5 Things Introverts Need to Thrive
This article originally appeared on Introvert, Dear. It’s a 6-minute read.
I had a meltdown the other day, and it wasn’t pretty. My husband and I have made several new friends lately and have been feeling more social, so our weekends have been a lot busier—in a good way—but this past weekend was too much.
I had something going on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening and Sunday morning, and by the time we got to our friends’ goodbye party on Sunday afternoon, my introvert social battery had already been depleted. I know better, I do… but I’d said yes to all our plans anyway. After three hours of small talk at this party, I began to shut down.
And when I shut down, it’s game over. I become mute, lose the ability to be polite, sometimes feel physically ill, and it’s always in everyone’s best interest if I remove myself from the situation at hand.
But it’s not always easy to do that gracefully. In this case, I had to quietly beg my husband to take me home. Like I said, it wasn’t pretty.
It was, however, avoidable, if I would have said no to some of our invitations and built in a lot more recharge time between seeing our friends.
The Social Break Introverts Have Always Needed
It’s an interesting time for introverts. As we emerge from the pandemic, we may be out of practice with protecting our energy. For many of us, the past 15 months have given us the social break we’ve known we always needed, while working remotely removed many of the stressful elements of our jobs.
We traded noisy, interruptive open office environments for the quiet of our homes, in-person meetings became slightly less draining over Zoom—when we could keep our cameras off—and virtual presentations felt easier.
We may have finally gotten to experience what it was like to work in a professional environment designed for introverts, and our weekends felt like our own again, leaving us refreshed and recharged.
Now, some companies have opened their offices and weekends are getting busier without the COVID-19 excuse as a response to invitations—or because we finally feel ready to be social again.
Reentry fear is real, too: How can we ever go back to the way things were pre-pandemic, now that we know how much we thrive in a far quieter world?
It starts by understanding our introverted needs and learning how to communicate them to others — especially the extroverts in our lives. Because here’s the thing: We can’t meet our introverted needs if we don’t really know what they are. Nor can we can’t expect others to accommodate what we need if we’ve never told them.
Why It’s Critical to Communicate Your Introvert Needs
Around half of the population is introverted. This means that half of the company you work for is likely introverted, and there are probably several introverts on your team. But we tend to be quieter and less vocal about our needs, while extroverts typically voice their needs quite freely—so their needs tend to become the norm and the ones that are most often met.
This makes it critical for introverts to become highly aware of what we need and learn to ask for these things in a way that is aligned with the way we’re wired.
Here are five things introverts need to thrive, especially now that the world is reopening, and how to begin communicating these needs to your friends, family, and coworkers.
5 Things Introverts Need to Thrive
1. They need quiet to reset and recharge
The primary wiring difference between introverts and extroverts is the way we recharge. Extroverts are energized by being around people and enjoy social situations with larger groups. Introverts, on the other hand, need quiet and time alone to recharge, and our social batteries drain fast when we’re around large groups of people.
The way each one of us recharges is unique. It’s essential to understand what works for you and build in this time when you know you’ll need it most—especially before or after social events or a day of meetings in the office (or on Zoom).
What is one thing that helps you let go of your day, unwind, and reset? What is one thing that recharges you and gives you energy, every time?
We can all have more energy if we start understanding what we need to do in our downtime to recharge, identify when we need that time, and begin building those practices into our day at the exact times we know we’ll need it most.
2. They need time to process information
Did you know that extroverted and introverted brains are also different? According to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage, introverts have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli. Information doesn’t go straight to our brains for processing as it does for extroverts. It takes a longer pathway through parts of the brain that are associated with long-term memory and planning before it’s processed.
This explains why we introverts have a harder time thinking on our feet—especially under pressure—are often slower to react, and take more time to make decisions. Because we process information so deeply, Laney says that introverts may favor long-term memory, which stores information for long periods of time. This makes information more difficult to recall.
Introverts need time to process information and think about the answer to a question instead of being put on the spot or asked to think on our feet. Communicating the science behind this to your boss, colleagues, and friends can help you start asking for the extra processing time you need in certain situations.
3. They need to have deep connections and meaningful conversations
Most introverts tend to connect in very different ways than extroverts. Being in group situations is draining for us, and virtual groups are no different—especially with the inevitable interrupting and talking over one another. Oh, and we really hate talking on the phone, too (please text—don’t call!).
Introverts prefer spending time with people we know well in person, either one-on-one or in smaller group settings, so we can make deep connections and have meaningful conversations. That energizes us. We find small talk incredibly draining, and want to go straight to the things that matter to us—like how our friends are really doing in the midst of everything going on in the world.
This is one of the many reasons for my meltdown last weekend. The goodbye party was for friends I didn’t know well, and I’d never met their friends. I think we all would have liked to get past the small talk, but there didn’t seem to be enough common ground to do it.
4. They need a quiet work environment
Introverts need a quiet space to work uninterrupted, at home and in the office. Many of us had this for the first time while working from home during the pandemic. If this is you, think about how much more productive you’ve been and how much more energy you have at the end of the day.
I currently work fully remote, but for years I went into the office for two days and worked from home the other three. The increase in my energy and focus during the days I worked from home was significant.
Many companies have recognized the level of productivity that employees have exhibited while working from home, and are offering this option permanently or as part of a hybrid model. There’s never been a better time to ask for what you need to thrive at work as an introvert—but again, it’s critical to understand what you need first, and why.
Take the time to define how you work best and the value you can bring to the table by working that way. Then use this information to build the case for the quiet work environment you need.
5. They need strategies to protect their energy throughout the workday
You may not have the option to work from home, and if that’s the case, it’s essential to develop strategies that protect your energy throughout the workday. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Take your lunch break alone. This can be a game-changer for introverts. Knowing that you’ll have a full hour to recharge in the middle of the workday can make morning meetings more bearable and help you reset for the afternoon.
- Have ready-made introvert responses ready. Put “Let me look into that for you” and “I’ll get right back to you” on your list of responses to colleagues at every level—including your boss. As I mentioned above, introverts need time to respond, especially to an “immediate” in-person request. Use these responses to buy the time you need and avoid having to think on your feet.
- After an intense meeting, go for a walk. A meeting full of interruptions and everyone talking over each other can be exhausting for an introvert and leave you feeling drained—even if you didn’t say a word! Even a five-minute solo walk afterward can boost your productivity upon your return.
Unapologetically Ask For What You Need
As I discovered once again at that goodbye party, we can’t expect anyone else to know what we need until we set boundaries to protect our energy and our time. It’s essential to communicate what we need unapologetically—because our needs are just as legitimate as everyone else’s.
Our extroverted colleagues may never fully understand, but if you sense that some of your decisions are being perceived as rude or aloof, take the time to explain why you’re opting for a solo lunch break or skipping out on the team Happy Hour.
I’ve found that keeping it simple—while being completely honest—is best. Let your coworkers know that you’re an introvert and what you need in this particular situation as a result, and leave it at that. Taking an educational approach may help how your explanation is received, but going too in-depth could go over an extrovert’s head because they’re wired so differently than we are.
Most people are collectively more caring, empathetic, and understanding these days than I’ve ever seen before. It’s time to start unapologetically asking for what we need and saying no to the things that are emotionally unhealthy for us. To protect us from reaching our breaking point, we must.
Are you dreading a return to “normal”? I created this on-demand workshop to help you transition to post-pandemic life on your own terms.