At this time of year, when the light is changing, leaves are falling and the air is smoky with autumn bonfires, many of us have that ‘back-to-school’ feeling, whether it applies or not! This can be anything from anxiety to excitement, but like so much in life, what counts is how we deal with those emotions.
As we talked this through in the office, it became clear that our ways of dealing with emotions are so often linked to whether we tend towards being introvert or extrovert; and these days, so much of the world seems to be designed for extroverts (open plan offices, speaking up in meetings, glad-handing, small talk). This is actually a fairly common topic of discussion at LJA Towers, as the vast majority of us tend towards introversion (unusual for trainers!). So in this blog, we offer you some thoughts about the world of the introvert – whichever end of the spectrum you occupy (or even if you’re somewhere towards the middle), this is a way to think differently about the back-to-school experience.
So here’s an introvert’s perspective. This might surprise many of you – we’re not all shy. We don’t as a rule lack social or people skills. We’re not awkward. We’re not quiet all the time. We don’t lack confidence.
None of these things is part and parcel of being introverted – a term which, can sometimes be used negatively in this predominantly extrovert world. Have you ever heard someone described as “introverted” when what is meant is “she needs to come out of her shell?”
“Introversion” is simply a different way of relating to the world. For introverts, being around other people (however good they are at it) takes effort and energy – and sooner or later the introvert is running on empty and needs some time alone to recharge. Extraverts, by comparison, become drained if required to spend a lot of time on their own, and get their energy back when they surround themselves with people.
So, you can see that open-plan offices with persistent group brainstorming meetings and school classrooms arranged in noisy pods of 4 or 6 students, while well-suited to the extraverted among us, can hamper the creativity and productivity of the more naturally introverted. It’s not a criticism, just an observation.
We all have our preferences and introverts and extroverts sometimes misunderstand each other. At LJA Learning and Development, our training is structured to get the best out of everyone, wherever they fall on the spectrum between introversion and extraversion.
4 people who are probably introverts and you didn’t know
1. Your colleague at work who goes to the bathroom a lot
She’s not ill. She’s not avoiding you. She probably just needs 5 minutes to herself to recharge, and the bathroom is the only place she can do that without someone saying, “Oh, as you’re not busy, could you please …?”.
2. Your cousin who refuses to dance
He’s not a boring party pooper (unless he’s trying to stop you from dancing) who needs to be “drawn out of his shell”. He just has a different idea of what constitutes “fun” – and that may be the thoroughly interesting conversation he was having with the other person who also refuses to dance. If he doesn’t have a problem with what you call fun, why should you have a problem with what he calls fun? Live and let live.
3. Your team member who won’t speak up in meetings
She’s not being stubborn or difficult. She’s probably thinking, absorbing, taking everything in. The people who get heard in typical meetings are the ones who speak loudest, and tend to be not averse to interrupting people – and neither of these are typical introvert traits. Putting them on the spot won’t help, either – but smaller meetings in which fewer people are given more space to speak might.
4. Your friend who gives you the silent treatment
He’s not cross with you and you haven’t done anything to offend him (unless you keep trying to “cheer him up”. Then he might be cross with you!). Nor is he necessarily shy. Socialising takes energy. It’s completely okay for people to be in each other’s company without speaking. It’s also OK to have an unexpressed thought.