The world s constantly changing and people need to constantly adapt to the changes. Nowadays we all belong to groups and share similar values, attitudes, understandings, hopes, etc. But the world we live in is also unfairly set up to serve better to half of the population and somehow ignore the needs of the other half. There are two main groups of people living in the world – introverts and extroverts. What makes them differently positioned is the setup, made to serve the extroverts.
Extroverts are open, communicative, full of energy, ready to meet lots of people, just to conduct small talk, sometimes leading to absolutely nothing. On the other hand, there is the group of introverts – people who look embarrassed to establish relationships in public events, who prefer to stay by themselves from time to time, who look not so involved during the mass events and even try to stop others who expect them to be everywhere and every time.
The extroverts feel comfortable because:
- They have events to attend where they can chat with everyone
- The events they attend often expect them to be active
- They meet a lot of new people;
- They build contacts and exchange information in large groups;
On the other hand, most of the introverts have some difficulties adapting to that style of life. Big events and large groups exhaust them quickly and they need to recharge. They often need time for themselves and prefer to invest that time in things they do for themselves, instead of spend time with others.
Do you feel like one lonely and misunderstood introvert? Well, you are not alone. According to a Harvard Business Review study, 49% of people are true introverts and another 17% are moving between the line of a true introvert and extrovert type. I’m in this 17% of people and feel like almost 50% of my time I have to move between exhausting myself with meetings and people and another 50% where I’m most productive and deliver excellent results(It is not my thought, but my boss said it). If you hold a leadership role you will know what I’m talking about. So many people, so much information, a lot of small talks, countless conversations with everyone, and almost no time to stop and recharge. After working this way several years I felt exhausted, depressed, without any will to start something new, not ready to meet even my closest friends. I was even thinking to quit my job, although I was highly appreciated as a partner and trusted advisor for the business leaders I was working with.
And then, one day I’ve met a colleague from the university I attended. We haven’t seen each other for more than 6 years and I have lost connection to him. He has become a well-established expert in psychological safety and well-being establishment. We talked for more than an hour(a way too long time for me) and then we scheduled another meeting to talk about how can I get out of the situation I have got in. We worked 3 full sessions, each lasting 1 hour and structured 4 simple steps to help me overcome the stress for having to deal with so many extroverts around me. Five long years have passed and these steps still work for me and make me feel more comfortable when adapting to different environments and groups of people. I’m offering them to you to help you be a better feeling introvert in an extrovert built world:
Be open and honest
The first thing I have had to understand is that you need to be open and tell others what type of person you are. People often make assumptions about others only based on what they see. And introverts often feel guilty about how they behave and try to take that guilt with them everywhere. What I did and helped me much is to explain to others around me – extroverts – what type of nature I am. What first looked as ignoring most people easily became a specific of the character everyone has slowly learned to live with. If you want support from others to explain all the specifics in your behavior, where they come from, and what changing them means for you in terms of energy, exhaustion, and personal feelings. If others understand your nature, it will be easier for them to accept you the way you behave as an introvert.
One thing that has helped me often is the counteroffers’ strategy. Many introverts feel uncomfortable when they have to go to lunch or meet outside work with an extrovert. They start worrying about all the people that will be there, all the questions they will have to answer, etc. An easy way to fight that is by offer counteroffers. The simplest one you can make for lunch, brunch, etc. Imagine you have a friend or colleague at work who invites you for lunch at 12:30 – the busiest time in the dining area. Because you don’t want to disappoint him or her you accept, but still the worry and the stress stay for you. If you want to change that makes a counteroffer – propose a different hour, when you know there are going to be fewer people in the dining area and you will enjoy the time for lunch. It is the same with other events. A birthday with a lot of people can be easily turned down and moved to a personal or small, but comfortable group of people meeting for you, scheduled in a different place and time. The technique of the counteroffers can help you lower the level of stress and make it comfortable trough the day.
Many extroverts have built opinions on others based on only what they see. Because many of the introverts move away from investing time to explain others their behavior and reactions they often fell in a wrongly structured group with preliminarily established characteristics. To change that you will need to invest time in explaining to others what your behavior means and how introverts react to different stimuli and situations. The time invested in that activity will help you build a realistic image of who you are and how extroverts can understand your reactions, way of doing things, and interacting with others.
Be who you are
I made a huge mistake when I first tried to be part of this extrovert world. I tried to play roles that show me different as I am, just to be accepted by others. But soon after I have started I felt exhausted and filled a lack of energy and willingness for anything. That even made things worse, because I started to behave aggressively to others and tried to avoid every try for contact or productive conversation. Then I learned it with my friend that if you want to feel good you will need to invest time to show others who you are and behave the way you think is right for you. By being who you are you show others your uniqueness and make them part of your environment. They, the extroverts now see your real image and know how you feel, what your behavior is causing, and why you show this behavior. To be who you are meant to build trust and respect in others trough showing your whole inner you.
Listen to yourself
Introverts have a lot of energy. What most of them don’t do well is to spread it the right way through the day. I have made the same mistake. Starting working early in the morning I have often finished my work late in the night with total exhaustion. While consulting with my friend I have found a way to stay productive and high performing without losing my energy. We introverts need to stop chasing the extroverts and playing roles to position ourselves like them. A priceless lesson I have learned is to listen to my body. When you feel tired, you will need to stop. When you don’t have an idea of how to do a particular job or finish a particular task, you better move forward and return when you have the idea of how are you going to finish it. Listening to your body and mind will help you to save a lot of energy and invest it wisely in something meaningful, without exhausting your self.
Reserve your relax moments
The last valuable lesson I have learned, while coached by my friend was to plan my relaxation time. Before this I have reserved some time, not working and thinking on the task I have to finish, just to think about another task or project that is waiting for my input. When I changed that I started recharging much faster and even increased my productivity. When you reserve a moment to relax, be sure that you will use that time to disconnect from work and enjoy something that makes you happy, outside work. Listen to music, reading a chapter from a book that interests you, talking to a friend or relative, doing simple exercises at work, etc. are some of the activities that can help you to recharge. When reserving time for relaxation use it only for relaxation and nothing else.
It looks unfair to leave in a world designed for one-half of the people in the world, but we all know that the biggest strength of the human is the adaptation skill. If you as an introvert want to survive in a world designed differently then your inner rules and expectations you will have to learn how to change your surrounding environment to help you be more productive, stay more positive, and be happier when interacting with others.
Ready to rethink your strategy and vision for the world?