“While I shelter in place, I am very surprised, but I am strangely unbothered by the isolation” wrote my extroverted friend, Ruth, who is busying herself in a slew of house projects.
As for me, I can’t say that I am “unbothered” by having to shelter in place. But I am finding my way, like the rest of us. And part of how I am coping with the quarantine is by drawing on lessons learned from introverts.
A bit of quick background. I am an extrovert. But, for the past 15 years, as a speaker and author of 4 books on introverts at work, I have been helping introverts to appreciate and maximize their quiet superpowers. Recently, I have heard from many extroverts like Ruth, that being forced to slow down has opened them up to different sides of their personality. They are making friends with qualities like listening and getting quiet. In this world where the news can be overwhelming each day, it seems that now is the perfect time to harness those introverted strategies to buffer up our resilience.
It should be noted that we all have introversion and extroversion within us, and we draw from both sides. It is just a matter of degree.
Extroverts get juiced up by being around people. They love to talk and talk. They like getting out and going places. However, introverts get energy from internal reflection. They like people, but they just need to have breaks afterward to decompress.
I found that in my research on quiet influencers and leaders, they use their natural strengths to make a difference. I believe that we can all incorporate these important qualities now. Here are a few of those action steps that we can use when taking shelter in place.
1. Get Quiet
Introverts take quiet time. Being sequestered means we have no choice but to slow down. Getting quiet has so many advantages. It unleashes creativity, helps you think more deeply, develop empathy, and better understand your feelings. That is important now when thinking rationally about how we are going to approach each minute matters.
Extroverts can be prone to hide their feelings by keeping busy (cleaning closets, anyone?). I am diving into some quiet time and practicing meditation, doing yoga, and like many others, taking walks. These silent practices help manage the inevitable stressors of the day.
For many introverts, doing exercise is the place they often escape to take this quiet time. Reviving old pursuits like playing the guitar, painting or sitting outside listening to the birds have all been satisfying. What did you enjoy in the past that you can bring back into your life now?
2. Listen Deeply
Introverts relish listening to others in one-on-one conversations of substance. Forget small talk – it is about depth vs. breadth and it is about learning. Experts have suggested that to feel better we should call older people, folks living alone, and other acquaintances. Those phone conversations have been gifts for me. They get me out of my own worries, and I am discovering we all have so much in common, especially now.
Writer Sarah Larson wrote in The New Yorker about how to conduct an actual phone call in this time of Corona.“…, No screens, no juddering technology or buffering, no contending with the distracting horror of your own disembodied face. Just voice: mind meeting soul meeting timbre. Don’t have a TV on; don’t have a laptop in front of you. Sit in a favorite chair and look at your plants and your books. They are beautiful. Look out the window, the trees outside. Listen to your friend.”
Introverts use writing to understand and express what they are thinking and feeling. I received a moving email from Jamie, an introverted client. After checking in with him the first week his company moved everyone to remote work, Jamie articulated his feelings about being misunderstood as an introvert in this time of COVID-19.
“It is funny because a lot a people are saying, ‘Oh you must be loving this because you are introverted’ – but again a bit of a myth that we have to bust. We are not anti-social – but just inward-focused…..just like everyone we are feeling isolated. We might be better equipped to curl up with a book, binge watch a show or enjoy working from home, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t miss the social interaction with those we care about.”
Writing is an especially good outlet for me now. Journaling and writing this blog post allow me to go inward and let go of some of the feelings and thoughts that need a place to land.
I often say that preparation is a huge differentiator and advantage for introverts. Preparing for meetings, conversations, and projects produces results. Extroverts often “wing it” and right now, winging it can mean staying in your pajamas all day and feeling you didn’t accomplish much.
Preparing a daily schedule the evening before is one helpful way to gain a sense of control over our time and our stress. We know what is coming and can move fluidly through our day. And it also works for kids to have a schedule.
So, thank you, introverts for these and so many other lessons that will help extroverts shelter in place. We owe you a lot.
And when we emerge from this challenging time, my hope is that both we as individuals and the workplace as a whole will embrace these introvert qualities for a more inclusive, productive, and satisfying way of work.