still not convinced?  How about:

A ninja or Gary Busey?

Obviously, a ninja, and a ninja by nature is an introvert.

But, like it or not, the world is run by a good number of extroverts (that Chuck Norris inexplicably allows to live.)  Sure, every once in a while, a shy person will rise to the top, like Thomas Jefferson.  But I’m not Thomas Jefferson, and I doubt very much that you are either.

That’s what being an introvert in an extroverted world is all about.  It isn’t about turning into a morbidly talkative person.  It’s about picking out the good parts of being an extrovert, and faking them when convenient.

Mom always said, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Mom was wrong.

Step number one to faking being an extrovert is convincing yourself of that fact.  Because the fact is, the people who can talk to strangers are the people who get ahead in life.  Introverts may seem mysterious, but extroverts make more friends and connections, and have more opportunities in life.

So, step one: Learn how to chat up a stranger.  Why should that be difficult?  Mormons do it.  Jehovah’s Witnesses do it constantly, and they know that most of the time, they will be rejected.  Are you such an offensive person that no one wants to talk to you?  Do you have such horrendous hygiene that strangers actively avoid you?  Well if that’s the case, taking care of that is step one.  For the rest of you, go to a party, to church, to a bus stop and talk to a stranger.

Don’t be so interesting

It’s time we introverts learned what extroverts know deep in their souls: you don’t have to be an interesting or entertaining person to be an extrovert.  In fact, only the worst kinds of extroverts actually think they themselves are interesting.

To be the kind of extrovert that runs a company or becomes a politician, all you have to do is exploit one of the oldest human desires: the desire to talk about oneself.

That’s the secret.  All you have to do to fake being an extrovert, win people over, and rule the world is make people feel like the most important, interesting person in the room.  Just keep asking them questions about themselves.  Everyone has a family, a job, a hometown, so right there you can go into any conversation armed with a barrage of questions to stroke peoples’ egos.  Just keep thinking about your next question while they answer.  Do that, and you are everyone’s friend.

And just by learning that, I cannot convince my wife that I am actually a shy person.

Simple question today: are you an extrovert or an introvert?  Do you wish you were more of the other?  Have you learned how to fake it in an extrovert’s world?

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.  I’m taking Monday off, but I’ll see you back here next Wednesday.

53 responses to How I Fake Being an Extrovert

  1. Hi Matt,

    I think I get your message.

    So, tell me about your family. Tell me about about your job. Tell me about your hometown. Is that where you were born or did you move there as a child? How old? Any brothers or sisters? Tell me about the biggest problem in your life…

    Then go away and leave me alone!


    • As always, thanks for a good laugh!

      I’m definitely an introvert. I learned the same truth you speak of here a long time ago – just ask people about themselves, be interested in them, and you’ve got it made. No need to say much or be interesting, just be interested.
      Tracy recently posted..Happy Birthday Daniel!

  2. I was going to say that you lose awesome points for even mentioning Justin Beiber but I’ll let it slide this time :)
    Mike recently posted..Favourite 5 and a half Friday

  3. That is soooo me as well! I was so shy as a child that my mum sent me to drama lessons to get me out of myself. I learnt to act a part especially if I didn’t want to be lonely the whole of my life. It is so funny now, when I tell people I was shy…they don’t believe me. It was nice going to another church and seeing someone who knew me as a little tacker and very shy. LOL. It was like she knew the real me without having seen me for 30+ years!
    I will always advocate drama lessons to those who are shy. I teach drama as well as having a class of 12 year olds and have had many successes.
    The best mantra for shyness and social situations is, “Fake it till you make it!”

  4. I have found that you need to fake as an extrovert in the business world. It’s the top tier way to get things done and how to best work with people. Just my experience.

