What is the first word that pops into your mind when you hear the word “introvert”? Loner? Weirdo? If so, then you couldn’t be further from the truth. However, when I looked up the word “introvert”, two of the top dictionary definitions were: “a shy person” and “a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings”. No wonder introverts get a bad reputation. The definitions completely overlook how these individuals renew their energy and decompress from the stress of everyday life.
At least the Meyers-Briggs personality tests help with educating everyone more about the differences between introverts and extroverts. (So, please take a few minutes to check out one of their personality tests online sometime this week, if you have never done that.)
In general, there are several misconceptions about people who are more introverted—with the understanding that everyone is an individual, and should therefore, be treated as such. Here are a few examples:
- Introverts don’t like to be around a lot of people.
- Introverts don’t like to talk.
- Introverts are always shy and kind of strange.
- Introverts don’t like to go out and have a good time.
Obviously, these statements are not accurate. It is time to consider why we are the way we are. For introverts, there is a theory that they are quite sensitive to dopamine in the brain, while extroverts are reported to crave more of it. This is a very interesting theory and would explain why so many introverts can feel a sort of pain if pushed too far socially, and with their daily schedule.
The simple version is that introverts receive energy from spending time solo, whether they are tired from work, stressed or more upset. Typically, introverts utilize socialization to express themselves and to build meaningful relationships. To these individuals, spending time with others is not a way to renew from work, or any other draining activity in their lives. For them, family gatherings, outings with friends, and other social obligations can easily add more stress into their lives.
Here are a few ideas on how to renew yourself from the workday, if you—or someone you loved— are more introverted:
- Take a nice walk outside before preparing/eating dinner with your family.
- Go to another room to play soft music and try stretching techniques to de-stress.
- Enjoy a cup of calming tea while digging in to your latest book or magazine.
- Try writing down what is on your mind in a journal or notepad.
To give you a personal example, ever since I got married (about five years ago), I started to notice how my husband did not share the same desires I had regarding going out and socializing. While he is one of the most friendly and genuine men you will ever meet, he is also more introverted. However, I did not know that at the time, because he can be quite talkative and the life of the party, even. So, it was frustrating when I would have a strong need to leave the house and go visit a friend, while he wondered why I couldn’t just stay home.
Over the years, we discovered how our personality tendencies affect these needs and desires, especially when it came to how we dealt with work and stress. My husband looks very forward to coming home at the end of the workday, in order to unwind and rejuvenate. However, there are many days when I (as an extrovert) would love nothing more than to make a quick social stop before going home for the evening. Therefore, socializing for my husband can become a burden, while for me, it actually lifts my burdens.
Since introverts tend to have a greater quality of friends, rather than quantity, they often are the best friends to know. They also work very well by themselves, which is important in many positions within the workforce. Therefore, introverts are amazing people that are often overlooked and misunderstood. It is key for them (and the extroverts they know) to be fully aware of who they are, and how to keep renewing from work each day. Their physical and mental health depends on it. May we all become more open to learning more about how introverts work, in order to develop meaningful and effective relationships—in and out of the workplace.