And now we’re going back to the pre-pandemic world, or as close as we can get. Like everyone else, introverts enjoy seeing their family and close friends in person, dining out, traveling, and all the other pleasures of a good life. But most aren’t interested in dealing with forced chatter, big parties, noisy open offices, and all the demands of extroverts who think more is more and introverts should try harder.
“People say, ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna get back,’ says writer and introvert Jenn Granneman.
“It’s like being released on parole for a year and then being told, ‘You’re actually going back to prison,’” says his partner, writer Andre Sólo.
Social scientists correctly predicted that introverts were best placed to deal with the stress of the past year. After months of lockdown, the question now is whether introverts can teach us anything about how to move forward.
Granneman was surrounded by extroverts in her private life – people who like to engage and get the energy to be with others – when she started the blog Introvert, Dear in 2013. Now her full time job, with Sólo, is dedicated to reassuring introverts that they “are doing fine the way they are, and helping the rest of the world understand them.”
Many people think introverts are cold, shy, or socially anxious – but these stereotypes are misleading. They love people, but in small doses. “A lot of times people come to the conclusion that if you’re silent it’s something malicious or rude or that you don’t like them,” Granneman says.
The truth is, Sólo says, introverts can be very engaging, but it’s exhausting. “If I go to a social event where I really want to be, I’m loud, I make jokes, I tell stories. But it really feels like the battery is running out pretty quickly. “
There is a brain science to explain behavior: Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical that affects the brain’s pleasure center, and need more stimulation to be happy and energized. . For introverts, a little dopamine goes a long way, and too much of anything can be exhausting.
When restrictions were imposed last year, “I had extroverted friends who were just losing their minds,” says Sólo. But introverts were finally getting the uninterrupted time they craved.
Not all introverts, of course – those who suddenly spent 24/7 with family members or roommates were much more stressed. But most Granneman viewers said they enjoyed being at home, free from all the invitations, dating, the many outings with family and friends.
Introverts missed seeing their close friends, but relished the opportunity to spend hours, if not days, without speaking to another person. Sólo says he has rediscovered the lost art of the phone call. During a walk he would usually listen to a podcast or music, but sometimes he would call friends and talk for 30 minutes or an hour – which he rarely did before the lockdown. “But when you took away all of those ‘Tuesday we have this, Thursday we have this, and we don’t want to go but it’s a must’ – when whatever’s out of your schedule, you can connect on a deeper level by having a conversation with someone, even if you can’t meet physically. “
Focus on calls? Not really. “I think it looks like a performance, right?” said Granneman. “You can see yourself, so you constantly watch yourself, you feel embarrassed. I just didn’t feel like I could be that authentic and it took a lot of mental energy, like I was coming to work.
For most introverts, the outside world can sometimes require emotional work. Office chatting is work because no one wants to know how you are really doing. Bosses and customers demand a happy face. Extended family and friends, no matter how much they are loved, need the little free time that is not already spent on work and a spouse or children.
A return to normal is all this and more, plus the pent-up demands of weddings, birthdays and reunions postponed to 2020. Most introverts go because they care about their friends, but it will be. even more difficult to find the time to be alone and to recharge your batteries.
The decade leading up to the pandemic saw more and more reports of a “loneliness epidemic”. A 2018 study found that 22% of Americans often or always feel lonely. But for introverts, the past year has been a revelation: They’ve thrived on their own, and realized they don’t necessarily have to return to a world where they’re constantly surrounded by people.
Sólo says even his outgoing pals are reassessing their normal pre-pandemic state. “It’s been interesting to see a lot of my friends say, ‘You know all of a sudden I have all this extra space in my life to think about what I want. And they literally changed their life plan or changed what they do because they had time to think about it.
The pandemic is what psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne calls a “time of measure” effect – the rare historical event so profound that it changes perceptions and personalities. “So the psychology won’t be the same for several years now, just like after WWI and WWII.”
She says introverts will have to face the irony that for many, 2020 was one of the happiest years of their lives – and it happened because so many other people were sick or dying. . It’s classic survivor guilt, she says, and being miserable won’t change an outcome you can’t control.
Before the pandemic, it was natural for extroverts and introverts to seek out personalities similar to themselves, which then reinforced their behavior.
“We’re all faced with some kind of new way of thinking about our personality that we’ve always taken for granted,” she says. One of the benefits of locking is that it gave both parties time to gain some self-awareness. “And if you decide, yeah, there’s that part of me that likes to think and think and spend time alone, I feel like you’ll come out with maybe a better understanding of yourself and potentially better sanity.
Many professionals question the value to return to the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – introverts because they prefer to work alone, extroverts because their life would be simpler. Is it really necessary to get dressed, move around and sit at a desk? Every remote working theory – it does less productive, less collegial, less available employees – has been challenged in the past year.
This discussion, of course, is for those who are privileged enough to have options. Many workers were forced to be on site; millions more have lost their jobs entirely. Working from home, for everyone, remains a luxury.
Now, introverts have coworkers – including many extroverts – who advocate working from home part-time or full-time. What happens next may depend on who is in power. Outgoing bosses like the bustle of a traditional office. Introverted bosses may be more open to a hybrid workplace. Either way, the days of the open office plan, once the darling of corporate consultants, may be numbered.
John Hackston, head of thought leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, describes himself not only as an introvert, but studies personality types to create better fits for employers and employees. He says that before the pandemic, introverts were expected to adapt to an extroverted world: expressing themselves in meetings, adapting to the culture of the workplace, being team players. “All cultures, but Western culture in particular, encourage what you might call a stereotypical outgoing style of behavior,” Hackston says. “Rightly or wrongly, introverts have had to find ways to cope. Much of that mental load was removed when the pandemic struck.
Some companies have already announced liberal work based on national policies; others revert to a conventional prepandemic model. In January, a Gallup survey found that 44% of American workers prefer to work from home after restrictions are lifted, compared to 39% who want to return to the office.
Remote work is already a bargaining chip in recruiting and negotiating jobs, Hackston says. And job creation – the idea that you don’t have to do this job the same way someone else does to be effective – is growing in popularity.
“Self-awareness is really essential, not only for introverts, but also for managers,” Hackston says. “We take the scales out of people’s eyes to realize that there are people out there who are different from them in the world, and that there could be better ways to communicate and better ways to communicate. manage. So if one of the things the pandemic has done is give extroverts a glimpse into some aspect of what it’s like to be an introvert, that’s probably a good thing.
In the future, introverts do you feel obligated to interact with the world out of social or professional obligation? And can they say no?
“I think we’re all trying to figure out what it will look like,” Granneman says. “A lot of people in our audience told us that they liked vacations that were quieter and less crowded. They were able to create their own more meaningful traditions, instead of going to the big party or going from a family reunion to a family reunion.
Sólo says he plans to cut anything that is loud, crowded or busy. What about Granneman?
“I think my simple answer would be that I would like to remove the things that tire me out,” she says. Her best friend, on the other hand, gives her energy. “There are other relationships – and I think we all have them – where we feel obligated or maybe it’s just a relationship of opportunity or chance. I think it’s getting less and less important to me.
Or, as one twitter user put it, “Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I just want you to know that I still won’t be able to do this thing because I don’t want to come.”