All my life I struggled with some of my traits, trying to be someone I never was and it turned out the problem wasn’t in me, it was just a wrong understanding of who I am. I am an introvert. And, probably, you’re as well.
Often people assume that introverts are socially awkward, shy and dislike people or aren’t good with them. There is some negative meaning when people think about introverts, because of the wrong definition living in their heads. My goal is to show you why it’s a wrong definition, and if you’re an introvert - how to live your life to the fullest, in harmony with yourself.
To understand what is the difference between an extrovert and an introvert, imagine a battery inside of a person and it’s draining slightly with every conversation the person has so that when, finally, it runs down to zero, he or she feels exhausted and needs isolation. It can take from several hours up to several weeks to recharge the social battery. This is an introvert’s reality: you get tired of people and need some time to be alone and recharge.
Extroverts, on the contrary, get their energy from the people around and their social battery drains while being alone. I like the analogy with a car sitting in the garage: if you don’t start it up once every week the fluids gum up and some mechanical parts rust. Extroverts hate alone time and become energetic and active from the presence of others.
What’s important here to understand, is that when an introvert has a full social battery it’s almost impossible to distinguish him from an extrovert. Introverts may enjoy socializing and be very good at – It’s just something that they can’t do as long as other people do. He may appear shy, or even standoffish and uncomfortable, but that isn’t because of who he is. He’s likely just tired and his social battery is exhausted.
Being an introvert is great, because you have some unique strengths and powerful abilities, and I hope to help you to understand them. To prove this, let’s look at the list of the most famous and successful introverts: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Abraham Lincoln, Hillary Clinton, Charles Darwin, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Sir Isaac Newton. They all found their clever and effective ways to recharge and accomplish their goals.
Great self-reflection. Introverts are often inside of their heads, they have an inner monologue and a tendency to think, overthink, reflect and adapt to situations better than extroverts because that’s their nature. It means introverts are more focused, more oriented towards solutions and more capable of simply getting things done.
Self-reflection and thoughtfulness are definitely superpowers of introverts because it makes them being sensitive to the patterns and behavior of other people, which is great for reading people and leading them.
Boredom immunity. By definition, introverts get energy from their alone time, this means they are very independent and even prefer solo activities. Because they don’t need others for entertainment, this makes them immune to the boredom: they always have something to do or think about.
Personally, I adore my ability to focus on the things I need to accomplish during the weekend (if needed) and don’t distract with parties, people or anything else. I always have millions of plans and things to do, so I almost never get bored. It makes me feel very productive and happy.
Deeper bonds. Many times I heard an opinion that I’m a great listener and it’s really true for most introverts because listening is easier to do for longer periods of time for them, it preserves their “battery”. They ask questions and listen to the answer because it’s easier than telling stories about themselves.
Because introverts are thoughtful and interested it helps to get a deeper rapport with strangers. They ask questions to allow the other person to go deep. And deep and meaningful conversations are the real basis of friendships and relationships.
Focus and deep work. What is the biggest distraction to work? It’s not social media – it’s other people. Avoiding people introverts, in fact, avoid distractions and it gives them the ability of deep work and immense productivity. Think about it: all great scientists, writers, engineers are introverts of some kind. Extroverts are just not capable of working long and focused without social relationships and distractions.
Planning and prioritizing. As realists, introverts do not believe in handling too many things at the same time and tend to manage their tasks and prioritize them to achieve the best results. Being thoughtful helps them to plan everything thoroughly, sometimes every activity during the day. I find myself a good example for this point: I plan every day with a good accuracy and I know when and what I will do today in most cases. Same with my life goals: I plan the whole year, prioritize goals and follow my plan. It makes me very productive and goal-oriented.
If your “battery” hit the critical level, when you feel very tired of everything and want to leave as soon as possible, what can you do? Not much, really, besides try to stretch your fake smile across the face. Our goal is never to get into such a situation. I’ll teach you some techniques which will help you to preserve your battery and survive during the long corporate parties or any social events.
Ask questions. People enjoy talking about themselves and what is interesting to them. Asking questions drains your battery much less than answering them and it helps you extending the conversation for a long time with fewer efforts. It’s important to ask clarifying questions, go into details so that the person feels your interest and gives you more an more topics to talk about.
For example, if someone says, “I went hiking last Saturday with my girlfriend”. You can dive into separate subtopics: hiking (How often do you go hiking? What is your favorite place? How was it?), Saturday (And how was your Sunday? What do you usually do on Saturdays?), girlfriend (What does she do? Did she like the hike?). Therefore there are at least six questions you can ask just off the top of your head.
