By now, you’ve certainly heard of the term “social distancing”. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s a bona fide strategy for minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Guidelines for social distancing may vary based on geography, time and the severity of the situation but, ultimately, the advice is to avoid (or at least limit) in-person contact with others. Basically, it means canceling events, avoiding crowds, limiting yourself to tiny social gatherings and staying 6 feet away from others. Yes, even in the grocery store.
Whatever your personality type, social distancing sparks a range of reactions. Right about now, Introverts may be welcoming social distancing like an old friend. But for Extraverts, it’s a nightmare! When you energize through stimulation and social interactions, the idea of getting through weeks and weeks with no get-togethers, restaurants, coffee shops or sports events; of working from home and even isolation is enough to make you think, “I’m doomed!”
Don’t panic, Extraverts: the situation might not be as bad as you think. I’m here to tell you that you’ve got this, and with a few simple strategies you can survive social distancing and come out stronger on the other side.
Remember that Extraversion and Introversion are a continuum
When looking at your personality type, understand that there’s a range between Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I). Few are at either extreme, so most people lie somewhere in between. Whereas social distancing is hard on off-the-scale Extraverts, the vast majority of Es have introverted traits within them. Social distancing is an opportunity to explore and leverage those strengths that you never really used before.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but only because it’s unfamiliar. Think of it like being right-handed or left-handed. If you injure one hand, you can still use the other one. Sure, you’re used to relying on your dominant hand, but with some effort and focus, you can do things with your other hand and will even improve over time.
What do Extraverts need?
Most people don’t really know what they need until they don’t have it. It’s not until they’re stressed, irritable and reactive, that they stop to reflect on why they’re acting out. Some will blame external factors, but more specifically, this is an opportunity to learn about your personality-driven needs. Generally, Extraverts need the following three things:
1. External stimulation: Es are energized by the world outside of them – whether events and/or people. They look outside of themselves, so they need external activities to keep them engaged.
2. Variety: Es enjoy change and newness. They thrive on the variety of sights, sounds, people, and experiences that interacting with others brings them.
3. Expression: When interacting with others, it’s not enough to be in the company of others. Es have a need for expression. They don’t just want to listen; they want to talk and get some attention too. In other words, they need people time!
With that in mind, let’s look at some creative ways for Extraverts to stay happy and stimulated when they can barely leave the house. Feel free to add to these ideas with your own suggestions in the comments below.
1. Use the buddy system
If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to find your tribe. Who are your fellow Extraverts who you can stay in contact with during this time? Find them on social media or shoot an email to an old friend. This way, you’ll get to express yourself and share your ideas and frustrations with like-minded people who’ll understand things the ways you’re experiencing them.
The funny thing is that Extraverts most often pair off with Introverts, even as best friends, so being socially distanced along with an Introvert is not a problem. But Extraverts need interaction with many, many people, so busting out those virtual friendships is a great way to start.
2. Speaking of virtual….
Around 100 years ago, Extraverts on lockdown due to the Spanish Flu pandemic had little more than a book and conversations with their immediate family to keep them entertained. Today, we’re lucky to have a plethora of devices and apps that allow us to remotely connect with people right across the globe. Take advantage of this opportunity!
Don’t just message or text others. Make a video or audio call. Set up group Zoom calls or Slack channels. Extraverts need to stimulate their senses, so you’ll feel much better when you can actually see someone’s face and hear their voice. It’s not the same as an in-person interaction, but technology can give us a very close alternative to social time.
Just be mindful that people react to calls differently. Generally speaking, older generations may be technologically challenged or may not have access to newer devices or apps. They may love to hear your voice through a good old-fashioned phone call. I’ve also experienced that other folks are used to texting and may be uncomfortable with phone calls. Whereas I want to respect others’ preferences, social distancing may force us to get out of our comfort zones to ensure continued connection.
3. Do activities that engage your senses
Engaging your senses can be as simple as having music on in the background. Or, you might watch videos or listen to podcasts to keep you company. Dance around the kitchen and make a fun activity out of cooking your next meal. Sing. Paint. Knit, and focus on the texture of the wool in your hands. Be mindful of what you’re doing.
Chances are that before social distancing, your focus was on your interactions with others. You likely didn’t focus on the background sounds, smells, or even tastes. Here’s your opportunity to put those experiences in the forefront.
4. Get outside
Depending on the extent of your social distancing, you may be staying inside for days (or weeks) at a time. If you have a garden, get outside. Open your windows, let the sunlight and fresh air in. Go out for a walk, take in the sights and sounds, and soak in the sunshine. Of course, this option depends on your health, your living situation, your neighborhood, the weather, and the density of the population around you. Please be safe and adhere to guidelines.
Most people who are healthy, and likely haven’t been exposed, may be able to get out, and take a walk while still staying distant from others. For me, I need to get out of my house at least once every two days just to get a change of scenery and a dose of new energy. I don’t interact with anyone. I simply walk a couple of blocks away and sit on a bench in a small, empty park near my home. Breathing in the fresh air, admiring the trees, and soaking in the sun is enough for me.
5. Hang out with your pet
Pets can be extremely comforting at this time. Though they won’t carry a conversation with you, they’re really good listeners. And after all, that’s what Extraverts want – someone who will listen to them and give them attention. Though not a human, spending time with your pet can help satisfy some of your expression and attention needs.
6. Lean into your other personality traits
Being an Extravert is a key part of your personality, but it’s not the sum total of who you are. Just like you can balance your needs as an Extravert vs. your lesser-used Introverted side, you can use this social-distancing time to intentionally dial down your extraversion and lean into the other aspects of your personality. Check out this related blog post, How to Stretch the Strengths of Your Personality Type, to help you consider what that might look like.
Social distancing hits Extraverts the hardest, but it doesn’t mean you’re doomed! Instead of focusing on the big, loud, crowded events with high interaction and environmental stimulation, use this time as an opportunity for reflection, self-awareness and trying new strategies to stay energized. Whatever strategies you try, be sure to address your smaller, more specific needs:
1. Activities that focus externally, such as input from the surrounding environment (get outside!)
2. Activities that allow for variety (stay busy and engage your senses!)
3. Activities that allow Es to express themselves and get the attention they need (find your tribe!)
By focusing on these components, Extraverts can experiment with activities on a smaller scale, but can satisfy their needs and stay positive and energized during social distancing periods. Good luck!