    My wife thinks like your wife. She thinks I’m an extrovert. I am by no means.
    Charlie Chang recently posted..293 Youre not valuable

    • Totally agree. One of the bosses in my school district used to be on of my teachers years ago. A few years ago, I saw him for the first time in a decade. He picked me out of a crowd of 300, and made me feel like the most important person in the room. When I saw him a year later, he asked me about all the things I had told him before. And I thought “This is why he was promoted so highly.”

  5. Interesting… and Chuck Norris Rules!

    I am a bit the same. I was a quiet kid who they thought had a learning disability. I have taken a number of personality tests over the years, some in church, a few at work and others mandated by the state: I am a certified introvert.

    I have learned to be reach out over a long period of time. It can be tough at times, however; it’s been worth it. I am best reaching out where I fit in: church, IT meetings, marketing think-tanks and when trapped in an elevator for 2 hours with panicking co-workers. I try to smile at random strangers, but rarely start anything. It is the same in the halls at work.

    I admit it, I always wanted to be as quick thinking as Jason Bourne, as fast acting as Chuck Norris, and as intuitive as whatever the detective is on Law & Order. Instead, I sit quietly in front to of a PC most of day, content to see no one, and spend my extroverted time with my family.

    Ninja, hmmm…

    Happy Memorial Day!
    David recently posted..To Heck with Following Christ- I Just Want to Be a Christian!

  6. I am totally an extrovert. Any tips on how to fake being an introvert? I could probably use it somedays.
    Darrell recently posted..The Nature of Prayer

  7. I understand from a psychological point that the difference between and extrovert and an introvert is the way that we process, or come to understand the workings of, things. An introvert will process inside of themselves and an extrovert on the outside.

    Add to that the fact that in order to interact with the world one has to have an outward looking facet to your personality, extroverts are born with it and introverts have to develop it.

    I am an introvert, but most people would put me in the raging extrovert category. I’m a fairly good actor :)

  8. Hey Matt,
    I’m new to the party happening here. Extroverts may rule the world, but introverts rule themselves. That seems to be harder than world domination. I’ve been called shy, quiet, withdrawn, blah blah blah my whole life. I’ll use these tips and see what’s up. Even though I may be shy and introverted, I was still able to woo my boo and get married last year. Big ups to the introverted husbands of the world!

  9. Love this post. I’m a big introvert and I know I need to be more extroverted as well. Like you said being a pastor is not a profession that you can be an introvert. I’m learning how to become more extroverted and this post is a good lesson for me to learn.
    Ben Wiggins recently posted..Summer’s Coming

  10. MAJOR introvert. It’s hurt me in more ways than I care to admit. Most of the reason I have no friends is because I don’t like to put myself out there.
    Jason recently posted..Day 146- Defining the battleground

  11. I’m totally an introvert, I was so shy in jr high to high school it was painful…but somehow I decided I was going to have to fake it to be “cool” :) I guess I faked it so well my min is now confused, I can test either way on personality tests depending on the day. Now I find in situations I”m really comfortable I’m fairly extroverted, but throw me into a new situation and I get all stumbly and nervous again. I’m like a one person kind of girl. Coffee with a good friend for hours and I’m happy…being alone and a room full of people are equally stressful for me in long periods. I’m totally suited for marriage!

    Does that make me neither? It’s funny though how online it seems so much easier to be extroverted….
    Jenn recently posted..This is where I think I am confused about worship

  12. New to your blog. This post made me laugh. I think most people that have blogs are introverts. We write because talking is too hard and we express ourselves in writing better than we would with real words. I can turn up the talking skills if needed. Try growing up with a triplet sister who is an extrovert. Of course she had a ton of friends and I was emo thinking about suicide my whole teenage years. Fun stuff man. Nonetheless, I can be an extrovert when needed, but most of the time I prefer being by myself. I guess its a good thing I don’t care if I’m getting ahead.

