If you’re an introvert, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of not knowing what to say, or thinking you’re bad at small talk. Especially for those hoping to start their own business, communication is key—and though introverts tend to be creative and innovative people, many of us struggle with the constant conversations that our jobs require. But learning how to communicate effectively isn’t impossible, and can even teach you more about yourself. Here are seven strategies for introverts to build effective social skills.

Communicate With Others Daily

Pretend texting This means resisting the (very real) urge to envelop yourself in a Netflix and red wine cocoon after work every night. Make an effort to communicate with the people in your life on a daily basis, even if it’s a quick text or a coffee date every once in a while. Like anything else, good communication skills come with practice, and the more you flex your interpersonal muscles, the stronger those skills will become.

Think of a Few Conversation Topics Ahead of Time

Especially if you’re still building basic communication skills, coming up with a few opening lines or potential topics of conversation can be comforting and empowering. Write a few down in a notebook or smartphone app, and carry them around with you, just in case. Even if you don’t end up using them, having these ideas around will increase your confidence and ensure you’re never left with nothing to say.

Stop Apologizing

Sorry not sorry Many introverts have a bad habit of assuming that their social skills are a lot worse than they actually are, or that people aren’t interested in speaking to them. Assume that your conversation partner is as engaged as you are, and stop apologizing for your nervousness or lack of social skills.

For one, it’s not your fault. More importantly, chances are that the person you’re speaking with hasn’t even noticed. For all you know, they might be busy worrying about the exact same thing.

Choose an Environment/Time That You Find Comfortable

If you’re setting up a meeting with a client or employer, pick a location where you feel at ease—a favourite coffee shop, a park, a neighbourhood pub. If you’re chatting online, the same rule applies: suggest times for Skype calls and phone interviews when you’re feeling the most energized.

Learn to Let Pauses Happen

Dr. House looking uncomfortable We’re taught by movies and TV shows that conversations naturally unfold as rapidfire back-and-forths, but here’s the truth: you won’t always know what to say, and pauses will happen. But these pauses are totally natural, and communicating effectively means learning to accept and even invite the rhythm of speaking with someone else. And if you find yourself overloaded, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself for a few minutes to splash some cold water on your face and find your centre.

Focus on Your Strengths and Flaunt Them

Even the most antisocial of introverts are bound to have a few social strengths. Whether it’s a talent for jokes, an ability to listen effectively, or a good memory, the trick is to figure out what your skills are, and focus on improving those skills wherever you can. Good communication is all about exchange: both you and your conversation partner(s) are bringing something to the table.

Don’t Forget to Take Time for Yourself

Relax At the end of the day, even the most social and charismatic of introverts will need a little time for themselves. And that’s okay. Unlike extroverts, we’re hardwired to need a little time to unwind after social encounters. Being able to take care of yourself and knowing when to take a break is a sign of maturity and self confidence. Plus, knowing when it’s time to curl up with a good book or video game will ensure you won’t burn out.

Besides good communication, there are other important skills every enterprising individual (introverted or otherwise) should know. Check out these 10 free online classes for creatives/entrepreneurs.

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