December 7, 2020

Increased Risks for Introverts in a Pandemic (No, it’s not what you Extroverts are Thinking!).

I’m aware that many extroverts are feeling distressed at having to remain at home, often alone.

I see you desperate to reach out and make connections—human-to-human connections—the kind of connections that raise your energy level. I’m a self-acknowledged introvert and I want to explain to you that we introverts are having a different pandemic experience than you are. We tend to thrive in times of isolation.

Speaking as my introvert self, to my extrovert family and friends, please know this about me: I don’t desire the amount of connection that you do—it drains my energy, exhausts me, saps my creativity, and, after so many connection attempts coming my way, I can feel unsettled, even resentful. That feeling of resentment, of literally being pulled off my creative path, causes me to wish for even less connection time with you, though you are someone who I love/admire/respect/care deeply about.

After a while, I just can’t take it. My introvert self feels picked at as if my extroverted friends and family are energy vultures, tearing at a bit of my day, sucking at my creative meat (speaking metaphorically of course; no real blood-letting takes place). And yet, I do like you/love you/look forward to being together with you—in the future—at some time.

Should you desire to connect up with me, this is what I (and many other introverts) do enjoy by way of conversation: we want either a one-on-one or a small group gathering (Skype, Zoom, phone), a time in which to have deep discussions. We want to converse about our fears, our joys, what we are learning about self as we negotiate these troubled times. We might want to have a talk about our spiritual beliefs, or even about the benefits we anticipate coming to humankind as a result of this pandemic. We will gladly talk about our feelings, our learnings, our formative life experiences—for a while at least.

We introverts all need time alone in order to become reenergized, although the amount of alone time will vary from introvert to introvert. Another introvert variation: personally, I would gladly brainstorm creative solutions for real-world problems with anyone, at any hour of the day or night—but that’s just me. We introverts are, each one, unique in the level of energy we are able to devote to following our personal passions.

Mainly, where we introverts need to be in this time of sheltering at home, is with ourselves, with our closest family, perhaps with our best-est “bestie,” and to have only an occasional catch-up chat with you—unless—you feel the need for wrestling with big emotions, thoughts, or concerns that will lead into the aforementioned deep conversation.

Personally, I need to connect with my adult kids to reassure myself that they are well and reasonably happy. Same with my aging father and my brothers. I need to see my sweetheart and have some small regular human contact with him. We live in separate homes and have agreed to curtail all other contacts, to reduce our forays out into the world, to be one another’s only closer-than-six-feet physical connections for the time being.

I do want to keep up with my extended kin and my favorite people, generally. I’m thrilled to have brief conversations with my neighbors over the fence or with the grocery clerk (who is hopefully protected from the conversational spray). My problem is that everyone wants to connect with me, either because they’re bored, or they have time on their hands because they can’t work, can’t see their grandkids, can’t go to the gym. They want to fill their time with me! I suppose I should feel grateful, honored even, that friends and family are all so eager to chat with me, but honestly folks, I am just overwhelmed.

I’d like to offer all you extroverts (my beloved friends and family, included) some guidelines for connecting with your introverted friends and loved ones:

When you call:

1. Ask if this is a good time to talk.

2. Acknowledge that because the person is an introvert the call could cause them to feel drained. Suggest they take the lead and say when the conversation should end.

3. Be willing to “go deep.” Surely you know others who will gladly chat with you about the weather, the lack of sporting events, which restaurants are still open and offering takeout, how annoying it can be to be locked down with your spouse or your kids (unless there is a serious issue here—then many of us introverts will want to talk it through with you).

4. Be kind enough to set a call agenda and time. Some examples:

“I’m just checking in to see how you are feeling.”

“I’m making a grocery run. Do you need anything?”

“Five minutes of your time…tell me what you are doing.”

And, here, you might want to set a timer for five minutes. Really. Also, remember what your grade school teacher used to tell you—about having two ears and one mouth—to listen twice as much as you speak. Give your introvert friend or family member a turn to speak, too.

When you email:

There’s so much to read about, to learn about online, to watch and numb out with: old TV shows, comedy “shorts,” coronavirus updates from myriad sources, and links to everything, from everyone. Please only send me what you think I will personally have an interest in. For example, if you know I’m a fan of classical music, then please send me the free symphony concert link. If you know I’m into survivalist gardening, please send me to that permaculture website.

I’m asking you not to send me everything you send to everyone else (or, at least, to not take offense if I choose not to read every link you share). Each additional email “connection” you send me feels like more that I am supposed to do as opposed to more I get to do (except for those emails relating to my personal interests, as previously discussed).

Please know that, as an introvert, my productive time often comes when I am doing nothing—and I choose to protect the potential of my “empty time.” Weird, huh?!

Group chats:

There are pros and cons for introverts regarding group chats.

Pros: I get to see a bunch of folks at once and I don’t have to take time to have an individual chat with each one. It’s a good opportunity to pass along information and to have (with a small group) a deep conversation. My personal favorite is to select a topic with the potential to “go deep” and each one on the chat takes a turn sharing their thoughts on the topic. From there, the conversation can be opened up for questions, realizations, concerns, and more.

Cons: there seems to me to be a tendency (among all extroverts?) to want to “hang out,” to stay on the call, to remain “connected,” and that “connection” is often maintained with idle chitchat. As an introvert, “idle chitchat” literally feels like a waste of my precious life energy. I am loath to engage in it, and when I do engage in it with family and friends, it’s only out of love and respect for them.

Here’s a suggestion: Perhaps the extrovert folks in the chat group may want to arrange a second chat (minus the introverts) to continue their connection time. Perhaps, the introverts’ relief in being “let off the hook/the call,” in being understood for who we are, will be repaid in future deep connection times with the extroverts we love and care about.

We really do love you and care about you, and we respect you. We know the world needs us all—the outward explorers and the inward ones. As we all need to manage our physical health with physical isolation in this time of the pandemic, know that we introverts also need to manage our mental health with some degree of social isolation, a degree that will vary from introvert to introvert. Thanks for caring enough to read.

*Here’s a page from the Myers & Briggs Foundation that explains the general differences between extraversion (the spelling they use) and introversion: Extraversion or Introversion


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