This slightly tongue-in-cheek article was inspired by a tweet from @tomandlorenzo and is dedicated to all those introverts who have been led to believe there is something wrong with them.
In grade school, every report card had some comment about how I was an excellent student, but needed to participate more. That my assignments were well done, but I needed to speak up more in class. Every new year, I would make resolutions to “be more outgoing”, and every year I’d feel disappointed in my inability to do so.
As an adult, I’ve been better able to understand and appreciate my introversion and not feel a burning desire to change myself, but the world still sees introversion as a negative trait, one that must be overcome. Of course, just as there’s nothing wrong with introverts, there’s nothing wrong with extroverts. But since there are an abundance of articles encouraging introverts to become more extroverted, I thought we could do with one encouraging extroverts to at least temporarily try to explore any introverted tendencies they might have. Since extroversion and introversion are two ends of the same spectrum rather than two distinct categories, perhaps we have more in common with each other than we initially thought!
And so, dear extroverts, here is how you can practice being more introverted!
Embrace your curiosity and remain open to trying something new – in an introverted way. According to Healthline.com, extroverts love trying something new, so here is the perfect opportunity! If you have a project to complete, see what it’s like to do even part of it on your own, without seeking input from others. If you have a problem to solve, see what it’s like to contemplate it on your own rather than seeking the opinions of others. Perhaps your own intuition will surprise you!
Practice embracing time alone. Extroverts are often identified by the fact that time with other people recharges them while introverts recharge by spending time alone. Since there will inevitably be time when you are alone, practice spending time with yourself and learning how to enjoy this time rather than feeling an intense need to be with others. Start small, even five minutes alone, and see how you feel!
Explore activities that allow you to reflect. Although introverts tend to find more enjoyment from quiet time reflecting, extroverts can also experience the benefits of reflecting and mindfulness. Try to find a couple of activities that you enjoy and that you can regularly turn to for time spent reflecting.
Take time to consider things and journal your thoughts. Introverts are well known for taking time for introspection, for thinking things over, and are generally considered the most likely to spend time journaling, but there can be benefits for extroverts as well! Although your initial tendency as an extrovert may be to jump on in to situations and not consider every different option, it can be a good practice in mindfulness to choose a topic and sit down to consider the different options. Perhaps write down the different options and their pros and cons. Maybe you’ll see a different side to the situation than you would have otherwise!
Choose to listen. Introverts tend to be deemed the better listeners while extroverts are usually the ones sharing and storytelling. Try flipping the norm on its head and consciously try to actively listen more than you share in some conversations. (Tip : Introverts love deep, meaningful conversations and abhor small talk) Perhaps you’ll learn something new or discover something surprising about the other person.
Embrace the silence. This might sound crazy, but silence isn’t hazardous. Not every space needs to be filled. Next time you notice a natural pause in conversation, see what happens if you let it persist. Next time you’re doing chores, try not having background noise for a short period and see how you feel. Next time you realize you’re alone for a period, don’t text or call a friend right away and see how the silence feels. It might not be as scary as it seems!
Read the cues. This works especially well if you have an introvert in your life that you’re close to, like a spouse or a close friend, but it can even work with coworkers. See if you can pick up on cues they give off that suggest they might prefer silence over discussion. If you’re stumped, ask them, they probably know what sort of behaviours they engage in when they need some downtime. Practice recognizing these and try embracing a few moments of quiet with them. If you can recognize the cues that your introvert needs time to recharge in silence, they’ll likely come back to you even quicker, recharged and ready to participate.
There we have it! Again, this article is 60% tongue-in-cheek, and 40% true encouragement to experiment with entering an introvert’s world – even temporarily. After all, introverts have been encouraged, forced and mandated to cope in an extroverted world for decades. We are all unique, we all thrive in different circumstances, and we can all coexist better if we take some time to try to understand others.
Are you introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between?