I’m an introvert who spends a great deal of time passing as an extrovert. While I love meeting people, hearing their stories, and engaging with them, I recharge by spending time alone … with my thoughts … in the woods, or even staring out the window.
I’ve met others like me. Those who thrive in professional, collaborative environments, but need quiet space alone, with their own minds, to regain the energy necessary to re-engage.
It’s funny how many people I’ve talked to lately who are self-proclaimed introverts. You wouldn’t guess it by these individuals’ ability work a room, captivate a small group, and their overall gregarious manner. But I hear their stories. I know what they want to do on evenings and weekends – they just want to be left alone.
Thanksgiving is often known as a time of great gatherings. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked with recently who confess all they want to do over the holidays is read a book, spend some quiet time with family, and then checkout for a few days. They know that December will be a grind. They want to rest, relax, and rejuvenate so they’ll be ready.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and some of the engagement demands placed on introverts, I’ve got a few pointers:
- Yes, you have to connect.Your family and friends have traveled far to see you (or you’ve traveled far to see them). Be a positive presence in their lives. These moments matter! Relationships matter! Connection is a critical part of being a human.
- If you’re going to disengage, do it privately. You don’t need to be “on” 100% of the time. But, also, don’t be the person at the gathering sitting by yourself in a corner – it’ll look like you’re sulking. If you have the luxury, tell your host you’re going to catch a breath of fresh air outside … and then do so!
- Set expectations. If you’re close to burnout, let someone know (your spouse, a family member, a friend). Share with them that you need some time so they can recognize why you’re acting less like your normal self. Ask for their support and help in finding the time to claim that time.
- Don’t use your phone as an excuse.There’s nothing more annoying than being with someone at an event who’s tethered to their mobile device. Beyond being rude, it doesn’t give you solitude. If anything, it generates greater anxiety. So, don’t hide behind your phone – it’s an efficiency tool, not a disengagement tool.
- If you can’t escape people, focus on 1:1s. Many introverts find the idea of a large group pretty overwhelming. I’ve found that I prefer talking to an individual at gatherings versus large groups. This type of relationship development isn’t as overwhelming for me and makes me feel I’m avoiding surface conversations – something that seems exhausting to me. I like to get to know people … 1:1’s seem more effective.