Even introverts need some level of social interaction to be happy.
I’m an introvert straight down the line. I enjoy spending time by myself at home, where I can do my best and deepest thinking. My friendships are all about quality over quantity. I intentionally avoid social gatherings as much as possible, although when I have to attend one, it leaves me exhausted enough that I need quiet time.
That last reason is why I became an expert in making up answers on the spot that satisfied my colleagues and acquaintances when they asked questions around weekend or evening plans. Although this was before I embraced my introversion with pride. Now I have no issues admitting that my bedtime is 9:30 p.m. and politely declining any invitations to get together after work.
I like my life to be calm, quiet. My ideal day involves waking up early, staying in bed reading, and then puttering around the house, journaling, meditating, practicing yoga, and perhaps connecting with a good friend, but only if we can hang out one-on-one.
Not very “exciting” some might say — but quarantine is starting to change that.
How Quarantine Encouraged Me to Step Outside My Comfort Zone
When I learned that the lifestyle that has kept me safe, comfortable, and happy all these years has been prescribed as the new lifesaving “stay at home” measure for humankind, I assumed that adapting to this “new normal” would barely require any effort or change to my day-to-day routine. I stocked up on books and climbed under a blanket, happy to be setting myself up for days of retreat from society.
Since then, I’ve been working remotely from my little one bedroom apartment, and I only leave it when strictly necessary — like when I have to run to get groceries. Aside from the seriousness of what the world is witnessing — and I’m not trying to downplay that point because it is serious and scary — I’m quite enjoying the isolation. I don’t have to feel guilty about passing on evening plans or skipping networking events. I can live the quiet life that makes me happiest.
Then something strange started happening. I started noticing myself stepping out of my comfort zone. With every day that went by, I surprised myself by engaging in “extroverted” practices!
It seems almost paradoxical that a socially isolating situation — the supposed introvert’s paradise — would cause me, an introvert, to change my behaviors. It’s been said that extroverts are learning all about the introvert’s way of life as a result of social distancing, but could it go the other way, too?
Here are five ways I’ve engaged in more extroverted behaviors since quarantine began.
5 Ways the Quarantine Has Changed My Behavior
1. I use the phone to actually talk to others.
I can confidently say that during quarantine, I have talked on the phone more than I have over the past five years combined. Before the pandemic, the mere sound of my ringtone — which I took my time to carefully select back in the day, even if I hoped never to hear it — would clench every muscle in my body and paralyze me completely.
However, now I find myself longing for the sound of the Amelie soundtrack to signal that someone is reaching into my introvert bubble to connect. My parents live in a highly affected area, and I yearn to listen to their voices, to have meaningful long conversations with the two people in this world who I love the most.
And here is another thing: We actually have longer conversations than ever! Calls with my parents and close friends extend far beyond what used to make me feel awkward.
2. I reach out to them, too.
Not only do I rush to my phone when I think I hear it ring, but I also have been the one reaching out to others. I know! Sending messages and emails to my loved ones comes naturally to me after living abroad for all of my adult life, and I like the control of being able to say when and how I initiate those conversations or respond. But actually calling my friends in different parts of the world? That was a different story.
Enter quarantine, and my fingers find and press the outgoing call button with little apprehension. Even introverts need some level of human connection, too.
3. I’m actually enjoying a little small talk.
For years, I avoided going to stores without a self-checkout station because I hated making small talk with the cashier. Now, since I live by myself, the only real-life interactions I’ve had since social distancing began have been with supermarket cashiers. It’s not that introverts lack social skills, but we do prefer our face-to-face conversations to be one-on-one and meaningful. Yet, the small talk I engage in with these workers seems tolerable now, even nice, as I’m getting so little human interaction otherwise.
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4. I’m leading working groups.
The rapid escalation of worldwide events has required my team to adjust priorities at lightning speed. We have taken a “divide and conquer” approach to ensure critical paths conform to the new normal, so we’ve created working groups for this.
One of these groups is dedicated to addressing potential challenges to the team’s health (mental and physical). As an empath, I am passionate about supporting others and have willingly taken the lead of this working group. With our whole team scattered around the world and working remotely from home, the communication needs to be written or over video call. Not having to deal with this leadership in-person makes leading the effort, setting agendas, and driving conversations quite satisfying.
5. My plans are short-term and flexible.
We are living in unprecedented times. Uncertainty is the only certainty. The world is changing, and we can only take it one day at a time. As much as I like routines and well-defined plans, I am becoming more open to making changes and adjusting my day based on new, sometimes last minute, developments.
It’s a matter of surviving, a coping mechanism: accepting what is and making the most of it. I was in denial at the beginning and saw how quickly my levels of anxiety rose as I tried to cling to certainty. Identifying that was the hardest part.
Now I’ve assumed that “here” (a.k.a. the present moment) is where we need to be, and I’m making the most of this enforced “retreat” by adapting and going with the flow.
Will the pandemic get me out of my treasured shell and turn me into an extrovert? I seriously doubt it, because introversion and extroversion are ingrained identities. What I hope, as extroverts taste the introverted approach to living (even if imposed), and we introverts experience a little extroversion, we’re brought closer together so we better understand each other’s world view.