Giving Space To The Quiet – 3 Ways To Make Room For Introverts
If you are an introvert seeking to carve your space, or wish to support an introvert you know, here are ways to find a balance for society and solitude.
Engaging with the world as an introvert can be slightly overwhelming. We feel pressured to socialize to the point of exhaustion. Then, when we become irritable and reclusive as a result, the guilt creeps in. Society puts extroversion on such a high pedestal, and we introverts end up blaming ourselves when we don’t have the energy to be sociable all the time. When we push ourselves too hard, one way in which we try to cope with constant overstimulation is by erecting a wall between us and the world. A temporary Fortress of Solitude. Some may believe introverts to be cold, aloof, and antisocial — but this has no bearing on our true nature.
Introversion is not to be confused with shyness, anxiety, or misanthropy. The major way in which introverts differ from our extroverted counterparts is that we gain energy from being alone rather than from spending time with other people. Of course, extroverts also benefit from acceptance and support – and the needs of extroverts differ greatly to those of us who need time to be alone! Periods of solitude are essential to our health and happiness as introverts; that mental, emotional and physical quietness helps us recover and recharge. With solitude, we not only bolster our energy for social situations, we welcome them.
Society has catered to extroverts for a long time. Only recently have inventions such as the internet and smartphones allowed introverts to move through the world at their own pace. However, there are still a number of places where introverts haven’t been afforded the tools they need to do their best work and be their best selves. If you’re an extrovert looking to take care of your introverted cohorts — or an introvert searching for a way to enact change — consider how the world can make room for introverts and give space to the quiet in school, work and social situations.
Like society, most schools have a cultural bias towards extroversion. Many educators assess their students’ development and engagement with the subject based on class participation and collaboration. Extroverted students are perceived to be engaged and resourceful; conversely, introverted students are in danger of being perceived as disengaged or unimaginative. Introverted students are just as intelligent and passionate as anyone else — they’re just quieter.
Teachers can support introverted students in a number of ways. The first is by arranging the classroom into various sections — some communal, some secluded. By offering both group and individual seating, educators can promote different teaching methods and varying levels of interpersonal interaction.
Since many classroom activities are social in nature (and require swift responses), extroverts tend to dominate. When it comes to participation, teachers need to give their introverted students time to absorb information and turn it over in their minds. They can do this by utilizing technology to allow students to post discussion responses online, take class polls, and even collaborate on projects. A low-tech solution would be to let students write their thoughts on a notecard and turn it in at the end of the discussion.
Finally, providing introverts with an alternative to recess — such as a semi-quiet open classroom where they can escape the turmoil of the recreation grounds — will allow them to get the most out of their break. Create structure (and more importantly, give them something constructive to do) by supplying books and board games.
In the Office
Introverts prefer spending time alone, digging into one task at a time, carefully making decisions, and thoughtfully solving problems. They flourish like wild ferns in work environments that give them leeway to do these things. Unfortunately, one of the worst places for an introvert is also the most common work environment: the open office. Due to increased sensitivity to their surroundings, introverts become easily distracted and overstimulated in open office environments. This destroys their productivity and leads to disengagement.
To effectively support introverted employees, companies need to do one of two things. The first is to embrace flexible spaces. Flexible work environments incorporate private rooms, collaborative zones, and communal areas to create a mixed office space, wherein employees can choose to work in the location that best fits their task and mood. The second is to allow remote work. For many introverts, working from home is akin to paradise. It gives them the calm and comfortable setting they need to not only get their work done, but to really impress their employers.
In Social Situations
Thanks to society’s love of extroversion, introverts can have a hard time saying “no” without being overcome with guilt. They fear to seem rude for declining invitations, setting personal boundaries, and leaving the party early. They have to consider ways to avoid or limit the draining nature of parties to keep their inner self intact while still engaging with the outer world.
If you’re an extrovert with an introverted friend, family member, or spouse, here are a few things you can do to make their life easier:
- Give them a minute to respond during important conversations. They need time to absorb the information, reflect upon it, and figure out what they really think.
- Understand that they may intensely dislike talking on the phone, and that’s why they don’t call. Instead, connect through texts or email.
- If they leave a get-together early, it’s not because they’re unhappy or having a bad time. They’re just leaving before they get overwhelmed.
- They’re not fond of small talk and may actively try to end conversations based on it. Small talk has its own rules of engagement and introverts may expend a great deal of energy in considering if they have said enough and it is socially acceptable to break off the small talk flow. Engage them instead in a discussion on shared interests or deeper topics. They’ll talk for hours.
- Recognize that their need to be alone isn’t a reflection on anyone else in any way. It doesn’t mean they’re upset with or don’t like spending time with you, it simply means that they need to recharge.
Though introverts are labelled “the quiet ones,” anyone close to them will tell you that — in small groups of trusted friends — introverts are often joyful, gregarious, and talkative as hell. They have rich imaginations, are expert listeners, and are the most loyal friends you’ll ever make. It’s time for the world to take care of the introverts because, when the chips are down, the introverts will take care of the world.