It’s Friday night, and your group of close friends is blowing off steam from the work week with a round of happy hour drinks. While your outgoing, enthusiastic friend is happily chatting up an attractive stranger, you find yourself sinking deeper into the stool, glancing anxiously at your iPhone wondering how early is ‘too early’ to call it a night. For those people who identify as introverted, flirting, chatting and dating can be incredibly overpowering and unnatural for their personalities.
As sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST explains, much of what it takes to fire up a couplehood goes against the innate behavior of an introverted. “Dating was created for the extroverts of the world,” she continues. “Introverts enjoy time alone and thrive in this solo space. However, dating requires one to be with other people. Even dating sites thrust you into a world of many people. This could become overwhelming for the introvert and dating may go by the wayside.”
There is a glimmer of hope for introverted singles who seek love. To be successful—and hey, to discover the love of their life—they need to switch up their approach to mingling. These expert-backed strategies can help you navigate this sometimes scary world without having to hide under your covers:
Brainstorm before your date.
Though most people will feel somewhat nervous before a first date they’re excited about, for introverts it goes a bit deeper. Not only do they feel angst about going to begin with, but they struggle with coming up with what they’ll talk about. They may even over-analyze every detail until they’re paralyzed with fear. Spiritual advisor and dating expert Eliyahu Jian suggests introverts have a brainstorming session about conversation topics ahead of time. “Write down the things you want to accomplish on the date, what you will and won’t say. If you don’t organize yourself beforehand, then you will definitely be quiet, and when you talk you could make a mistake,” he continues. “Not having an organized plan will make you feel nervous, like you’re being investigated.”
Change locations if you need to.
Because introverts recharge when they’re all by their bad selves, which makes them more sensitive to crowded, noisy spaces. While extroverts thrive with music, chattering and outside sounds, you could find it difficult to concentrate or enjoy yourself. If you find yourself in this situation on a date, relationship specialist and licensed marriage and family therapist, LMFT Melody Li urges introverted daters to speak their truth. You can suggest switching to a more cozy cocktail lounge or another calm atmosphere that will allow you to be more authentic, and well, comfortable.
Set reasonable goals every month.
An introvert would almost always trade a night in with Netflix, hot tea (or wine) and a cozy blanket over… anything. But LGBTQ relationship expert Tammy Shaklee recommends setting goals each month that hold you accountable for progressing your dating life. She suggests two specific ones: attend one social setting activitiy each month, and go on one date. For the social interaction, research your interests—whther hiking, cycling or cooking—and book a local event to attend. Afterwards, you can consider how effective the experience was for your personality. “Decide which crowd best suits you and your type of people. Making like-minded friends can lead to meeting a potential partner,” she shares.
You might find a date from this setting, or use a dating app to secure a meet-up. “Introverts aren’t known for leading conversation, so meet your date at a sculpture garden, or trail hike, or city stroll. Walking and talking is much more comfortable and easy to have balanced dialogue instead of facing each other at a coffee table for two,” she adds.
It isn’t that introverts are guarded without reason, but they take their time to be vulnerable with new people. However, part of building trust in a relationship is the act of sharing, according to Jian. Within the initial stages of courting, you might not be ready to discuss intimate or personal details about your life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice giving in another way. “It could be by sharing something from your plate like some food. Or sharing a bottle of wine. You could share a smile. You don’t have to talk but be kind, be nice. Go out of your way to share,” he suggests. Why is this effective? It helps to decrease your apprehension until you’re ready to open yourself up to this could-be–someone-special person.
Seek someone who is patient.
While touring around an online dating app, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to send the first message or prompt the conversation to progress from digital to face-to-face. Geter explains while introverts do possess leadership qualities, they don’t typically take the lead as an extrovert does. And by the time they do? Some extroverted partners might have already lost interest, or determined an introvert wasn’t interested in moving forward with them. This is why Geter explains the importance of finding a patient partner who is willing to let your affection grow at a slower speed. As Geter puts it, “when given the needed time to engage in dating, introverts are very successful.”
Choose a dating app that limits matches.
While some people might appreciate that Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and the rest of ‘em provide a seemingly-boundless pool of eligible daters—introverts might burn out fast. Geter recommends using a dating app that limits your daily number of matches, like eHarmony, Coffee Meet Bagel and others. “This narrows how many people may end up contacting you or limits how many profiles you need to look at in one sitting. This can make engaging a bit easier and less overwhelming,” she explains.
Practice dating with your friends.
Sure, it probably will feel mighty weird flirting with your best friend—but it could make you a tad sexier the next time you attempt to strike up a conversation with someone you’re romantically attracted to. Your friends—especially your extroverted ones!—won’t mind shedding their advice and wisdom. “If an introvert knows they aren’t great at initiating conversation or asking for a date, then practice these skills with people you already know. Challenge yourself to send one, unsolicited message to at least one friend a day,” she recommends. And if you want to make it steamy, drink some bubbly and have your pal teach you the fine art of sensual texting or physical flirting, too.
Remember your strong suits.
While introverts may have an uphill battle in some parts of the swiping-and-dating tango, once they’re in a relationship, Geter explains they have plenty of strong suits that help twosomes make it the long haul. One of their most impressive qualities is their ability to listen. But to have a happy relationship, you might need to score yourself a talker. “If they meet a partner who enjoys talking and sharing news, the two qualities complement each other,” she explains. “This doesn’t mean that the introvert won’t ever talk though. Introverts can also take the lead once the lead has been initiated. if an introvert finds an extroverted partner, the initiation of tasks could balance out in the relationship.”
Shaklee also adds that introverts tend to be the most content and drama-free singles to date. How come? They’re incredibly self-aware and they’re able to set clear expectations for their partner in an ongoing relationship. “Knowing how much time together works for them, and how much to text, or talk, or the time needed alone to recharge, are gentle conversation topics that can lead to compromise and a happy couple,” she explains.