Well Being

Introverts On the Challenges of Social Distancing

You may have seen the jokes on social media.  That introverts are finally living in a world suited for them. No small talk to make, no physical contact, no need to make up an excuse to skip a social event.

But, jokes aside, introverts are having their own challenges with social isolation. Introvert JoLynda Anderson is in her house with her extroverted family members: her husband, teenage daughter and 5-year-old son.

“I need uninterrupted alone time to recharge and help manage my anxiety,” she said. “Having an hour or two every few days to lock myself in my bedroom or take a bath has been instrumental.”

We talked to introverts and extroverts to learn what everyone needs right now.

Not sure what type you are?

Introversion-Extroversion is a spectrum. You could be very introverted, very extroverted or somewhere in the middle. Introverts prefer less stimulating experiences to big social events. That doesn’t mean they are shy or dislike people. They are simply more energized on their own or in one-on-one situations.

Introverts, like Anderson, need time alone to be reflective and recharge. They tend to find the outside world exhausting while extroverts find it energizing.

You can take the Myers Briggs Personality Test online to learn interesting things about yourself.

Introverts and Extroverts in the same house

The introverts we spoke to said they felt a sense of responsibility to help the extroverts in their   households  during the shelter in place period we find ourselves in.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m overdoing it a little,” said Liz MacGahan. “I feel like my role here–as the introvert and person who can keep on working remotely without a huge upheaval–is to make the apartment super duper normal and also very clean and full of snacks.”

While extroverts seem to be wondering how they will fill up all the extra time they now have, introverts are feeling more content or even maxed out. For example, Anderson can’t stop being mom to her children when they’re home all day. She’s helping them with homeschool in addition to getting her own work done.

She finds that she enjoys taking her coffee outside when it’s nice, to get a little space and not feel so closed in.

How Extroverts Can Support Their Introverts

Both MacGahan and Anderson recognize that the extroverts in their lives are struggling to have their social needs met. Anderson watches her extroverted daughter constantly using technology to connect with friends, asking the family to do things with her, and staying busy with tasks around the house. Anderson finds that encouraging her family to do something quiet can actually help all of them.

“It helps if we can do something like watch a movie and not have anyone touching me. I have a house full of physical touch people and it’s an introvert nightmare,” she said with a laugh.

MacGahan said she asks the “poor humanity-starved extrovert in my apartment” to be up front with what he needs. It’s not always easy for her to spot when he needs something.

“I’m used to spending time alone and thus used to meeting my own needs,” she said.

Of course, asking for what you need in a relationship is good advice every day, not just when holed up together during a pandemic. If extroverts need some scheduled together time and introverts need some scheduled alone time, make it known to the whole household.

“An extrovert could understand that you can definitely leave an introvert alone and that introvert will handle it just fine,” MacGahan said.

The Call to Connect With Technology

In this time, we’re hearing that the use of technology like video chats and meetings helps maintain connections. But how are the introverts handling the virtual happy hours and pleas for webcams on?

Anderson notices her extroverted friends sending video messages and calling more often. She doesn’t mind the calls and messages but would prefer to talk with her friends when she has set aside the time for it.

Others have (anonymously) begged us to tell their extroverted co-workers and bosses to stop asking for webcams on.

True to her middle-of-the-road style, Sally Collins, an ambivert, is trying to provide both sides to the team she leads. She recognizes that the extroverts are missing connection while the introverts might not want to take part in virtual happy hours or show off their living rooms. Collins makes sure to stress that social events are optional. She has also found that one-on-one coffee chats or group chats that are text only (and can be muted) work better for some teammates.

She also encourages the introverts on her team to use this time to their advantage. For example, if someone struggles to make eye contact during in-person meetings, they could practice now with the webcam. Or if someone struggles to get a word in during a meeting, they can make use of the chat function in a virtual meeting and type in their comment.

Image by Sasha_Suzi

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