“Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.” – Susan Cain
Some of us actually enjoy spending most of our free time alone (including the person writing this). The people that make up this group are called introverts. Introverts tend to be more focused on their own thoughts and feelings. Also, constant social interaction effectively drains introverts of their energy, as they are more contemplative.
This is the opposite of extroverts, who are known to be outgoing, aggressive, and have the ability to make quick decisions.
Introverts are a minority, and as such are forced to acclimate to environments that often take an emotional and mental toll. The extroverted environments of work and social gatherings often results in an introvert becoming more withdrawn, which often comes with a critical eye from those who don’t understand introversion.
It is important for introverts to be mindful of things that can be done to feel total wellness in what can be a trying social and work life.
Here are 5 great lessons for introverts:
1. Quit trying to “fit in”.
This is hard because we all want to be liked and respected. But, there is a good chance that others will like and respect you regardless of a difference in personality. Think about it – how many friends do you have that happen to have a personality that is different, even “opposite”, from yourself?
That said, there are going to be those who question your personality. There will be others who will think you’re withdrawn and aloof. There will be those who don’t understand your need for quiet space. It’s your prerogative whether or not you feel compelled to explain; doing so may actually do a bit of good in how others perceive you – but you should be feel obligated to (1) have people understand you, and (2) have people like you.
2. Socialize comfortably.
As introverts, we are often put in social situations that make us feel uncomfortable. Examples are small talk, noisy and crowded places, lack of privacy, etc. While dealing with these situations may be necessary at times (example: a work event), introverts will quickly become drained of energy if they’re too overstimulated.
Suppressing the need to be in a comfortable environment can only work for a short period of time. So when you feel the urge to get away and take some time, by all means do so. Trust your feelings and step away from all of the noisy stimulation. You’ll find that not only are you more energized, you’ll be in a much better mood to socialize later on.
Here’s the takeaway: only socialize in ways that you’re comfortable with. As with not trying to fit in, don’t try to socialize if your natural tendency is to do something else. Try to find social situations that fit your preferences. Instead of having a bunch of friends over to the house, schedule dinner with a few friends. If you’re not feeling the vibe at some party, just tell your friends to expect a call or text to catch up later on.
Don’t feel bad about rejecting or leaving social invitations that you’re not comfortable with.
3. Seek like-minded people.
Let’s be honest: it’s not easy being an introvert. Extroverts dominate the culture of the United States and many other places in the Western world. They’re obligated to take charge and speak up…and we’re just fine with sitting back and listening. Both types are ultimately needed in society…it’s just a difficult partnership at times.
Perhaps the best way to avoid all of the awkwardness is to find people who think like you do! Even though introverts are outnumbered by extroverts, there is still a heavy dose of them out there. Even though small talk is not the introvert’s strong suit (by far!), we can still strike up a like-minded conversation with a like-minded individual. For example, when you’re at the book store grabbing coffee, ask about the book someone has in their hand. Maybe offer to buy them a cup. See where this is going?
So instead of trying to force yourself to engage in small talk, hang out with someone who hates it just as much as you do! Find someone who thinks that hanging out at a coffee shop or bookstore trumps a party any day. Not only is it easier to hang out with other kindred spirits, it’s much more enjoyable.
4. Maximize your quiet time.
Make sure that when you get some desperately needed quiet time that you take full advantage. Also, make sure that alone time is not being neglected for the sake of making someone else happy. This is easy to do when people are making a bunch of requests of you – kids, spouses, friends, co-workers – they all are going to make your presence a priority. But you cannot make someone else a priority above your health, which is essentially the trade-off that some introverts are making.
Remember: introverts need quiet time, it’s not an option. Just as extroverts need social stimulation and such, we need to recharge our batteries using solitude. Quiet time is an investment in your own mental and physical health. We’re wired differently. We must understand something very important: you can’t be there for others if you cannot be there for yourself.
5. Focus on your strengths.
Since introverts have a tendency to be more sensitive, they also have a tendency to dwell upon their shortcomings. Introverts innately know that they’re not good at small talk; they’re not good at being in socially demanding situations; they’re not good at engaging people (most times).
That said, introverts have some tremendous qualities – many of which are needed in our world. Introverts are tremendous listeners; they have well-developed concentration; they are good writers; they prepare relentlessly.
It’s important for introverts (and anyone else reading this) to you focus on your strengths and not dwell upon your weaknesses. Everyone has a heavy dose of both.