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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Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.