After social isolation, it will be a shock to our systems to go back to lots of interaction at work, with family, and with friends.
As terrible as the virus has been, I have to admit that, in many ways, I have enjoyed this time of social isolation. Yes, it is a little maddening that here in Michigan, I can’t go anywhere except the grocery store right now; that would make even the most extreme of introverts get a little antsy. Yet as an extreme introvert myself, I’ve enjoyed having my social obligations cut down dramatically.
But as we know, the lockdown won’t last forever. Eventually, we’ll all go back to our normal social lives. Although some things may never be the same — perhaps your work situation has changed, your routines were disrupted, or sadly, maybe you’ve lost a loved one to the virus — we’ll no doubt be invited to reunite with friends and family we haven’t seen since the quarantine.
Our busy calendars, in essence, will come roaring back.
And in some ways, this is a good thing; we need our sense of normalcy. Even introverts need some level of social interaction to be happy.
Yet it might also be a difficult transition for introverts. After living almost exclusively socially isolated lives for at least the past month, it may be a shock to our systems when we have to go back to lots of interaction at work, with family, and in our communities.
Normally, when I have a big social obligation coming up, either with one person or with many, I have a process I go through, both beforehand to prepare myself, and afterwards to cool myself down. It might sound strange to those who aren’t introverts, but that’s what I need. So, as introverts, we need to start thinking now about how we will prepare ourselves to go back into the real world.
Social interaction is important; it’s what holds the world together. And that’s why it’s so important that introverts think about this ahead of time. Here are four things that I believe we as introverts need to be doing now so we’re ready when the quarantine is over.
4 Things Introverts Should Do Now to Prepare
1. Practice social interaction.
I don’t know about you, but even as an adult, I’m still socially awkward sometimes. I have a hard time coming up with things to say in social situations, and I’m not good at carrying long conversations. I fear I’m getting rusty at it by not being at work every day or otherwise talking with others in public like I normally do.
That’s why — even though sometimes the introvert in me fights it — I’m trying to take advantage of every possible interaction I can. I live in a house with my wife and two teenagers, and I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to communicate with them, as I realize this is important to do at a time when I don’t have many other people to talk to in person.
I’m also taking advantage of all our current technology to interact with others via video chat (I’ve been able to do this with coworkers) and via social media. Then there’s my favorite way to communicate with other people, which is through writing, and I’m doing that right now. I am especially using my extra time at home to write more.
In these ways, I’m trying to keep my social skills sharp so I can hit the ground running when everything opens back up.
2. Revel in your alone time.
On the one hand, this quarantine has given me a better understanding of the importance of spending time with others, even though as an introvert I need this less than other people do. On the other hand, I’ve also learned more about the importance of alone time. I’ve had more alone time than usual during the past month, and though I’ve always known how important it is to me, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of it.
For example, I feel like I’ve been in better moods overall lately, and I’ve also learned a lot and developed as a person. I’m going to try to remember this when we get back to normal life.
Usually, I’m so busy that I neglect time for myself, even feeling guilty for taking it. Yet I’d like to think I won’t feel as guilty about it after going through this situation. Since I will have less alone time, I will cherish it more. And it will become all the more important to help me recover from all the social interaction I will have to have again.
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3. Tell others about your need for alone time.
Perhaps you’re an introvert who is married to an extrovert, or you otherwise have a lot of extroverts in your life. They’re probably dying to get back to work or see family and friends so they can have human contact again. The transition is going to be much different for them because they’ve had to go without something that is so important to them for a long time. Respect that.
At the same time, extroverts need to respect the fact that alone time is still important to you as an introvert. Yet I fear they won’t fully understand this unless we communicate it to them. Let them know that if, after all this time without human contact, you still need to be by yourself a lot — and it’s not because you don’t like them or don’t want to be around them.
Be clear about it. If you haven’t communicated this well in the past (as I often haven’t), now is the time to do so.
4. When we get back to normal life, take it slow.
If I go a long time without lifting weights, after my first time doing it in a while, I’m sore for a few days because it was such a shock to my body. That’s what will happen to you as an introvert if you move too quickly to be social when this quarantine is over.
When we can start going back out and doing things again, don’t try to prove to yourself or to anyone else that you can do a lot of socializing right away. Start with a small family or friend gathering that isn’t too long, and then take at least a couple of days to avoid much social interaction so you can properly recover.
Then, maybe try something a little bigger. It’s important for introverts to have a strong sense of self-awareness, and now it’s as important as ever. Know what you’re emotionally capable of and don’t do more than that. If you’re self-aware in this regard, you’ll come out of this quarantine emotionally healthy.
And that’s what all of us want.
Introvert, are you ready to go back to “normal” life? How are you preparing? Let me know in the comments below.