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Understanding Introverts and Meeting Their Needs

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In 2012, Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and her popular Power of Introverts TEDTalk, opened the door for many of us to explore and better understand introversion.

For me, the TEDTalk and book were truly life changing. The words on the page from a fellow introvert made me feel seen and understood and not so weird. I’ve shared the Susan Cain resources many times with other introverts and heard similar reactions from them.

What Is Introversion?

The Merriam-Webster definition of introversion is: “The act of directing one’s attention toward or getting gratification from one’s own interests, thoughts, and feelings. The state or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life.”

An introvert’s translation might be that they gain energy with quiet and solitude and expend energy when interacting, especially in overstimulating environments. Generally, introverts require minimal stimulation to feel good. They prefer reflection and thinking things through before sharing their thoughts. They’re the ones doing most of the listening in conversations and at meetings. Introverts often find it difficult to think under pressure and make decisions on demand. They do best in calm, quiet environments, interacting with one or two people at a time, rather than in large groups. Introverts are more interested in the search for meaning than the search for happiness.

Why Does It Matter?

In the United States, we live in an extroverted society. Extroverts set the expectations and standards for normal behavior yet, according to Dr. Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, more than half of us are introverts. That means that one out of every two people are regularly in overstimulating environments, which makes it difficult for them to be at their best. We’re missing out on a great deal of creativity and productivity.

What Saps an Introvert’s Energy (generally)

  • Noisy environments
  • Interruptions to their work or private time
  • Parties and large gatherings
  • Limited downtime
  • Too many meetings and team interactions
  • Requiring an immediate response or decision
  • Surprises
  • Interrupting or not listening when an introvert is talking
  • Limited privacy at home and work
  • A lack of deeper purpose or connection to their work
  • Networking
  • Small talk
  • Brainstorming
  • Limited autonomy
  • Excess and extravagance
  • Their need for quiet and solitude not being respected

What Boosts an Introvert’s Energy (generally)

  • Long stretches of solitude
  • Time…to prepare, to think and be creative without interruption, to recharge after parties and large gatherings, to process after meetings and conferences
  • Social gatherings with a few friends
  • Private space at home and at work
  • Deep, meaningful conversations
  • Asking for their opinion or perspective, and then listening
  • A deeper purpose and connection to their life and work
  • Deep dives into topics at meetings
  • Independence
  • Simplicity
  • Spending time together, alone (e.g., in the same room, each reading a book)
  • Very often, just staying home
  • Loved ones and co-workers who understand and respect the introvert’s needs

Introverts do enjoy people and gatherings, but they need quiet and solitude to reenergize afterward. It is essential to their health and well-being.

Introverts, be you, authentically and unapologetically. Your loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, and community need what you have to offer. Consider whether saying yes when you want to say no (to the after-work party, the holiday party or whatever else saps your energy) is truly serving you or those around you. Educate others. Ask for and give yourself what you need to be healthy and at your best. Guidance through coaching can help you arrive there.

Extroverts, I invite you to take the time to understand introverts and meet their needs. It will be well worth the investment. At work, it may even affect the bottom line. Consider reading Susan Cain’s Quiet or listening to her 20-minute TEDTalk. There are many other resources, including Laurie Helgoe’s book Introvert Power, Beth Buelow’s book The Introvert Entrepreneur and her podcast by the same name, or the online forum Introvert, Dear for Introverts and Highly Sensitive Peopleto name just a few.

The most important thing to remember is that introverts expend energy when interacting with others and gain energy with quiet and solitude. As Susan Cain said, “Solitude matters. For some people, it’s the air we breathe.”

Wishing you time – every day – for quiet, solitude, and contemplation.

Curious about whether coaching would benefit you?


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