Are you an introvert? If so, you have somewhat different needs than an extrovert. Introverts don’t chase the same things as extroverts. They’re not always on the lookout for the next party. Nor do they constantly need other people to entertain them. Many nights, they’re content to hang out at home, reading a book, watching a movie, or just puttering around on their own terms. Loud bars, crowded parties, and busy schedules quickly wear them out.
Sadly, introverts may feel like they can’t say what they need. Sometimes they just don’t have the words; the thoughts tumble around in their heads but don’t come out the way they intended. Or, they may feel like they have to hide their needs from others. In a society that favors the extrovert’s way, it’s tough to say, “I need some time to myself.” But this can leave introverts feeling unhappy, drained, and unfulfilled.
Here are 12 things introverts absolutely need to be happy. What would you add to this list?
1. Time to wind down after a busy day. An absolute must. Due to biological wiring, introverts are sensitive to stimulation and process information deeply. Time to unwind allows them to fully comprehend the events of a busy day — and lower their stimulation level to one that’s more comfortable and sustainable.
2. Meaningful conversation. Introverts can’t survive on a diet of small talk alone. “How was your day?” or “How ’bout this weather?” won’t be enough. Introverts tend to dive deep, both in their interests and relationships. They need something more: What’s one new thing you’ve learned lately? How are you a different person today than you were 10 years ago? Does God exist? Of course, not every conversation has to be deep. Sometimes introverts really do just want to know what you did this weekend. But occasionally, to feed their minds and souls, they need those wide-awake-at-midnight-can’t-stop-talking kind of moments.
3. Comfortable silences. On the flip side, introverts need people in their lives who are content with quiet. People who can sit in the same room with them, not talking, each doing their own thing. People who will not nervously jump to fill a pause in the conversation, but will let thoughts linger, waiting until each idea has been fully digested. Trust introverts when they say that silence can be beautiful.
4. Space to dive deep into their hobbies and interests. 17th century horror novels. Celtic mythology. Restoring old cars. Gardening, painting, cooking, or writing. If it’s out there, introverts are doing it. Having the time and space to dive deep into their interests is recharging. But it’s about more than just doing the thing. It’s about slowing down and entering a state of flow — which may come naturally for introverts. Bonus: They end up becoming experts in their areas of interest.
5. A quiet, calm space that’s all theirs. Admittedly, this is something I don’t have right now. But the dream is real: A room to be alone in. A room to arrange however I’d like. A room with a door that closes out the world, even just for a little while. For introverts, having a space that’s all theirs makes an incredible difference in terms of their energy levels. Being alone — truly alone, without fear of intrusion or interruption — is freeing and invigorating on a nearly spiritual level.
6. Time to think before responding. There’s hardly anything more stressful than an impatient boss or spouse standing before you demanding an answer right now. For extroverts, it’s usually easy to spout something off. But not so for introverts, who may rely more on long-term memory than working memory (for extroverts, it’s the opposite). Usually, a few (pressure-free) beats is all an introvert needs to reach into their memory and pull out just the right words they want. Give them that time. It will be worth it, I promise.
7. Friends who understand that sometimes they will stay home. Introverts won’t attend every party or get-together. They do enjoy some socializing, but it’s all about dosage. Too much, and their sensitive systems will have them begging for their beds. They need friends who understand that sometimes they just can’t “people” anymore today. These friends know that once introverts have had downtime, they’ll be up for another (laid-back) adventure.
8. A deeper purpose to their work. Many introverts want a job that is more than just a paycheck. Sure, they need to pay their bills, but they want their 9-to-5 efforts to feel worthwhile, too. They want to know that they’re helping others. That they’re making at least some small difference in the grand scheme of things. If introverts are just punching in and punching out, doing routine work that doesn’t seem to fit a wider goal, life will feel hollow.
9. Permission to not explain sometimes. There are times when they just have no words. They may be feeling something strongly, but they can’t describe it. Or they need to be alone right now, but don’t have the energy to provide a lengthy explanation. When an introvert says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” or simply, “This is what I need,” let that suffice. After some time to process, they will likely come back to you with more words.
10. Time and space to work uninterrupted. It’s no secret that introverts do their best work alone. Unfortunately, our offices and classrooms are not geared toward quiet reflection. As a result, you may find introverts sneaking away to the abandoned corners of the office building. Or coming early or staying late. Or begging to stay in the classroom — where it’s quiet and empty — during recess. To all teachers, supervisors, and parents — give introverts the quiet space they need to think. You may find that you get higher quality work in return.
11. Their tribe. Rarely the ones for chasing popularity, introverts usually have just a few close friends — and they prefer it that way. However, note that the key word is “close.” For introverts, friendship isn’t about just occupying the same space, doing the same activity. Nor is it about trading gossip. It’s about finding a kindred spirit, someone who will peek into the introvert’s inner world — and reveal theirs in return.
12. Time to slow down. Breathe. Take it all in. Just be. Repeat.
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Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman