Are you someone who always thinks of an amazing comeback about 2 days after most interactions? Have you ever felt like the lone wolf who doesn’t enjoy the combination of activities many refer to as “partying”? If so, you may be an introvert, and can learn to celebrate you! This month’s issue of Psychology Today featured an article called “Revenge of the Introvert” written by Laurie Helgoe which takes a look at how American culture seems to prefer extraverted personality qualities (like being a skilled “networker”; being competitive; being outspoken, etc.) which can make those of us who fall along the continuum of introversion feel a bit like social nitwits. However, being an introvert has its pros, and learning to work with your strengths is key to functioning better socially and professionally, not to mention increasing self-acceptance!
Research on the neurobiology of introverts suggest that we process more information in a given situation, and need quiet, reflective time to make sense of what we have observed. Introverts have a rich, inner life which makes us less dependent on external stimulation to feel good. My favorite quote from the article is on the concept of introverts being “collectors of thoughts”. The author goes on to say that for introverts, “solitude is where the collection is curated and rearranged to make sense of the present and the future”. If you need alone time, you aren’t being “anti-social” or displaying your dislike of people, on the contrary, you may be refueling by reflecting alone so you can be ready, again, to enjoy being around others.
As an introvert myself, I am trying out a few ideas that I hope can be helpful to other introverts!
#1 Reduce pressure to give an answer on the spot! If someone wants a decision or wants to know my opinion on something important and I feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, I buy time with, “I need to think about that, can I follow-up with you tomorrow?” or sometimes I’m starting to say, “I have a policy of sleeping on big decisions.” (This has served me well with sales people, especially!)
#2 Be transparent about your process. In meetings or groups, when someone inevitably calls me out on not speaking, I’ve started saying, “I’m really listening to the discussion, and haven’t sorted out my own thoughts yet” or something to that effect. I used to feel pressure to come up with something intelligent to say in those moments, which rarely worked!
#3 Schedule social events according to tolerance level. Social events like 1:1 dinners and coffees vs. large, loud parties require different levels of energy. Whenever possible, I try to schedule social events in a staggered way – alternating noisy big things, with smaller, quieter things. If I can’t do this, then making sure I gear up in some way for weekends with lots going on like during the week making sure I get enough sleep and exercise before everything gets going seems to help.
How about ideas from other introverts out there? What have you learned to celebrate about your personality type? What ways have you found to cope with external pressures?
If you are interested in taking a short personality test, there is a good one here: