It’s hard to deny that today’s world is built for extroverts. It’s all about socializing, networking, and building your life around collaborating with other people.
Us introverts? Well, too bad! We’re the ones who need to adjust.
From childhood, it’s been hammered into our heads that we need to speak up and stand out.
I can’t be the only one who wanted to do well in school but absolutely hated having to raise my hand for participation points. Or having to do group work. Or having to deliver a speech in front of everyone.
But I adjusted, and I did it. Even though it was a struggle.
The truth is being more sociable is a huge plus that can split the difference between success and mediocrity. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way.
I wish I was an extrovert – I’d often whisper to myself when overwhelmed by the socializing I had to do.
But here’s the thing: you can still succeed as an introvert!
Being a more introspective and quiet person has its own advantages, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
You just need to embrace it fully, understand it well, and play to your benefit.
Here are the 7 keys to understanding and embracing your introverted nature.
1) Understand how your energy works
It’s a common misconception that being introverted means, you don’t like being around people.
That’s not always true.
The actual difference between extroverts and introverts lies in where and how we gain and spend energy. Generally speaking, extroverts gain energy by being with people, and introverts gain energy by being alone.
But, of course, human psychology is infinitely complex, and we’re all individually different.
So you need to figure out how your energy works.
Take the time to observe how you feel and how your energies are in different situations or at various times of the day.
- Did you feel more energized or more tired after spending time alone?
- What activities refuel your energy bank?
- What social situations feel draining to you?
- Do you tend to feel lonely after being alone for some time?
Ask yourself these questions. It’s the first step to learning how to manage your energy.
2) Don’t feel bad for doing things differently
As you understand yourself better, you’ll also understand what you need to effectively control your moods and energy levels.
And you should honor these needs! As an introvert, I know just how hard it can be to say “yes” to invites, but sometimes you simply don’t have the energy.
If you really want to stay in for the day instead of going out with your friends, do so.
If you prefer to express your ideas by email over a phone call, do it.
If you feel better through one-on-ones instead of a meeting that involves the whole department – talk to your boss.
Of course, we’ll all have to do things we don’t want sometimes, but the key here is to prioritize yourself first.
3) Establish and maintain your boundaries
After all, establishing and maintaining boundaries is something introverts don’t do enough of.
Doing so is necessary to protect your energy and allow you to channel it at the most reasonable or critical times.
Because how would you kick that Monday’s meeting’s ass if you were too afraid to say no to spending the entire weekend with your friend’s uncle’s grandson?
Or maybe just agree to go on Saturday, so you have Sunday all to yourself. Or maybe you need a full eight hours of sleep. Or a cuddle session with your dog.
Whatever your needs and boundaries are, be firm with them. Introverts tend to be people pleasers (I know I am, *sigh*), but remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
4) Learn how to manage your energy levels
Take care of yourself first!
The main reason why extroverts (not all!) generally have an easier time managing their energy levels is that they can be around other people for longer.
Introverts like you and me require our precious “me time.”
It’s not that we’re less competent or able than extroverts! Rather, we just need more time to recharge before we can perform at our best.
And I cannot stress enough how important taking the time to take care of yourself is.
Showing up to gatherings or meetings absolutely exhausted will make things even worse (trust me, I’ve been there, done that).
Again, whether it’s:
- A full night of sleep,
- That cuddle session with your dog;
- A night off playing video games alone;
- A lazy afternoon with a book and coffee;
- Eating your lunch break alone at the far corner of the cafeteria;
- Or just scrolling through your phone for a few hours.
It’s okay. Go take that time.
You don’t need to be socializing or be productive 24/7.
If you need to decompress today to be at your best tomorrow, go for it!
5) Make your schedule more flexible
Because this “me time” is so important, flexibility can be life-changing for an introvert—it definitely was for me!
(This is also why a lot of introverts are now trying to be freelancers who can work from home!)
Whether it’s working from home on some days of the week or having the option to go into another room in the office to think in peace, try to see if you can make your job more flexible.
If you’re a leader, try to give your workers as much flexibility as you can. It’s something that most people can appreciate, even extroverts.
Of course, some people will prefer a fixed schedule, but having the option to be flexible with their time is almost never a bad thing. Take the time to talk to your employees about a mutually beneficial arrangement.
6) Play it to your strengths
While it can be great to be an extrovert, introverts have their own strengths too. The ones that I think are really undervalued!
According to multiple studies, introverts are typically:
- More creative problem solvers;
- Better students;
- Smarter about taking risks;
- Better at regulating their actions;
- More observant;
- And better listeners.
Experts hypothesize that these are caused by a greater mass of gray matter in introverts’ prefrontal cortex. It’s a part of our brain that controls our emotions, decision-making processes, and abstract thinking.
That’s the scientific explanation, but philosophy has a great perspective on it as well.
Many great thinkers, from Aristotle to Buddha (to name just a few), put great value on the ability to be alone and contemplate.
Being introverted is just as valuable and beautiful as being extroverted. Embrace your strengths!
7) Fake it till you make it
Some studies made introverts act like extroverts in social situations.
They felt better about themselves!
Now, in my opinion, this doesn’t mean you should force yourself to socialize when you don’t want to. Or to be someone you’re not.
But instead, don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone once in a while!
(In fact, other studies also claim that there really isn’t that much of a difference between the way happy introverts and happy extroverts act anyway.)
You don’t have to go all out immediately. Find small ways to push yourself to connect with other people in ways you find meaningful.
That can be a:
- Book club;
- A yoga class;
- A church choir;
- A hiking group;
- A volunteer organization.
The truth is that we will miss out on many opportunities if we always keep to ourselves. And even introverts get lonely too—we’re social animals, after all.
It can be daunting if you’re incredibly introverted, but trust me—it’s well worth the effort.
Regardless of its size, build a social network that you find meaningful. Put yourself in a community where you feel understood and supported.
How to make the most out of being an introvert
Introverts have their own fair share of formidable strengths! Here’s how to maximize your strengths as an introvert. (And even if you’re an extrovert, these tips are still useful!)
Quality first, quantity second
When I told you to go out of your comfort zone, I wasn’t just referring to how much you talk to people.
In fact, how you talk to people is more important than how many people you talk to.
Focus on having meaningful conversations instead of trivial exchanges.
As an introvert, you’re probably quite observant, potentially giving you more things to talk about with the other party.
Remember that a few quality conversations will hone your social skills even more than a lot of “small-talk” ones.
Hone your listening skills
Because introverts tend to talk less, they also tend to listen more. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good listener.
Learn how to be a better listener, and your relationships will vastly improve. Listen intently, and don’t think of your own responses as others speak!
You need to really absorb what the other person is saying. Make them feel safe and respected, and show them that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
Find your people
As I said before, you don’t have to talk to a lot of people. Even extroverts don’t like talking to everyone they see.
Find a group of people you have a lot in common with. That’s how you’ll have conversations and form bonds that are actually valuable to you.
With the right people, even introverted folks can be as loud and energetic as extroverts!
Have your own opinion
If you’re an introvert who’s about to meet other people, it’s best to come prepared. Think about the conversations you want to have and the opinions you might want to share.
Whether it’s for work or for fun, do your research. Know what the meet-up is about and prepare to talk about things you can contribute to the conversation.
As an introvert, you’re probably quite a reflective and observant fella, so this shouldn’t be too hard!
Know what you can teach extraverted people
Introverts and extroverts have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. We can both learn from each other to live better, more balanced, and more fulfilling lives.
Here’s what extroverts can learn from introverts:
Note: Not generalizing all extroverts!
- Self-reflection: Please don’t get me wrong—I’m not accusing extroverts of lacking self-reflection or self-awareness, okay? The point is that since extroverts might tend to spend more time with other people, they might not have enough time for themselves. Extroverts also need their own peaceful “me-time” to rest and reflect.
- Spend some time alone: After all, even extroverts who rely on being around other people for energy need alone time too. I’ve had some extroverted friends who said that being alone can be scary. However, extroverts should take it as an opportunity to pursue new experiences! Spending time alone can be a positive, valuable experience in its own right.
- Deeper relationships: If your extraverted friend is spending time with a large number of people, they may neglect their most important relationships. It’s better to devote appropriate amounts of time and effort to everyone!
- Listen more: Again, not accusing anyone of hogging the conversation! Now, many introverts feel thankful to extroverts for carrying the conversation. However, some also feel that it’s harder to speak because the extroverted person they’re talking to is too dominant in the conversation. Extraverts can work on their listening skills, for sure!
- Set boundaries: After the pandemic, introverts and extroverts alike are still struggling to get back into the usual flow of their social life. Extraverts may feel the need to always say yes when someone invites them, but remember that it’s totally okay to say no for whatever reason as well.
How to deal with introverts: 4 big tips
- Give them alone time: Introverts regularly need alone time to refuel. If they disengage from the interaction, it doesn’t mean that they’ve come to dislike you! I could only speak for myself, but in fact, it’s likely a sign that they’ve enjoyed their time with you. After all, they spent all their energy talking to you.
- Minimize small talk: We need to start interactions with small talk most of the time but keep it to a minimum. Introverts will quickly lose interest in small talk. For them, not talking at all is far preferable to talking about the weather. Try to move on to deeper conversations and ask for their opinions.
- Don’t pressure them into socializing: While it’s true that many introverts need a slight nudge to get them out of their comfort zone, at the end of the day, you need to respect their choices. If they say no, it’s likely because they’re simply out of energy.
- Listen to them, too: While they tend to talk less, introverts can offer a lot of valuable insights and interesting opinions. Make sure to listen to them and encourage them to share more!
While it might feel like the world prefers extroverts, many introverts are proud of their introverted nature (I know I do).
However, come Monday morning, when you need to deliver an important presentation in a large meeting, introversion might feel like a curse again. (Yes, this has happened to me a lot).
Just like being an extrovert, being an introvert has its pros and cons.
That’s why it’s not enough to be aware of and play to your strengths. You can’t always change your environment, either.
As daunting as it may seem, you really do need to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes. And while there are many things to be proud of as an introvert, it’s also important to develop your weaker areas.
And you know what? You can do it. I believe in you!