A few weeks ago we were sitting around the kitchen table of the farmhouse in Slovenia with our friends Russ and Michelle. I was telling Michelle about a recent discovery about myself, that I was an introvert.
Introversion is the not the same thing as shyness, and I was telling Michelle how I gain energy from being alone and it drains my energy to be around other people (one of the tell-tale traits of introverts). Me in a social situation is almost like watching the battery signal go down on your laptop or cell phone. I perform very well for a set period of time, but when I’m done, I’m done. I can’t do anymore, and I need to retreat to recharge.
Later that night as we were getting ready for bed, Warren told me he overheard our conversation. He said learning that I gain my energy internally gave him more understanding of me than he’s had in years (and he’s no slouch in the understanding department). While he always knew I “hit the wall” at a certain point socially, he never understood it before that moment. It was a lightbulb moment in our relationship.
I sought out Beth Beulow, ACC, CPC, the Introvert Entrepreneur, to give me some further understanding on the traits of introverts and how that plays out in relationships and formulating and chasing dreams. We recorded a 30-minute chat that is well worth your time if you are an introvert or live or work with one. When you understand why you are the way you are, it makes it so much easier to create a life that fits. And isn’t that what we’re all about at Married with Luggage?
(If you can’t see the video below, click here.)
Some highlights from the discussion
- The definition between introvert and extrovert. It all comes from where you gain and drain energy. If people energize you, you are more likely an extrovert. If you enjoy people but need to “rest up” afterward, you are likely an introvert. Knowing this helps you modulate your energy for the events and people most important to you.
- Introverts are not antisocial; they just need more time to recharge after social situations.
- Knowing you are an introvert gives you a vocabulary to start talking about what you need. In our relationship, I’ve said a million times that I need time to process, think things through, or be alone, but it wasn’t until Warren understood that I gain energy from being alone so I can be with people later that it became clear why.
- Say what you want and need without guilt, apology, or defensiveness. Needing space or time to be your best is reason enough, but you can’t expect people to read your mind or create it for you. You have to make it happen.
- A happy introvert is a rested, prepared, recharged introvert. And when you are taking care of yourself, you’ll have such a great balance most people won’t even believe you’re an introvert if you tell them! (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)
- Being an introvert is not the same thing as being shy. Introversion deals with energy, and shyness comes from social anxiety or fear. I am a very confident person and shyness is not a problem for me, but because I didn’t understand the distinction before now I never even considered that I could be an introvert. Shyness is something you can get over. Introversion and extroversion are permanent personality traits. You are one or the other (along a scale, of course).
- Ways to tell if you are an introvert or extrovert: Do social events drain you or leave you energized? Do you normally want to think things through before speaking, or do you want to talk things out as you go? Do you need to rest up before social events or schedule them out? Find out the usual traits of introverts, even though the spectrum of each can be broad.
- How to deal with conflict and challenge in an introvert/extrovert relationship: The good news is your relationship is not doomed! The main goal is to talk out your preferences for handling conflict BEFORE the conflict happens. In the heat of the moment is not the time to say you need to be alone. You also can’t leave your extrovert partner without a way to process his or her feelings out loud. Their needs are just as important.
- How does an introvert gather the support of others and often ‘go against the grain’ to make big life changes? It requires a level of self-awareness to know how your dream is going to work for you. Once you are confident in this, it will be easier to explain the needs and traits of introverts to other people. If you are confident in it, others will leave you alone to go about it. If you are wishy washy, they’ll never leave you alone to do it.
- How does introversion play into how we dream and see ourselves in the future? We can’t choose other people’s dreams as our own. We have to know how our energy plays into our happiness and what would sustain it best. Take the time to make your dream fit you instead of the other way around. Ask yourself what will bring you the greatest satisfaction and define your goals that way.
The most interesting part of the discussion for me comes at the end, when Beth says you have to know yourself and be confident in what you want and need. While this might be a recommendation for a introvert, we think it is a pretty damn good recommendation for life in general. In fact, you’ve probably heard us say it about a thousand times.
So whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, knowing what energizes you, what drains you, and what would make you most happy is key to designing the life of your dreams.
After that, all you’ve gotta do is say it out loud.
Learn to speak up and say what you want, even if goes against the grain, in Strip Off Your Fear: The Good Girl’s Guide to Saying What You Want. Available in ebook or paperback.