April 2, 2020

Dear Extroverts: Social Distancing Advice from a Super-Introvert.

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


There is no doubt that this sudden shift to social distancing has been challenging for all of us in some way.

There isn’t an age range, personality type, or career field that hasn’t been touched, if not completely turned on its head, by being placed in this sudden quarantine.

However, it’s safe to say that some of us made the jump more naturally than others.

We have likely all noticed our more introverted friends settling cozily into the new normal of self-imposed quarantine as if it were a set of warm pajamas. Meanwhile, our loved ones who lean more toward the extroverted end of the spectrum began to jump out of their skin around hour two.

That’s where I come in.

Extroverted friends, I’ve seen your memes and heard your cries for help. And as someone who uniquely identifies with both extremes of the spectrum, I feel I can offer you a bit of insight.

My own mother still has to pinch herself when she sees me stand on a stage. Why? Because growing up I was that introverted.

She recently flew across the Atlantic to see me premier as the Whoopi Goldberg character in “Sister Act” the Musical. And even though she’s been traveling all over planet Earth to see me perform Broadway shows for over a decade, as we ascended the Alps post-show on the way back to my Swiss apartment that night she mused incredulously:

“You know…you are funny. I mean, really, really funny!” 

She was shocked.

And with reason.

How is it that her painfully shy sit-in-the-corner-with-a-book-during-Christmas-dinner-rather-than-socialize-with-all-her-bubbly-cousins-over-presents firstborn grew up to have the audacity and the wherewithal to publicly portray a ferociously energetic, outgoing, and extroverted human…and to do so convincingly?

Once I stopped being hung up on the fact that my own mother didn’t realize I was funny (I, myself, have always found my thoughts hilarious, thankyouverymuch), I realized that in my training and experience as an actor I had picked up a really valuable skill, especially for my particular career trajectory.

Despite my natural reservedness, there is something about my physical type and vocal quality that has often landed me roles where I play boisterous, candid, demonstrative women.

That’s when I saw it: I had made a career of playing almost exclusively extroverts.

And even though every night after the curtain call I gladly shed my 16-pound sequined nun’s habit and fluffy Afro wig and slipped anonymously (well, as anonymously as the only black person in Luzern, Switzerland can) back up the mountain until it was time to become the larger than life Deloris van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence once again.

I had over the years become intimately aware of how to authentically portray an extroverted character with reverence and love even though Sidonie couldn’t be more different than Deloris.

I am as introverted as they come. In fact, I’d boast that I’m a superhero of my genre. I can cancel plans faster than a speeding bullet. My powers of reflection are stronger than a locomotive. And you better believe I am able to leap over large social gatherings in a single bound.

Just call me Super Social Distancer.

I have good news for you, though, dear extrovert.

You do not need to go get a master’s degree in introversion in order to find ways to enjoy social distancing for the next few weeks. I got you.

An essential thing to keep in mind is that you are really not alone. We are living in an incredible time of connection.

However, you will find that you will need to be much more proactive to create the connection with people that you so innately desire.

There won’t be any lunchtime coffee runs or post-meeting drinks for the foreseeable future. But this does not mean that you cannot organize virtual coffee dates and Happy Hour meetups with local friends or even folks that you don’t typically spend time with because they live too far away.

There is so much opportunity to innovate, and because we’re all in the same boat the potential for connection regardless of geographic location or time differences is unprecedented.

I challenge you to think way outside of the box here. Throw a Zoom dinner party. Volunteer to read a book nightly to all your nieces and nephews via FaceTime. Run a virtual 5K in your own neighborhood at the same time as friends across the globe.

Fill your schedule as much or as little as you see fit with interactions with those you love and miss seeing in person. It’ll require intention to get the ball rolling, but it can be done.

Even with all the options to connect, you might still feel frustrated. That’s 100 percent okay!

Feel free to talk about those challenges—especially online. I dare you to go live today on a platform that you didn’t even know had a live format. Just do it.

Your conversation partners will immediately be more diversified than usual, your audience larger, and the entire experience more exhilarating because of the spontaneity and dopamine cocktail that accompanies live broadcasting.

Don’t let the fact that quarantine-sanctioned activities can seem mundane deter you from pressing record or going live.

Trust me, you’re interesting.

It is wildly entertaining to watch someone just “be” as they go through their day simply expressing themselves. Oddly, this type of content is equally intriguing to both introverts and extroverts alike.

Your more introverted viewers will observe moments and details that make them feel like they’re getting to know you on a deeper level, and your more extroverted viewers will thrill at the energy exchange with someone so exuberant and vibrant.

Most importantly, dear extrovert, keep in mind that social distancing will not last forever. The methods with which you use to connect during this unusual time may well become valued and loved ways of interacting even after the Corona curtain is lifted

You got this. Godspeed.


An introvert



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