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How to be more extrovert: A guide for your inner introvert

Jessica Pan, a shy introvert, set herself the challenge of living as an extrovert for a year. She forced herself to speak to strangers, take improvisation classes and perform stand-up comedy. Her book is entitled, Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: An Introvert's Year of Living Dangerously. Here she shares what she learnt and her tips.

Jessica Pan says she wrote the book because she’d happily been a lifelong introvert: “I celebrated that but I realised I was using that as a label to say no to everything and my life had become really small. I wanted to make friends, wanted to have more adventures and I knew that I needed to do something big to get out of my comfort zone.”

The biggest thing that I have learnt from my year living as an extrovert is the advice 'nobody waves, but everybody waves back'.
Jessica Pan

Having decided to live like an extrovert for a year, she made a list of things that she’d always been scared of, “like talking to strangers, giving public speeches, performing comedy, networking, going on friend dates”. She then worked her way through the list. Here she answers some of Woman's Hour's questions.

Q: What was the biggest thing that you learnt in your year of living as an extrovert?

"I think the biggest things that I have learnt from my year living as an extrovert is the advice 'nobody waves, but everybody waves back' – which is something a psychologist told me. I was scared of rejection, you know I was going on all these friend dates or I was scared to talk to strangers because I thought they don’t want to talk to me; they won’t like me or they will think I’m weird. And he said, 'look in social life it’s about reciprocity; nobody waves but everybody waves back.' So we really need to be that first person do that move, make that wave; ask someone for coffee and they almost always respond back in a good way."

Q: And what if someone doesn’t respond back?

"If somebody wasn’t nice to me or I asked them for coffee and they said no – then I don’t want to hang out with them anyways! So it was win-win in a way.”

Q: So what else did you learn?

“One of the first things I did was take this class called How to be Sociable.” In this class the big thing for Jessica was understanding the difference between what the instructor called Deep Talk and Surface Talk. “Surface Talk is admin, life details and the weather. Deep Talk is about our hopes, our dreams and our fears and he said that if we really want to make deep connections then we need to have Deep Talk with people. Then to prove it in an exercise, we had to confess the most embarrassing things about ourselves to each other, to show that actually it brings us together and that everybody has vulnerabilities. It was an amazing exercise that I walk out of feeling totally changed because I got to share these things, someone else was really honest with me and we both felt really bonded afterwards.”

Q: What other advice do you have for being an extrovert?

“I went on these friend dates, to make a 'new best friend', as I called it. Because I think after the age of 30, it can be harder to make really good friends. My friendship mentor told me to make the first move and make the second move too! I was on these friendship apps and matched with these amazing women. We’d be chatting and we’d have banter but we both would be too shy to ask the other woman out, for a coffee or to hang out. So I took that advice! I made the first move and the second move and I made really great friends from that."

Q: Would you recommend friendship apps then?

I learnt this year that people are far more understanding and kind than we give them credit for. When I go out to the world now I don’t feel as much social anxiety.
Jessica Pan

“Well, I recommend friendships apps, but I think where I met my best friends this year was where I took classes that scared me. When I did the comedy course I met amazing friends and on the improv course I met creative people that I would never have met. I think that may have been better than the friendship apps.“

Q: More advice please!

“Something I learnt this year is that we can be bad judges of what we actually like. I signed up for an eight-week improv course and I thought I’m going to hate this! You know being on with these other strangers and I absolutely loved it – it was so fun. You’re in these amazing scenes where you can’t think about your life, you can’t worry about your job or paying the bills or your health because you have to really be in the moment. I love that lesson and I love improv.”

“Overall, I think a big thing that I learnt this year is that people are far more understanding and kind than we give them credit for. When I was bothering people on public transport, no one was mean to me, no one made fun of me, people can be kind. So when I go out to the world now I don’t feel as much social anxiety."

"I think we can stay in our own heads and build up things, they can be really scary. But when we actually do them – they’re totally fine."

Q: Do you think that you’ve managed to change your personality?

“No, I don’t think I wanted to change my personality I just think I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something bigger that scared me. I don’t think we should change our personalities and I am still definitely who I am, it was just that maybe I am now more willing to share that with other people."

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