I prefer to follow this template: ask 3-4 questions and then tell something about myself, then again ask 3-4 questions and so on. It does take some practice, but it’s one of the most powerful techniques I know.
Use non-verbal communication. This works very well because it’s much easier to express emotions with your facial expressions or with hand gestures, rather than to formulate responses and reply to people. Pretend you’re mute and can only respond with the body language.
In reacting the goal is to acknowledge and make people feel heard. If someone tells you a story about how he got bitten by a dog, you can non-verbally show him sadness and dismay. If it’s a story of how he got a promotion, show respect and amusement. There actually aren’t that many emotions to react to when people tell us stories or share about themselves.
Also, you can use “acknowledging non-words”, such as “Mmm” or “Hmm”. With different tones (flat, rising, lowering) and varying length, it becomes very powerful and can replace entire sentences. And of course, it preserves your battery.
Seek predictability. Why introverts are afraid of open-ended activities, or those they know nothing about? It’s the unpredictability of it all, because how long is your battery going to last and when will you be able to recharge?
Extroverts enjoy bar hopping – going with a group of people from bar to bar, because the more bars they go to, the more different people they can engage with, it energizes them. For introverts engaging with many people they don’t know and in different environments requires untold amounts of social effort and attention. It’s necessary to understand that you have a limited amount of energy, so you must spend it wisely and plan your activities carefully so that you never get into a situation when you’re exhausted. Focus on predictability: think about where, who, when, what and why.
Where: focus on locations you know you will be comfortable in and with low chances of surprises, prefer quiet and calm places rather than loud and crowded.
Who: know who you will be spending your time and restrict your socialization to just one or two strangers at a time, otherwise, it will be too tiring for you.
When: know the time the activity starts and ends, and if there is no well-defined end time – define it and make non-negotiable. We can easily talk with people while standing in line or in an elevator, but only because we know exact ending points where we can escape. The reason why you’re still at that party or networking event because you feel awkward saying goodbye to the people or the host. How can you leave and say goodbye effectively? You don’t have to say goodbye, period.
What: prefer activities where you feel more comfortable, what interests you. Staying within your interests preserves energy, because you don’t have to deal with anything new, and you can focus on the task. Bike trips, hiking or camping with a few close friends might be your thing.
Create social roles. It’s very helpful to find your social role and make it be your goal during an event. For example, if you go with people to a picnic, you can be in charge of the grill. It’s something you can focus on and use as an excuse if you feel tired of conversations or people. Need to recharge your “social battery”? Grill time.
Try to find your role as often as possible. You can do this by simply assigning yourself to take care of things for people. Going to the cinema with some people? Tell them: “I’ll be in charge of popcorn, don’t worry.”
Find your motivation. Imagine you’re lost somewhere or you’re in a hurry and can’t find the building, would it be a problem to ask people you meet, even If in a normal situation you are afraid of talking to strangers? Of course not, because you have an overwhelming goal. If you’re desperate to find a new job, that goal can help you push yourself to visit hated networking events or meet with more people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. Blindly stumbling into a networking event and expecting to have a great time is exhausting, and ultimately counterproductive.
Increase your energy capacity. Often it’s better to have more energy to spend rather than trying to preserve the small amount of energy you have. Good news! You can increase the capacity you have by “training” your battery. Every time you participate in a social event, meet new people, engage with new coworker, start a small talk in a grocery line or in an elevator – in any uncomfortable social situation, anytime you give a stress to yourself interacting with people – your battery becomes capable of storing a little more social energy than before. It’s a very painful process, but it’s worth it. Additional energy will become available later, once you recharge. So, let’s talk now about recharging.
Plan time for a social hangover. Schedule a time alone before and after a social event, particularly afterward to deal with the inevitable “social hangover”. If you have a big event on Saturday, make sure you can spend time alone on Friday after work to accumulate some energy before the event, and on Sunday to rest and accumulate energy before the next working week.
Find your hiding place. Even if you’re in a nightclub, or bar, or some loud party, you can find a few places where you can hide and recharge. Once you find them, you should visit them frequently during the event to keep your energy high.
Make physical stimulation. Many introverts relax by a physical activity. Even vacuuming the carpet might help. Consider taking a walk, running, going to a gym, doing some work with your hands.
Sleep. When you are physically tired your ability to communicate with people is low. I noticed it all the time in those days when I didn't sleep enough. You just want to hide and be alone. But when I slept well I feel so energetic and want to talk to everyone. This is very important: if tomorrow you have a social event – go to bed earlier and get some decent sleep!
I hope this article was helpful to you and if you know any introverts, I would appreciate if you share it with them, make their life a bit easier and happier.
I was inspired by these two great books, which I recommend you to read if you want to dive deeper into this topic: