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Introverts fear a return to the noise, crowds and small talk of “normal” life

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Introverts fear a return to the noise, crowds and small talk of "normal" life

And now we’re going back to the pre-pandemic world, or as close as possible. Like everyone else, introverts look forward to seeing family and close friends in person, dining out, traveling, and all the other joys of a good life. But most aren’t interested in facing the forced small talk, big parties, noisy open offices, and all the demands of extroverts who think more is more and introverts should try harder.

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“People say, ‘I don’t know how to go back,” says writer and introvert Jenn Granneman.

“It’s like being paroled for a year and then saying, ‘You’re actually going back to prison,” says her partner, the writer Andre Sólo.

Social scientists correctly predicted that introverts are best suited to weather the stress of last year. After months of lockdown, the question now begs is whether introverts can teach the rest of us about moving forward.

Granneman was surrounded by extroverts in her personal life – people who love to get involved and draw energy from others – when she started the blog Introvert, Dear in 2013. Now her full-time job along with Sólo is devoted to reassuring other introverts who are just as well off as they are and who are helping the rest of the world understand them.

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Many people think that introverts are cold, shy, or socially concerned – but these stereotypes are misleading. You love people, but in small doses. “Often times, people conclude that if you are calm, it is mean, or rude, or you don’t like them,” says Granneman.

The truth is, Sólo says, introverts can be very dedicated, but it’s exhausting. “When I go to a social event that I really want to be at, I’m loud, joking, and telling stories. But it really feels like a battery runs out pretty quickly. “

There is some brain science to explain behavior: extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, the “feel good” chemical that affects the brain’s pleasure center, and require more stimulation to be happy and full of energy. For introverts, a little dopamine is enough, and too much of anything can be exhausting.

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When restrictions were imposed last year, “I had extroverted friends who were just mad,” says Sólo. But introverts were finally getting the uninterrupted time they longed for.

Not every introvert, of course – those who were suddenly around the clock with family members or roommates were much more stressed out. But most of Granneman’s audience said they loved being at home, free from all the invitations, the meetings, the many outings with family and friends.

Introverts missed seeing their close friends, but enjoyed the opportunity to walk for hours or even days without talking to another person. Sólo says he has rediscovered the lost art of talking on the phone. During a walk he usually listened to a podcast or music, but sometimes he would call friends and chat for 30 minutes or an hour – something he seldom did before the lockdown. “But when you’ve cut out all of these ‘Tuesday we have this, Thursday we have this and don’t want to go to it, but it’s an obligation’ – if everything is outside of your schedule, you can connect to it on deeper levels through conversation with someone even if you cannot physically get together. “

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Zoom calls? Not as much. “I think it feels like a performance doesn’t it?” says Granneman. “You can see yourself so keep monitoring yourself and paying with confidence. I just didn’t feel like I could be that authentic and it took a lot of mental energy like coming to work. “

For most introverts, the outside world can sometimes require emotional work. Small talk in the office is work because nobody wants to know how you are really doing. Bosses and customers demand a happy face. Extended families and friends, no matter how loved they are, need the little downtime that isn’t already devoted to work and a spouse or children.

A return to normal is all of this and much more, plus the pent-up demands of weddings, birthdays, and reunions that have been postponed in 2020. Most introverts leave because they care about their friends, but it gets even harder to find time to be alone and recharge.

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In the ten years before the pandemic, there were increasing reports of a “loneliness epidemic”. A 2018 study found that 22 percent of Americans felt lonely often or always. For introverts, however, the past year was a revelation: they blossomed alone, realizing that they don’t necessarily have to return to a world where people are constantly around them.

Sólo says even his extroverted friends are reevaluating their normality before the pandemic. “It was interesting to see a large number of my friends say, ‘You know, all of a sudden I have all this extra space in my life to think about what I want.’ And they literally changed their life plan or changed what they do because they had time to think about it. “

Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne calls the pandemic a “time of measurement” effect – the rare historical event that is so profound that it changes perceptions and personalities. “So psychology has not been the same for several years as it was after the First and Second World Wars.”

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She says introverts have to grapple with the irony that 2020 was one of the happiest years of their lives for many – and it happened because so many other people were sick or died. That’s the classic survivor’s fault, she says, and being miserable won’t change an outcome that is beyond control.

Before the pandemic, it was natural for extroverts and introverts to look for similar personalities, which reinforced their behavior.

“We’re all facing a whole new way of thinking about our personalities that we’ve always taken for granted,” she says. One benefit of being locked out is that both sides have had time to build up a bit of self-esteem. “And if you choose, yes, there is that part of me that likes to think and reflect and spend time alone. I think you will come out of that, maybe with a better understanding of yourself and possibly better mental health.”

Many professionals question the value of going back to the 9-to-5 office – introverts because they’d rather work alone, extroverts because their lives would be easier. Is it really necessary to get dressed, commute, and sit at a desk? Every theory about remote working – it makes employees less productive, less collegial, and less available – has been challenged over the past year.

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This discussion is, of course, for those who have the privilege of having options. Many workers had to be on site; Millions of others have lost their jobs completely. Working from home is still a luxury for everyone.

Now introverts have colleagues – including many extroverts – who are committed to working from home part or all of the day. What happens next may depend on who is in power. Extroverted bosses like the hustle and bustle of a traditional office. Introverted bosses may be more open to a hybrid workplace. Either way, the days of the open office plan, once the darling of business consultants, can be counted.

In addition to calling himself introverted, John Hackston, director of thought leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company, studies personality types to create a better fit for employers and employees. He says that before the pandemic, introverts should adapt to an extroverted world: speak at meetings, adapt to the culture of the workplace, be team players. “All cultures, especially Western cultures, encourage what might be called stereotypically extroverted behavior,” says Hackston. “Rightly or wrongly, introverts had to find ways to adapt. Much of that mental strain was taken away when the pandemic broke out. “

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Some companies have already announced liberal work from home. others revert to a conventional prepandemic model. In January, a Gallup poll found that 44 percent of U.S. workers would prefer to work from home after restrictions were lifted, compared with 39 percent who would like to return to the office.

Remote working is already a bargaining chip in recruiting and negotiating jobs, says Hackston. And job crafting – the idea that you don’t have to do this job the same way as someone else to be effective – is growing in popularity.

“Confidence is really important, not just for introverts but also for managers,” says Hackston. “We take the scales out of people’s eyes so they can see that there are people in the world who are different from them and that there may be better ways to communicate and manage. If one of the things the pandemic has done is giving extroverted insights into some aspects of what it’s like to be introverted, that’s probably a good thing. “

Will introverts feel compelled to interact with the world out of social or professional obligations in the future? And can you say no?

“I think we’re all trying to figure out what this is going to be like,” says Granneman. “A lot of people in our audience told us that they liked the holidays, which were quieter and with fewer people. You could make more meaningful traditions yourself instead of going to the big party or jumping from family reunion to family reunion. “

Sólo says he intends to turn off something loud, crowded, or busy. And Granneman?

“I think my simple answer would be, I would like to work out things that weigh on me,” she says. In contrast, her best friend actually gives her energy. “There are other relationships – and I think we all have them – that we’re committed to, or maybe it’s just an opportunity or chance relationship. I think these are becoming less and less important to me. “

Or, as one Twitter user put it, “Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I just want you to know that I still can’t do this thing because I don’t want to come.”

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