Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.
For introverts, who have limited energy for interaction, we need to be more thoughtful and deliberate about whom we meet—which, happily, is what we do best.
Every day I look at my calendar to see what meetings I have and begin to psych myself up for them. I look at the people that are going to those meetings and what I need to accomplish. I think about what kind of people I will be meeting. It’s not that I don’t like people—I do—it’s just that when I interact with people it takes significant energy, and I have to bring that energy to the surface. It’s like warming up a diesel engine.
Yes, that’s right, I’m an introvert.
There are people that I interact with very naturally. My family and certain friends take no energy at all. I can also interact easily with fellow introverts who have the same personality type. It’s almost as if we kindred introverts can somehow sense each other and give off a signal that says, “You’re good—no need to warm up the engine.”
I also interact with certain extroverts very naturally. These are people who can sense my introversion and fill the gap easily without overwhelming the conversation.
I have, on occasion, been perceived as aloof. This happens when a social situation takes me by surprise and I haven’t had time to warm up the engine. I do my best, but it takes some time to overcome my “introversion inertia” and break through the barrier between myself and the rest of the world. I can interact with people without going through this process, but it can seem forced or stilted. This is because I’m psyching myself up, breaking through the barrier, and interacting with the person all at the same time.
Once I’m prepared for people, I feel perfectly comfortable and enjoy interacting. I love laughing and joking with people, exchanging ideas, sharing a meal—anything, really. I honestly and completely enjoy it, but I recognize that it takes energy. I also know that I have to have time by myself to replenish that energy.
If you’ve ever taken one of those assessments that identify your personality type, you are probably well acquainted with the kind of person you are, but it doesn’t take a test for most of us (although they can be very helpful). Most of us know that we are either energized by being with people, or that being with people uses energy.
The trick is using that knowledge to your advantage. For example, if you’re an introvert and have a job working with people all day, it is very important to realize that you need time to recharge your batteries. You also have to act on that realization and make alone time a priority.
Conversely, if you’re an extrovert and have to spend a lot of time alone, it’s very important to find time to be with friends. You have to make time to spend with people because that’s where you get your energy.
If we find ourselves lethargic, tired, or uninspired, it can be worthwhile to consider whether we have the right mix between people time and alone time. You also have to be sure what kind of person you are. For example, you might love being with people so much that you don’t realize that you’re an introvert. Being an introvert certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy being with people; it just means that it takes energy to be with people.
Ultimately, we need to understand our “people dynamic” and embrace it. We have to know how to fill our gas tank and make sure we have enough fuel to make it to the next stop.