Yikes. I’m so awkward. Where’d my words go? Me, small talk, not good. Is it time to go home yet?
Many introverts truly love connecting with others — and are actually pretty good at it due to our stellar listening skills — but find it very draining under certain circumstances. In fact, when we’re feeling particularly overstimulated, it can lead to a period of extreme introverting, an introvert bender of sorts where all we want to do is hermit and let our energy replenish in peace. During this phase of the introvert cycle, we will keep to ourselves, finding it extremely difficult to work up the energy for even the tiniest of human interactions.
Reflecting on how I feel after I’ve spent time in the company of others — whether by choice or, let’s be real, in some cases necessity — has helped me find humor and understanding in some of the quirkier aspects of being an introvert.
Here’s a breakdown of all the weird thoughts spiraling through my head after I’ve engaged socially. My fellow introverts, can you relate?
Thoughts an Introvert Has After Socializing
1. Well, that was awkward.
Yikes. I’m so awkward. I’m awkward when I stand silently in a circle of people talking. I’m even more awkward when I attempt to chime in and use my words. Where’d my words go? I thought I had something profound to say, but it didn’t come out as eloquently as it sounded in my head. Oh, phew, everyone is still talking and no one heard me anyway!
Why are you people talking SO loudly? You really don’t need to stand so close. I will ask you relevant questions to keep the conversation going about what’s new with you, but I’m pretty sure you don’t know my name or anything about me. That’s okay, I don’t really want to talk about myself right now anyway. Me, small talk, not good. Is it time to go home yet??
Feeling awkward in groups is a classic introvert conundrum. For me, it occurs mostly after I’ve taken a gamble and entered a setting where there are lots of people I don’t know well. What was I thinking?
More-the-merrier gatherings are probably my least favorite kind of social event, and the type of “peopling” that takes the most energy. I really have to psyche myself up to even enter the pool when I know I’m going to be wading into a sea of strangers.
I find that most of the time, I’m just not that interested in small talk. Or perhaps I’m just not that good at it. If I have a close friend or two in the mix, it isn’t so bad, but if I’m flying solo with a bunch of acquaintances, it can be hard for me to get comfortable enough to initiate conversation. Like many introverts, I express myself better one-on-one, where there’s less pressure to perform.
I’ve discovered that big groups are usually a sink or swim situation, and my best bet is to dive in. Otherwise I’ll be wandering aimlessly on the edge all night. My strategy here is to find a like-minded individual or small group, and exit the fray for some quieter conversation in a corner.
2. I think I just met my soulmate.
You’re so interesting. I want to know everything about you. I know these questions might be personal, but I’m just gonna go with it. Tell me about your inner child. What brought you to this exact spot, at this exact moment in time?
Wow, you’re asking me questions too and actually seem interested in what I have to say! That’s so rare, because as an introvert, I don’t click with just anybody. Sure, let me tell you about my intrinsic motivators. Can we talk about personality theory? Oh, this is so wonderful. Let’s talk for hours. I think I’m falling in love!
As an introvert, meaningful conversation is EVERYTHING to me. The kind of conversation where the exchange becomes real, real quick. It may sound strange, but for me, the more intense and revealing the topic, the better. I know this is not everyone’s style, and it’s not always the time or place to go deep, especially at work or in more formal settings. But that’s why, when it suddenly happens, it’s the most amazing thing.
The key elements here are a sense of openness, comfort, and genuine interest — coming from both sides. If you’re an introvert, you know this trifecta of conversation chemistry is so hard to come by. When I stumble upon it, I enter an almost euphoric state. Words start spilling out of me. A lingering awkwardness may persist, because hey, I’m an introvert, but soon I start talking fast and jump from point to point. It’s a form of release, appreciated in its rarity, and a bit surreal.
Basically, I get rather carried away, and I may even be mistaken for an extrovert. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but in these moments, I do start fantasizing — briefly — that I’ve found a new best friend or the love of my life. Sometimes these connections turn into something more, and when that happens, it’s even better. But often it is just what it is — an amazing conversation between two souls who “get” one another, who happen to be passing through the same time and space. And you know what, I’ll take it!
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3. Yep, I’m definitely an introvert.
Wow, that was EXHAUSTING. I can’t wait to get home. How much time do I have to myself before I’m required to see people again? Peopling is hard. I really didn’t say much, did I? Why is listening so undervalued?
Time to stop for snacks. I wonder what I should watch on Netflix, since I’m definitely going to be up a few more hours decompressing. Lots of thoughts to sift through, and I desperately need some me-time to soak in before my brain can turn off enough to sleep.
I think what strikes me the most after a dip in the social waters is just how introverted I am. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy spending time with my friends and meeting new people. I really do. Like anyone, I get lonely when I spend too much time on my own, which I have a habit of doing.
But, even after a nourishing meet-up, I’m always reminded of how crucial it is for me to go back to my own space to reflect and just be by myself. This is truly where my energy comes from. My stores replenish when I’m on my own and are then available to me when it’s once again time to be social. Introverts can engage much more fully when their social “battery” is at full capacity. When it’s nearing empty, it’s nearly impossible for them to enjoy themselves around others. In addition to experiencing physical fatigue, we may feel cranky, out of place, and just meh. Enter the life-sucking introvert hangover.
Thankfully, all it takes is a night at home alone, an introvert weekend, a good yoga session, or a jaunt in nature, and I feel lighter, more alert, and open to sharing space again — but that recovery time is key.
Through many years of trial and error, my introvert mantra has become clear: Seek quality over quantity, balance time alone with time shared, honor your unique needs, and everything will be fine.
Well, most of the time. Sometimes it will be awkward — and that’s okay, too.
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Image credit: @samanthavaughan via Twenty20