For the most part, introversion is still wildly misunderstood.
The other day I ran across a quote about introversion that compared the two personality types as “strong” and “introverted.” Whether this was the intention or not, I felt like this perfectly summed up part of the problem. The connotation of introversion is often that of weakness, like faulty programming.
Fortunately, over the past decade, research has painted a much more complex picture of the differences between introversion and extroversion (the long list of successful introverts helps too).
I’m an introvert somewhat. There could be a room full of people, I’ll go stand in the corner.
– Kevin Gates
Introverts have many beautiful qualities, mostly centering around their ability to navigate their mind and in mastering the power of solitary thinking towards creative pursuits.
Ironically, many of the most successful influencers online today are introverts because the internet has afforded us the ability to create a following while still sitting quietly in the comfort of our homes, allowing us to make the most of our natural gifts.
However, no one can argue that introversion does come with its challenges. Here are some of those challenges, and a few thoughts on how to overcome them:
1. Navigating large groups
The challenges of introversion revolve entirely around people. The first is what happens when you’re simply around other people. More accurately, lots of other people.
Large groups can make introverts expend excess energy because of the way our mind works. We process way more of the information that’s going on around us. This can have its benefits if used in the right way, however, for the most part, it just ends up making us exhausted when in social settings. Give us two or three days at a conference or retreat and we feel like we need to recharge for a week.
There are two effective ways to overcome this challenge. First, go into large social settings with a specific goal. If you’re going to a conference, make the goal to get to know a certain number of your peers or potential mentors (or whatever type of person is relevant to the event for you).
For each mixer setting, seek to connect with a specific number of people. This will give your mind something to fixate on when in these large groups and reduce some of the mental chatter.
Second, you need to get really good at gauging how much time you can manage in groups, whether at a party or a work-themed event. If you can only manage a few hours, cut it off after that. If you push yourself too hard you’ll just end up exhausted, so seek to pace yourself.
Solitude for an introvert is like jumping into an incubator filled with a special energy that jumpstarts your entire being, so getting a feel for the right balance between solitude and social environments is key.
While an introvert’s tendency to hide in the corner of a room is perhaps what they’re most well known for, the challenge which is hardest to deal with is likely their difficulty expressing themselves clearly in verbal communication.
As an introvert, I’ve experienced many frustrating situations where I wasn’t able to accurately express myself in conversation with someone, even something that I fully comprehended and had a great deal of knowledge in.
Over time, I’ve worked on this quite a bit (more than anything else as it pertains to my introversion), so I can say with confidence that I’m far better than I once was. However, more than any long-term effort the main thing that has helped me is this simple reminder:
Introverts feel most comfortable thinking before they speak, so give yourself the chance to think thoroughly before responding in conversation (or prepare your responses beforehand).
At first, this might feel a bit awkward. Afterall, you don’t want to be sitting there silently while the person or persons hang on your next word, wondering when you’re going to speak or if you’ve frozen up.
However, I’ve found that even an extra few seconds, especially for a particularly important response, can do wonders for an introvert.
Something about the way our minds work forces us to be more naturally slow verbal communicators, so if you either prepare notes beforehand (for a presentation, speech, or previously scheduled discussion) or take a few extra seconds to contemplate your response, your ability to communicate will increase significantly.
Not good enough? Preparing for a date or an interview and you really don’t want to mess things up? Try dictation. Think of a few common questions or conversations you might have and dictate your response, going back and looking over what you said and then trying to better the second time. This can help you quickly improve problems in how you speak and make you more comfortable when communicating verbally.
A third and sometimes overlooked challenge of being an introvert is both making friends and maintaining friendships.
At times, like-attracts-like means an introvert (you) fumbles into conversation with another introvert (your future friend). In that, you might find much in common personality-wise. However, many other times, an extrovert will be the one to strike up conversation and like-attract-like can mean many other things from similar taste in T.V. shows, music, or some other passionate interest.
In the former, the two of you can very well confide in one another, understanding each other perhaps better than anyone else has ever understood one another. However, in the latter, to a more extroverted personality, you might at times appear to dislike them or others around them or just be difficult to figure out, avoiding social outings such as parties or appearing standoffish when meeting new people. This can cause making and maintaining strong friendships to be a bit harder for introverts.
Communicating, in general, can feel awkward for an introvert, however, if you work at expressing how you feel and are upfront about your introversion than– assuming they’re a real friend or just a good person– they’ll be more likely to understand and support you.
Human relationships, and the communication necessary to create and navigate them, are complicated for everyone– introvert or not. So, go easy on yourself and just do your best to express yourself openly.