  13. I’m an outgoing person but I recharge best in peace and quiet, therefore making me an introvert. This is why when I get home from work I read the newspaper and catch up on blogs- I’ve been talking and listening all day and need a break!
    HopefulLeigh recently posted..30- Go to Arrington Vineyards

  14. I’m an extreme introvert, but I have most people fooled. I’m honestly not sure how. One of the best times in my life, though, was a semester of college when I was extremely intentional about talking to people. I would sit to study in “high traffic” areas so that opportunities for chitchat would come more naturally, and I had a couple little parties, inviting people I didn’t know all that well. While I felt super-awkward about it, they thought I had super-Christian hospitality skills for including mere acquaintances!
    Jessica Kelley recently posted..First ER Visit

  15. I am an introvert pastor (and former teacher)that most people mistake for an extrovert. In y teaching, I used to work with the MBTI. I had a lot of people struggle with which they were; usually introverts that wanted to be or thought they were supposed to be extroverts. I had to explain that introvert doesn’t mean “I don’t like people”. I usually used this particular scenario to help them understand which they were.

    You go to an office party with a spouse or friend. You know absolutely no one else there. When you go home at the end of the night, are you energized or exhausted? Energized = extrovert / exhausted = introvert. Both might have had fun, but one came home with energy, the other, wiped out.

    • I strongly dislike having to go to my wife’s office social functions, of which there are way too many. The next TWO weekends have us going to a retirement party and a wedding. I could not care less about those.

  16. Big Time Extrovert. The only time I wish I wasn’t one is when I have to be by myself for an extended period of time. If I am on a retreat and need to do some personal reflection, I usually start to go crazy after about 15 minutes. Give me someone to talk to!

  17. You just did a great job of summarizing the gist of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Although it was written over 80 years ago, it still works for exactly the reasons you give here.

    I love how you ask us about ourselves at the end of your post! Putting it all into practice, right?

    I am very much an introvert, and I agree with you. I have no desire to change. God made me this way. I’d never survive as a writer and photographer if I needed to be around people all the time.

    You might enjoy an article that appeared years ago in “The Atlantic” magazine. Even better, show it to your wife!

  18. I’m the shy extrovert; it’s difficult for me to talk to people I don’t know, but I get completely energized by interacting with people in a structured setting.
    My husband is an introvert who excels at small talk; he’s great at striking up conversations, but hates social events and desperately needs time each day to stare at a wall & be alone with his own thoughts.
    Opposites attract and all that . . .

  19. I’m very introverted, but not shy. My husband is the same way, so it works really well! I have recently found an awesome blog that I recommend to my introverted friends. Todays entry is but I also really like one from a few days ago talking about the 16 things she believes about introverts.

    If I had the option to choose to be introverted or extroverted, I would choose introverted every time. I have learned to make it work for me and find the people who have to hear themselves say something before they know they thought it to be off-putting. I’d much rather be someone who can appreciate quiet than need to fill it with activity and noise.

  20. I claim to be an extroverted introvert. I basically learned these lessons a while ago. My family all think I am an extrovert, and even some people at church, but really I just love people enough that they think I am extroverted.

    Also, I do not like most people telling me how to live my life. When they say “introverts sit quietly by themselves,” I say “Oh, yeah!”

    I shows ’em every time.
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..My What Big Sheep You Have!

  21. Once again. I am left by the wayside.

    I’m just a plain ol ‘vert’.
    Steve Martin recently posted..How do you know God’s will for your life

  22. Extrovert Extraordinaire here.
    Are you kidding me?
    First of all Matt, we can always tell who’s faking it.
    Secondly Matt, you can’t just ask questions, you have to remember the answers. If you want to make an impression (like your old teacher) you have to be able to say to Johnny, “say, how is that son of yours? Still advancing up the ranks in baseball?” “how’s your wife’s catering business?” Stuff like that. Otherwise, it’s worse than faking it, it shows that you’re a poser.
    Thirdly, why not just accept who you are? My fun friends are the extroverts. The friends I call when I need compassion or a shoulder to lean on are the introverts. Be all that you can be, in the arm….(oops)
    Be who God made you to be.

