The world has shut down. This is the current reality as the Coronavirus pandemic has made countries close their borders and billions of people in quarantine. Social distancing is now in full effect to slow down the spread along with lessening the burden on our health infrastructures. This is naturally impacting us all regardless of what type of personality we are and looks to be in place for the coming weeks. For introverts such as myself, it is like we have been prepared for this and have our mechanisms in place to be able to manage this situation. However for our extroverted family members, friends and colleagues, it is an absolute nightmare. But hey, don’t worry, we got you guys and girls! Allow us to share some of our superpowers to help you get through this not only professionally but personally too, in addition to how us introverts can help.
The biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is the sourcing of one’s energy. Gaining energy plays a role in how we feel pleasure and a source of motivation. This is achieved by the body’s chemical messenger Dopamine. Introverts regain energy through solitude, whereas extroverts gain energy from people and interaction. With this source not possible in a traditional sense now due to Social Distancing, it leaves extroverts feeling blue, stale, unhappy and slowly going stir crazy. Soon it won’t be long till problems arise around being unproductive professionally, potentially harmful to ones mental health and not to mention impacts to home life. Extroverts are now forced to find sources other than people to trigger dopamine to the brain. Introverts have the haven of solitude for multiple reasons, be it downtime and through to a process of retrospection, research, planning and focus.
Downtime is often overlooked by our extrovert friends, but now the opportunity is smack in your face. A gift. Without social distancing you would probably be out and about now, or having constant interactions whilst in the office, when really it could be argued, you could have done with having a little downtime and solitude. Note solitude does not equate to loneliness. I can already hear you saying, “Yeah, alright Ali, i’m alone, i’m alone in my fortress of solitude, now what?” First, you need a simple tool which is one of the greatest assets to have; pen and paper.
Reflection, Processing, Appreciation and Achievements
This tool is going to be the enabler of identifying your alternative dopamine source. Perform what I call a brain dump. Dump everything that’s on your mind; think about all the things that make you happy and provide energy, think about the day you just had, the conversations and virtual interactions, Look inwards (yes you as a person!), think of the things that impact your wellbeing such as exercise, meditation, religion, diet. Explore professional sparks such as career, vision, value, personal branding etc. Outward focus means looking around your physical space, the food you ate, the people you live with, people you don’t live with. Convert all those observations into words, short sentences and get it down on paper. Don’t worry about the structure, just let it flow out. Leave it alone for a day and come back to it. Now you can start to review it and you will be surprised what you wrote. Whilst reviewing you can then start adding some structure to it.
Quite quickly you will start identifying things that you enjoy and can still do that provides you the stimuli to keep the feeling of happiness in the long term and keep the creative juices flowing. The inward focus provides a self care plan and outward focus provides a new form of appreciation. Incorporating these items for your daily to do list incrementally provides a sense of accomplishment providing a natural high. Remember, this is an evolving practice not a one time hit. Look, I know, sitting down and actually writing, doing this exercise is not the easiest and perhaps alien. It will take time, it will require a level of patience. However the benefits will come. An alternative way is to do this exercise with someone, verbalising your thoughts and having someone write it down. Technology now enables us to make this easier. The reason I stress the importance is that this will form the backbone for your own self care, energy sourcing plan, providing a longer laster support during this time.
I know, its not the same, but virtual interactions is as close as we can get right now to social interactions. They provide the quick hit of energy you crave during this period of isolation, whilst you are working on longer lasting energy sources. However in this situation, some filters can be applied to help somewhat control the barrage of virtual conversations and information. We are in a unique position to be able to choose who and what we listen to. Introverts work hard (everyday) on filtering out the world’s noise to focus, develop and nurture one on on relationships. Why? They are great listeners and when combining listening with empathy, greatly magnify that ability. Extroverts, you now have a gift of having the surroundings reducing the noise by default and practice the art of listening and empathy during virtual interactions. You need to talk about your feelings, so don’t be afraid to ask your friends, mentors, colleagues about how they are feeling, the why’s the what’s, in turn you will do the same. It’s immensely powerful.
The power of the smile still is paramount. Use it even if it’s a selfie, voice call, video call, outside on a solo walk, or to a delivery person, smile. It’s still the signal to say, “Hey, everything going to be okay”. More importantly to yourself, it’s another dopamine trigger.
We are in this Together
Even though we are Social Distancing we are not emotional distancing. As introverts we can help our extroverted friends, family and colleagues. Understand they need that a vocal touch. Make the time, even though sometimes our batteries are on low too, schedule it in to have that conversation with them. You would not believe the high it will bring to them. We are all in this together.
As introverts we still need to recharge even though we are at home. Social Distancing although familiar is not easy for us too. I certainly miss my solo coffee shop rituals for example. Which by the way I now have in my car. But we have to look out for each other more so than ever. That means understanding and accepting each of our traits.
For example, creating a “social calendar” and sticking to it will make you the recipient of a huge smile from your extroverted friends. Explaining and accepting that moments of silence can be comfortable. Side note to extroverts: being quiet during your Netlfix binging sessions will gain you a big massive hug from your introverted partner! Maybe more.. Netflix, Quarantine and Chill anyone? Hmm.. moving on and arguably slightly related. If you have kids, really observe what they need. My son for example, needs his time to do his own thing like creating worlds in his bedroom, yet at the same time he also needs the comfort factor that he can do his reading while I’m in the same room. Make sure yours kids safe space is still present with or without you. They also are missing their friends and school.
Ultimately the message is the same for us all. Nothing is wrong, nothing needs fixing, it’s how we actually are. Extroverts at a very high level need to feel accepted, appreciated and introverts need to feel whole. I’m always talking and even written a book on how there is nothing wrong with us introverts; we don’t need to change, we simply need to slightly adjust focus and adapt. I humbly repeat the same message to you my extrovert friends. You got this! Stay healthy, Peace & Love.