Why It’s Critical to Communicate Your Introverted Needs During This Crisis
One of the most interesting things about this pandemic is that for the very first time, extroverts are living in a world designed for introverts.
They’re living in a far quieter world with time to be alone with their thoughts, finally slow way down, work from home relatively uninterrupted, and discover the pure bliss of spending both Friday and Saturday night at home.
Now, under different, far less stressful conditions, this new reality may be a lot more enjoyable for extroverts—especially those with small children at home. But I’ve been noticing that companies are still trying to meet the needs of extroverts without factoring in the unique needs of introverts. And part of this is on us.
The Deeply-Processing Mind of an Introvert
As an introvert and highly sensitive person (HSP), I’ve been deeply processing all the changes and uncertainty this crisis has created for months. I’ve been absorbing the emotions of everyone around me who is also stressed, scared, and trying to make sense of this, and feeling overwhelmed by it all. I’ve been spiraling into worst-case scenarios, as many introverts tend to do, and spending far too much time in my head.
I’m emotionally drained and exhausted, but I’m still not asking for what I need.
My boss (one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for who always takes care of his team) has held several meetings with us, asking how we’re doing and what we need—but I haven’t said anything.
Because, once again, my needs are the opposite of what everyone else is saying they need. Many of my coworkers are craving connection, so it’s become mandatory to turn on our video during meetings and virtual happy hours are on the calendar every Friday.
The Introverted Kind of Connection
I also value connection, but introverts connect in very different ways. Being in group situations is draining for us, and virtual groups are no different, especially since there will inevitably be a lot of interrupting and talking over one another. Just having our video turned on can make us feel awkward, subconscious, overstimulated, and the center of attention whenever we talk, which often keeps us from saying anything at all.
What introverts need right now is solitude, fewer stimuli, and more time to recharge after the workday. We need one-on-one conversations on the weekends with friends who know us well, so we can skip the small talk and find out how they’re really doing in the midst of all this.
But we can’t expect anyone else to know those things unless we begin to communicate. It’s essential to communicate what we need in our own way—by sending an email or bringing this up during a one-on-one meeting or conversation—and do so unapologetically because our needs are just as legitimate as everyone else’s.
Protect Your Energy by Asking for What You Need
Something else I’ve noticed during the past few weeks is a much higher level of empathy. When someone says, “how are you?” they really do want to know.
An honest answer, especially when someone is having a particularly difficult day, isn’t too heavy anymore. People are taking the time at the beginning or end of work meetings to check in with everyone on the call, and share some of the hard things they’re going through.
So, why do we think that our own introverted needs and requests won’t be honored or understood?
I suppose we’re still wired to assume they won’t be, and even something as big as a worldwide pandemic can’t change those thought patterns overnight. But I truly believe that now is the time to begin trusting our coworkers, bosses, friends, and family with what we need to get through this. With the things that will help us protect our energy, especially during the workday.
Most people are collectively more caring, empathetic, and understanding than I’ve ever seen before, and I believe that it’s safer than ever 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.
If we start asking for what we need now, maybe we can also shed the guilt that often comes with it and have the courage to keep asking after this pandemic is over.
Above All, Take Care of Yourself
Self-care can no longer be limited to a few ideas that we hope to put into practice someday. Taking good care of ourselves is the key to showing up as our best selves, especially in this incredibly stressful season.
Even if we try to limit our news intake, news about the COVID-19 crisis is everywhere, giving us even more information to absorb and process. All the concern and stress that we’re feeling and hearing from others can take a toll on us as well, emotionally and physically.
Make sure you’re getting enough downtime and alone time, away from your phone and computer screens. Get outside as much as you can (while social distancing, of course) and prioritize the activities that help you clear your head and recharge. If you notice that you’re feeling more tired than usual, wind down and get to bed earlier or prioritize a 20-minute nap during the day.
Many of us have a little more time than usual and are establishing new working from home routines. Now could be a great time to incorporate self-care and ways to reset and recharge throughout the workday. Some of these practices may help you stay charged when you return to the office as well.
A Note for Introverted & Extroverted Leaders
One final thing: leaders, to effectively take care of your teams and what each person uniquely needs, it’s critical to give your people options and not ask them to do anything that is emotionally unhealthy for them.
Give your introverts permission to skip the virtual work happy hour if this will drain them instead of making them feel more connected. Allow them to leave their video off during meetings if that will help them protect their energy.
Introverts have spent their entire lives in a world designed for extroverts. Now that we’re living in a more introverted world, and a world where a lot of us are dealing with much higher levels of stress than normal, please be kind to your introverts.
Read this blog next to learn more about how to generate the energy you need to survive this new “normal”.