“If you are an introvert, you are born with a temperament that craves to be alone, delights in meaningful connections, thinks before speaking and observes before approaching. If you are an introvert, you thrive in the inner sanctuary of the mind, heart and spirit, but shrink in the external world of noise, drama and chaos.” ~ Aletheia Luna, Quiet Strength: Embracing, Empowering and Honoring Yourself as an Introvert
Introverts can be mysterious creatures. They are great listeners and love to have a good conversation with a close friend, but they also need their space, and can get easily drained by social gatherings. Extroverts, on the other hand, are revitalized by the same kind of gatherings. One way to know where you fall out on the spectrum is to see where you go to recharge: your room, a book, a good friend; or a party, gathering, or night on the town.
Though that is the external difference, it is much more complex, as introverts and extroverts are actually wired differently in their brains. When receiving information, an extrovert uses the neural pathways responsible for senses, while introverts go the longer route through pathways responsible for empathy, planning, self talk, outcome, and personal long-term memories. This causes an extrovert to be in the moment, whereas the introvert is still processing. This also explains why it takes longer for introverts to speak up, and why they are so tired after a social excursion.
“All this talking, this rather liquid confessing, was something I didn’t think I could ever bring myself to do. It seemed foolhardy to me, like an uncooked egg deciding to come out of its shell: there would be a risk of spreading out too far, turning into a formless puddle.” ~ Margaret Atwood
As an introvert, it’s sometimes hard to share myself and communicate with others. I can be pretty efficient when sitting down with a loved one to talk, but certain things are still hard for me, such as big gatherings, chatty people, or not enough alone time to process and think.
Here are some things that I’ve found helpful in communicating and socializing with others (especially those others who are more on the extroverted side).
1) Set aside times to talk
If you find that conversations are stressful, or if you find that you are not having the relaxed conversations that you crave, set aside specific times to talk with your loved ones. Sometimes you can spend the whole day with a person and still do not feel that you’ve learnt anything about them, or had a heart to heart.
This is because we spend our days doing so many things, and though extroverts can feel comfortable having conversations amongst the chaos of the day, we introverts need a calm and quiet space.
So set aside time with your loved ones when you want to talk. When I used to smoke cigarettes, I would always use that time to catch up with a friend (who I’d drag along for the outing).
But now that I’ve broken that habit, I need to find different times to spend talking to loved ones. Having dinner together with your partner, or getting coffee with a friend, is a great time to just sit and talk without big distractions.
As an introvert, face to face talks can sometimes be overwhelming. The inability to respond as quickly as our extroverted counterparts can sometimes leave us feeling like we have not fully expressed that which we needed to, or we feel we may be talked over by others who are more chatty.
If you feel you need to express something important, try writing it down. This way you have it organized in your head and know beforehand what it is you wish to express to the other.
You can also give this writing straight to the person. This has helped me in occasions when I have been nervous to speak my mind, or nervous I would not be able to get out what I needed to express.
3) Sit down during social gatherings
Social gatherings are most stressful because of their typically fast-paced nature. If you find yourself at a gathering, nervously standing next to strangers and suffering through small talk, then you probably need to sit down.
By sitting down instead of standing you put yourself in a calmer space and allow for deeper conversations amongst others. Sitting down is also where you are likely to find other introverts or people who would like to have a longer conversation about life.
Small talk: it’s the absolute worst thing for an introvert. Small talk seems boring, pointless, and doesn’t tell the introvert anything new about the person they’re talking to.
In order to spice things up (or to make small talk less painful), be the one leading the conversation, instead of the one reacting to the other.
When you ask interesting or deeper questions, you are opening up the conversation to be honest and insightful. The other person will follow your initiative and you will end up having a good time, and possibly making a new friend.
5) Explain yourself to the extroverts in your life
As we are starting to see, the brains of an introvert and extrovert are worlds apart. In order to make things easier for you, explain to your extroverted loved ones about the unique ways of the introvert. Talk to them about what makes you happy and calm, and what makes you feel stressed or overwhelmed.
This way you can make them aware of what you need; whether it be quiet, more time to respond, or alone time. This also makes it more comfortable for you to verbalize your needs in the moment, as you can tell your already informed loved one that you need more time to process, or need to leave early due to overstimulation.
6) Make alone time a priority
This is the most important. Some introverts are not aware of when they need alone time. Others are aware, but feel they are missing out when they take time out for themselves. If you feel irritated, overwhelmed, or even have a hard time concentrating, chances are you need to spend time alone.
So instead of being around people and thinking “Please don’t talk to me,” just excuse yourself and spend a few minutes alone in order to recharge your introverted batteries.