Introversion is not one thing but a spectrum that includes varying levels of introversion. Some people are ambiverts who sit close to the middle of the spectrum and can flex happily between introversion and extraversion as the situation demands. But some are definitely, even extremely, introverted. You may be on the far side of introversion, having very limited energy and desire for being around people.
Since life requires a certain amount of interaction with people, you’ll need to find ways to manage your inclinations and reserve your energy without having to drop out and become a hermit or trying to be something you’re not.
Whether you’re happy with exactly the way you do things now – but sometimes others don’t understand – or you feel ready to take a step or two out of your comfort zone, here are a few tips that may make your life as an extreme Introvert a bit better, easier, or more rewarding.
1. Ask yourself some questions
These three questions can help you get a handle on how problematic your introversion is for you in your situation right now:
#1: Am I fine with the way I am right now?
If the answer is an unqualified yes, then you don’t really need to change that much. However, life will sometimes require that you find ways to cope with being around people more than you’d prefer. Focus on making those times as painless as possible and forget about the rest.
#2: Is my extreme introversion causing problems in my work or personal life?
This is the first step to acknowledging that you either:
- Need to adapt at times, or
- Have to get better at explaining what you need and why.
Either way, the task is to adjust your behaviors so that others are more willing and equipped to meet you in the middle, or even be as totally fine with your Introversion as you are once they understand it.
#3: Would I like to expand my comfort zone a little?
If you really would like to be out among people a bit more, even one or two at a time, you can look for ways to stretch a little without becoming overstimulated or denying your basic nature. Short-duration organized group activities that focus on a task (sport, art, playing music, etc) are a good place to start.
2. Re-think your “people time” budget
Just like a financial budget helps you use the limited money you have on your priorities, a "people time" budget can help you manage your limited energy supplies. So think about what – and who – matter most to you. No matter how introverted you are, you probably have a few special people in your life that you want to spend time with.
But maybe your job leaves you so drained you pull away from your family and friends just because you don’t have any energy left. If your job requires you to be with people constantly, but provides little satisfaction, it may be time to consider another line of work, a smaller workplace, or some kind of remote work.
Or maybe you’re spending time with people who aren’t your close friends or loved ones, people you don’t really enjoy, just because it has become a habit or it’s expected of you. It might be time to cut those ties so you have more time and energy to spend with those who do matter to you.
3. Don’t apologize (but do explain if necessary)
There’s nothing wrong with being an Introvert, even if you consider yourself to be an “extreme” Introvert. You don’t have to apologize, and you don’t need to “reform.” You also have the right to set firm boundaries that meet your needs.
However, in order to avoid hurting the feelings of the people you do want or need in your life, explain to them that when you say no to plans it's about your energy needs, not a lack of desire to be with them.
And while you’re expecting people to accept your introversion, remember to do the same favor for yourself. Feeling guilty for being who you are just uses up precious energy.
4. Gradually de-sensitize yourself
If parts of your life require you to be around people more than you’d prefer, or if you’d like to try and become just a bit more social as an Introvert, you could try exposing yourself to people and social settings a little more often, in ways that aren’t too overwhelming.
Experiment with the kinds of activities and places that you think you’ll enjoy – or ways to better enjoy what you have to do. Try this periodically, for short periods of time, until you find your perfect balance.
5. Schedule plenty of recovery time
However much you may find you enjoy being around people at times, the main definition of an Introvert is that being with people drains your energy, and spending time alone recharges it.
So as you experiment with getting yourself out there – for fun or necessity – make sure to allow plenty of quiet time alone to recharge in whatever way works best for you. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity every bit as much as food, sleep, and exercise are essential to your well-being.
And if you give yourself this time without any guilt, you might find that you actually enjoy your time “out there” more than you thought possible.
6. Bribe yourself
What can you enjoy during an event; what will make it feel more manageable; what will you treat yourself with after?
For instance, maybe you dread that big family reunion, but you would love to see your favorite cousin Harriet. So, think of it as a way to enjoy seeing her. Maybe make definite plans ahead of time to spend time with her. If she prefers one-on-one time too, you might sneak off together after you’ve both put in your appearance.
If there’s a work thing outside of work hours that you really must do, plan to make it manageable. Tell your boss that you have to leave after an hour for another appointment that you’ve conveniently scheduled for that time. (Some Introverts would really rather go to the dentist than socialize.)
While you’re there, try to find ways to enjoy it as much as possible. Maybe you could hang out in a corner with one or two people you feel comfortable with, or help yourself to a big slice of chocolate cake.
Then, definitely plan to reward yourself with some alone time and whatever is a treat for you afterward: bubble bath, novel, binge watching all by yourself, your favorite takeout?
7. Do socializing your way
Do you have a friend who always feels like you’re canceling on her? Explain that you really do want to spend time with her, but you’re not so thrilled with those impromptu parties she tends to arrange, inviting extra people you weren’t planning on. (Remind her how introversion works if necessary.)
Suggest that you instead make lunch plans for just the two of you, or dinner for four with your spouses, or a walk in the park, or whatever will feel fun instead of exhausting to you.
Again, it isn’t that Introverts don’t like people. And relationships are important to us. It’s how many people at a time, how much time we spend in company, and how we spend that time that determines whether it’s a pleasure or a pain.
So, focus on spending time with the people you want to be with in ways that you’ll both enjoy.
So do “extreme” Introverts need fixing? No way. Do they hate people? Probably not. Could they make their life and relationships a little better, richer, or easier with a few tweaks, and some honest communication? Certainly, just like everyone else.
As a good start, do introversion your way. Make time for the people and things you care most about. And don’t feel bad about needing time for just you. It’s a necessity, and taking it will mean you have more to offer when you go back out there.