    • Well, in all fairness, my wife can’t tell. 😉

      I agree with you, it’s better to be genuinely concerned for people, but even concerned people don’t always know how to express that. Heck, lots of people are concerned about their spouses, but don’t even know how to communicate with them! My point is that demonstrating care for people is easier than many people think. It’s true, a guy like my teacher will make a bigger impression than any non-natural extrovert, but I think he is specially gifted in a way that most of us are not – with an extraordinary memory. But we can learn to emulate his traits that are within our reach.

      And while I do embrace who I am (because introverts are way better!) I acknowledge that extroversion is a good skill to practice in business, relationships, and just about any aspect of life.

  23. I’m definitely an introvert. It usually takes me a long while to warm up to people and start talking. Even then I don’t say much and just sit on the outside of the circle and listen. There are few people that I just talk and goof-around with. So I can be an extreme extrovert (I can’t fake it) but it’s only with a few people that I’m really comfortable with. I’m not comfortable around a lot of people or new people unless that I’m with someone or multiple someone’s that I already know.
    I’ve never decided if being an introvert is good or bad. Extroverts are more relaxed and seem to be more comfortable with themselves (especially the so-called “Alpha Males”), while introverts think to themselves and are…I don’t want to say smarter but that’s the only word I can think of. Again, great post Matt!

  24. Absolutely and introvert. But, like you, a teacher. A good teacher is a good actor. I had a great career.

    Your technique for “drawing people out” is key: educe.
    vanilla recently posted..No Place Like Home

  25. “an” not “and” Not a great proof-reader, eh?
    vanilla recently posted..No Place Like Home

  26. I didn’t read through all the comments because I’m an extravert and I’m too swamped being awesome, but I assume someone called you on your introverted crazy. Your verted-ness is all about how you restore and build up energy – either with others or with yourself. Once I latched on to that fact, I stopped trying to make introverts cool like me. They’re just a different type of cool.

    Do I talk too much? Possibly… Am I annoying? According to the employee suggestion box at work – perhaps.

    And even Chuck has Bieber Fever. :-)
    Jamie recently posted..The Post About a Weekend of Memorializing

    • If by “Bieber fever” you mean that Chuck has a fever, and the only cure is to eat Bieber, than I could see that happening. If it’s the regular kind of Bieber fever, that’s impossible. Chuck produces an enzyme in his body that somehow makes him immune to such things.

    • Jamie, we the awesome ones must conquer this blog. Ya, I read “I’m an introvert and scrolled down to the next one too! HA!
      How do you recharge? Well, I stayed up until 5 a.m. this morning to party…I mean chaperone my son’s high school graduation party. I was so pumped up I couldn’t go to sleep when I got home! The more people I’m around, the more energized I am.

  27. Bingo. This post describes how I feel socially to a great extent: I feel like an actress. I always ask myself “How would a competent person behave in this situation?” and try to act the part.
    Helen recently posted..Children of God

  28. I’m in the same boat. A bit of a shy guy often mistaken for an outgoing dude. But here’s the kicker: I’m a shy extrovert. The definition of true extroversion is that you gain energy by being around other people — not necessarily by being the center of attention or life of the part. That distinction helped me make a lot more sense of my personality and why I feel the way I do in certain social situations. I don’t like being alone, but I don’t need to be the life of the party, either.
    Jeff Goins recently posted..Seven Tips for Getting Your Guest Posts Published

  29. I am an ambivert (both extro- and introverted qualities), although most of my hobbies are becoming much more introverted as time goes on.

    I’ve found the best and easiest way to engage strangers and be social is not to be a certain way. It’s merely learning how to love asking questions. There really are only two types of extroverts (which I will reveal in a possible blog post — thanks for the inspiration, Matt!), and the ones who really make an impact are those who ask questions. When you meet people, ask questions. When you meet up with long-time friends you haven’t seen in a while, ask questions.

