How to ‘shine’ as an introvert in a group of strangers

I’m writing today from Costa Rica – yes, Costa Rica! I’m here this week, unlike my more recent visits with my family, on a business retreat. After all, if you are going to spend a week away from home to learn and grow from other entrepreneurs, why not do so in an exotic, tropical location?

But in all seriousness, it’s not just about being in a beautiful location. Retreats bring an entirely new level of inspiration and intimacy above and beyond a typical business conference. I am loving the deep conversations, inspiring energy and time to focus on personal and business growth. Along with lots of valuable insights, I’ve been running through the coffee plantation in the mornings and enjoying yoga daily.

What a retreat can do for our mind-body-spirit

In our daily lives, our minds are so occupied with the day-to-day, it can be hard to reflect on the big picture. There is immense power in getting outside of your familiar space from time to time to be able to focus on what truly matters. Being able to do so in a supportive, nurturing environment with people on the same path, in a small, intimate group is also highly conducive to personal growth.

And to fulfill your purpose on this planet, whether it’s through volunteering, giving to your community, raising children or building a business fueled from the heart, it all comes down to moving forward on your journey to become the person you are meant to be – to be the best version of yourself.

Letting your best self shine

Whether you are going on a retreat, attending a networking event, or just going out with a new group of friends, being able to operate confidently and strategically with a group of new people can take a concerted effort.

A few things I’ve learned about interacting in a group this week:

  1. Be a conversation starter
    If you want to have great conversations with new people, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t constantly making small talk. What kinds of questions would allow your curiosities to be answered about others? Some I discovered this week are “What were you like in high school?” or “How did you get to where you are now?”

  2. If it looks like fun, join in. Even if you have to join in late.

    When a crowd is having fun, by all means jump in! And, if you are someone, like me, who hesitates when the first opportunity arrives, it’s still ok to join the party later, even if you already turned down the first invitation. For me, I almost didn’t join a group that sat together on a beautiful veranda, which turned into one of my favorite memories of the trip as we all chatted about our life stories as the sun went down.

  3. Share what energizes you.

    Nothing lights up another person more than hearing what truly drives you. So, don’t dim your light and keep topics on what feels “safe,” share what you are truly excited about and see how others get excited about what you are passionate about.

  4. You only need one thing in common to have an inspiring conversation with someone.

    In life, there are often many other people who don’t fit the typical type of person that we interact with on a daily basis. It may feel like you don’t have anything in common with someone who looks, acts, or believes in things in a different way from ourselves. If I hadn’t been open to finding things in common with people like that, I would’ve missed out on a great conversation about personality types, and how that relates to relationships, sales and business, and another conversation about great books I can now recommend to my 4th grade son.

  5. Arrive early

    This is such a simple strategy but one that goes a long way! When you arrive early, you are usually able to connect with the leaders of the event in a low-pressure situation. You often get to know the most valuable people to network with by doing this. They are invested in introducing you to others. And, you don’t walk into a situation where everyone has already started discussions and you don’t know who to approach.

  6. Recognize who you want to learn from and seek them out
    While every person you meet at an event may be an opportunity, there are certain people at most retreats, conferences, etc. that have a unique set of skills or expertise that we want to learn from. Take the time to research the workshop leaders, and determine who you want to learn from. Then, seek them out or sit next to them at meals so you can take advantage of the opportunity that you have while there with them.

  7. It’s ok not to do what everyone else is doing.
    When we first all arrived, I felt the need to “fit in” and do what everyone else was doing. But as time went on, I realized that I, myself, wanted to do some things different.

    The old way: Stick with the group, I don’t want to seem like the person who doesn’t want to be social

    The new way: I really want to do the things that I want to do, so I am willing to separate from the group to go spend some time on my computer, write in my journal, sit alone with a cup of coffee in my room, or take in the view. I trust that rather than appearing unsocial, others will respect that I am prioritizing what matters to me.

  8. When in doubt, remember that people usually love to talk about themselves

    If you are ever feeling unsure how to start a conversation, remember that by showing interest in another person, you not only compliment the other person by showing interest in them, but it’s an easy way to start a conversation as well.

  9. But don’t try to hide from being the center of attention.

    While focusing on others is an easy way not to draw attention to ourselves, it’s extremely therapeutic to let the light shine on each of us at times as well. The center of attention is not always a comfortable place – but when you show up when called into the spotlight, you do amazing things for your confidence and ego. Don’t shy down when you have so much to share and give.

  10. Trust your intuition
    This morning, I had just gotten back from a 3.5 mile jog, quickly showered and headed into a yoga session. About 20 minutes into the yoga (which was more like an aerobic workout), I realized that I wasn’t really feeling into it. I moved my mat aside and just did some stretches and ducked out early. I knew I wasn’t really feeling like the workout right then and I honored what I was feeling. I felt this amazing sense of empowerment choosing what was right for me. I made sure to later let the yoga instructor know why left early (not due to her teaching, but because of my earlier jog). But the leftover effects for me were a huge influx in appreciation for my self-care – that I chose what was right for me, and I listened to my intuition.

  11. Fake it ‘til you make it
    The energy we choose to exude may only be part of how we feel. But choosing which energy to share is important. I walked into a dance party midway through, feeling unconfident and disconnected from the energy. But rather than sharing that energy, I took in the energy from the group and gave my best to let go of what may have otherwise held me back. After some time, someone mentioned how it takes them a long time, when dancing, to just really get comfortable and confident. Then they said, but clearly that’s not your problem because you are already confident. Me? Not much confidence there, actually. But yet, I realized, I was acting confident. And when you act confident, no one knows the difference.

  12. Share your vulnerable self
    Often we introverts tend to shy away or be less likely to jump in to a conversation or activity in full force. This can sometimes make us appear guarded or disinterested… Or that we may appear we feel “better” than others. People may not know how to connect with us because we don’t make ourselves relatable. But sharing our vulnerablities helps others see that we have a human side, a softer side and a relatable side.

Being the best version of oneself is one of the most fulfilling rewards of taking the time for personal growth. If it takes going away to a foreign country by yourself for a week to conquer these lessons, I’d recommend it to everyone (and if you are wondering, here’s a link to learn more about the amazing retreat organizer that brought me here) In the meantime, I hope you’ll do your best to shine your light the next time you are feeling the tug of uncertainty in a group.

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable in new groups? How do you overcome your inhibitions? Maybe a retreat is the next big adventure for you!