By Ferrell Foster
Part of living is learning what we need and what we don’t need to flourish. Some things are the same for all people; other things are different. One of the things I gradually, over years, figured out I needed was aloneness (not to be confused with loneliness).
The Myers/Briggs personality test says I’m a borderline introvert/extrovert. I’ve taken it twice. Once I was barely an I; the next time I was barely an E. What time has taught me is that while I like to be with people, my internal mental and spiritual batteries are recharged in my alone times, not in my people times.
I feel it on Fridays. By the end of each week I am wanting to draw into myself. I do meetings on Friday, even lead them at times, but it’s not what I want to be doing. I want to be home with my books.
I write about this because I’m trying to become comfortable and accepting of this part of me, and I don’t think I am alone. When you live in a world that seems dominated by extroverts, you can easily feel like an outsider trying to get along in an insider’s world.
It will not surprise any introvert that my help came in the form of a book — Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. When I read this a few years ago, it helped me understand myself and to accept myself, as well.
“Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said [psychologist Carl] Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough” (p. 10).
This is why I had no trouble whatsoever with being at home during the early days of COVID and why many of my friends struggled.
The truth about my nature came home to me again today, a Friday. Our staff was invited to a meet-and-greet of people I really like at a cool place in town. I thought about going, but my internal magnets pulled me toward my office. Soon, most of the introverts on our staff had arrived at the office to work, while most of the extroverts went to the meet-and-greet, which is just as much a part of our work.
You could tell when the external event ended. As the extroverts (and one brave introvert) returned, the noise level ratcheted up.
But here’s the cool thing. After a few minutes, things quieted back down to a more normal working buzz. It illustrates an important point about people and their working, at least in an office setting — whether we are introverts or extroverts, we need to learn to function both in our heads and with other people. Some of us may be more comfortable in one place or the other, but we learn to function together and, in the best of circumstances, we help each other thrive.
Remember, thriving feels different for extroverts and introverts. And recharging looks different, as well.