    What a great topic to discuss. Everyone can relate to this in some way or another.

  30. Oh, this post just warmed my soul. ; )

    I am about as introverted as you can get…. with a little shyness and a LOT of social awkwardness added in for good measure. I used to loathe this about myself, but very recently I just realized that it is inevitable that I am going to do a some pretty goofy things when I first meet people. And well, after I get to know them too. If nothing else, it’s a good filter for making friends– those who stick around to get to know this weird girl are probably the ones worth getting to know anyway!

    I found that just being okay with the fact that I’m introverted and awkward has made me less stand-offish with people. And it’s much more fun to do awkward, goofy things and laugh about it then to be constantly afraid of making a social faux pas.

  31. I think I have things about as bad as they can be. I am an extremely shy introvert. My 4-yr-old son is an extremely outgoing extrovert (and I have a 2-yr-old daughter who copies EVERYTHING her big brother does). Poor thing asks every day where we’re going to go or who is coming over (usually the answer is “no where” and/or “no one”). He makes ‘best’ friends in a matter of seconds on the playground. Some days I’ve had so many words spoken at me that by the time my husband gets home, I’m spent and he doesn’t really understand why. I _SUCK_ at small talk and am horrifically awkward (to my mind anyway) one-on-one. But the days when I’m in a social situation where I just have to “fake it till I make it,” I can usually flip a switch and do pretty well for a short period of time.
    Princess Leia recently posted..Shoeboxes!

  32. I have learned to fake it somewhat, but only when absolutely necessary. My husbands is a raging extrovert (for real) and when around his friends I fake it so he doesn’t constantly ask me if I’m having fun, etc., which I find annoying. I also don’t want to come across as “the weirdo who doesn’t talk” which is probably how I’m thought of at work, where I don’t fake as much. When I’m out in public alone I absolutely do not talk to strangers unless it’s necessary because I simply want my space as an introvert. I used to wish very vehemently that I was an extrovert, but I’m happy I’m not. They are far too dependent on others for stimulation to the point of hanging about people they don’t even like or going with a crowd for fear of being left out. I am proud of my independence. The only thing I have ever envied about them is their ability to be socially at ease and conversational. I can do that fine now. I’m still working on the mingling at parties thing, however. I consider that advanced social skills.

  33. I am so glad to know that I’m not the only one who fakes being an extrovert.

  34. I’m a dating coach, and deal with this issue on a daily basis. It seems like guys seem they have to be outgoing or extroverted in order to be successful with women. Being outgoing may play a part in it, but it’s much more deeper than that. I really like what you’ve written about the subject, and would love it if you could take a minute and read what I’ve written on my latest blog at –JT

  35. I have learned to fake it – but do not want to be one – at any cost. 😉 Perfectly happy as I am.

    One thing I find funny though – I havent found any extrovert writing abt them selves being extroverts… Only introverts seem to do that (my self included..) 😉

  36. Glad I’m not alone. I wonder if introverts like us had a party what it would be like? Lol. I’m definetly an introvert. I just hate making small talk about mundane things that I don’t care about. People assume that because you don’t talk or socialize you must be arrogant, mentally handicapped or a serial killer. I’ve never got why people want to talk so much for, they talk & ask so much but in truth they’ll be going like ” yea i’m better than you” . It all just seems so fake to me. Maybe everyone in the world are introverts & we are all faking it. Lol. Being a quiet person is tantamount to a crime now. Why should I keep spewing mundane things to keep things ” normal “? We introverts not only have to pretend that we care about the mind blowingly mundane conversations people have but we also have to participate. The worst is when you’re in a relationship with someone from an outgoing family. You have to take part in everything, family games, discussions even when you don’t care at all. Have tried faking it but after awhile the effort of faking it gets to me & I become grumpy, irritable & even more anti-social.

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