What introverts lose when they’re in group settings {Quote of the Week}

It’s Friday night and you’re having dinner with a bunch of people for your friend’s birthday. The music in the restaurant is so loud that you just smile and nod when the woman across the table talks because you can’t actually hear what she’s saying. Not only is it awkward to make small talk with the strangers seated near you, but even the noise and activity level of the environment itself are draining. After eating, you wish you had the power to communicate telepathically with the waitress so you could tell her to hurry up and bring the bill so you could leave.

Maybe it’s not a group dinner. Maybe it’s a house party, a crowded classroom, or even the busy office where you’re employed. In group settings like these, where there’s a lot going on, introverts often feel drained and frazzled. They can be in groups for a while and be fine, but eventually they’re dashing toward the door.

Laurie Helgoe, in her book, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, explains that introverts actually miss out on something when they’re in groups:

For an introvert, interacting in a group setting does mean missing out. Where there is too much input, the introvert misses his mind, his subjectivity, his freedom, his very potential. The high-stimulus social environment, the ‘where it’s at on a Friday night,’ this apparent ‘more,’ becomes a prison to the introvert. He can’t wait to be free—to get out and away from the noise, the talk, the interference with his inner process. Yet, the discrepancy between his mood and his surroundings may lead to self-criticism, the hallmark of depression.

Interestingly, Helgoe links the negative feelings that result from being in unfavorable group settings with self-criticism, which can be a characteristic of depression. This doesn’t mean every time introverts attend parties they automatically get depressed. Sometimes introverts do have fun in groups, especially if they’re feeling rested and fully “charged” by having enough alone time. What it means is introverts must honor their inner process and need for solitude or they risk becoming unhappy.

Helgoe goes on to write that the “where it’s at” for introverts is the expansive space of solitude: “This is where the introvert is fed, calmed, moved, and inspired.”

As an introvert, how do groups affect you?

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  • I’m an INFJ, and I will attend birthday parties and the like in homes, but only if I can drive myself there. I absolutely insist on the ability to leave whenever I need to, and cannot bring myself to ask an extroverted friend to take me home. I always feel that wouldn’t be fair to them. I learned long ago I cannot handle being in bars because of the noise. If I can’t hear what’s being said, and it’s usually just chit chat or gossip, what’s the point anyway? I prefer restaurants that have low level lighting, because it makes all the activity around me a bit more muted and the patrons seem to automatically lower their voices. Often times the booths will be a bit more private as well (higher walls or backs to the seats around them). I do like hanging out with friends and family, but after awhile it gets to be too much and I need to leave.

  • I’m also an INFJ. I relate myself to all the situation above and below. I actually didn’t know about my preferences. I grew up hearing that I was weird and annoying. It is a relieve to know that I’m neither weird nor alone. Now I find easier to set my boundaries and I’m proud of my uniqueness.

  • yasyfinoo says:

    Hi i am an INFJ and i think i am individual, so group setting like team work in classroom sometimes drain me. I know team work in classroom is important for my future, but i prefer to do it alone than do it with my teamwork mates. I try to be active in my group, give my opinion and idea also do my best. But it is draiiin me a lot when i get a passive teamwork friends. I try to be the leader even i am not the leader. then.. i think.. “i have no right to say that!” but on the other side, i need to push them. Sometimes on different condition i feel like “Oh did i participate well enough in my group?” and really feel my introvertness among the other but keep telling my self i need to be active and at least give my idea to them.