Do's and Don'ts for Living as an Introvert
Don't overindulge a desire for solitude to the point of loneliness.
Posted December 16, 2021 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods
- Understanding your needs as an introvert is key to living a happily quiet life.
- Learn how you feel when you are overextended, but also when you are getting isolated.
- You are entitled to boundaries but set them thoughtfully and generously.
- Tend to your introversion but tend to your relationships, too.
It’s been 12 years since my first post on this blog went live. Perhaps you’ve seen the “Introverts Unite” meme that makes the rounds periodically. Well, I’m just petty enough to point out that I said it first, in my first post, “Introverts Unite, Quietly” on August 26, 2009.
When I started this blog, there were very few people writing about introversion. Even Susan Cain’s blockbuster book, Quiet, was three years away. Today, scores of professional introverts are out there expounding on our quiet nature. Introverts have gotten kind of loud, and that's a good thing.
In truth, I don't feel I have anything new to say about introversion at this point, which is one reason among many I’ve been quieter than usual the past couple of years. So I’ve decided it’s time to wind things down here in the Introverts’ Corner. While this blog will remain up and I may add to it from time to time, I will also be starting a new blog here on Psychology Today about grief, because losing my husband last year is by far the most cataclysmic event in my life, and grief is more complex and exhausting than I ever could have imagined. Please look for my new blog in 2022.
The things I’ve learned about being introverted and the strategies I’ve adopted over the past 12 years are now fully integrated into my life. You can find posts focusing on all aspects of life as an introvert in the Introverts' Corner archives, but today, as I step out of the corner, I will provide some of the basic "do's and don’ts" I live by these days.
- Learn to manage your calendar to avoid being either isolated or overextended. How many events a week can you handle without getting frazzled? How much time do you need between them? Plan accordingly.
- Say “no thanks” when you don’t want company and “yes please” when you do, and learn to recognize the difference. You might have to think a bit before you commit to anything. There's nothing wrong with saying “Let me get back to you” to give yourself time to decide. Just be sure to get back to the person in a timely manner.
- Learn to let pressure and implied criticism of your introversion roll off you. You know that introversion is perfectly healthy and other people’s opinions about the “right” way to be are just that: opinions. You don’t have to live by them or even argue with them. Just shrug and get on with your quiet life.
- However, do help the people who matter to you most to understand you. This will make everyone’s life easier. You’ll get to live your introverted life, and they won’t take your need for solitude personally.
- Rather than giving up the telephone altogether, encourage your friends to text before they call, or, in the case of people with whom phone calls tend to be lengthy (i.e., faraway friends), request that they schedule phone time with you. Some will resist, most will eventually understand.
- But also learn to pick up the phone sometimes. My friends know not to call me willy-nilly, but sometimes they will call, and if I have no pressing reason not to pick up (for example, if I’m in the middle of something or I'm seriously not in the mood), I answer. I do so because I like my friends and it’s the nice thing to do. Also, my friends now know me well enough to know that I will eventually say, “OK, I’ve had enough phone time now,” and nobody is bothered.
- I believe that friends go to friends' parties, but I always keep in mind that it's a lot easier to say “yes” to parties if I give myself permission to leave when I'm ready. And remember that when people say things like, “You can’t leave now! It won’t be a party without you!” they’re just making noises with their mouths. It doesn’t really mean you have to stay, and it will still be a party after you’re gone.
- Remember—and this has been my soapbox for a long time—that there is nothing inherently superior about introversion or extroversion. They are simply different, and if you want people to understand and respect your introversion, you owe it to extroverts to understand and respect them.
- Don’t overindulge your introversion to the point where solitude turns into isolation. Isolation can lead to rumination which can lead to depression. Just as you learn what it feels like to be overextended, learn to recognize when you are getting isolated and force yourself to act on it. Make a plan with someone. Leave the house.
- Don’t be the last-minute “poozer,” as my husband and I called it—the person who frequently makes plans and then backs out at the last minute. I understand that sometimes following through on a plan sounds just too hard (perhaps your week was more taxing than you expected, for example) and you simply have to bow out, but use that privilege sparingly or you'll give introversion a bad reputation.
- Don’t completely discount the value of loose ties. Yes, introverts prefer fewer, deeper friendships and that’s one of our strengths, but it is also to our benefit to maintain wider circles if for no other reason than that things happen—people move away, pass away, friendships grow apart. You want people in the pipeline should you lose a close friend for some reason. (This also applies to marriage; I’ve seen many very sad people in my bereavement support networks who did not maintain relationships outside their marriage and suddenly find themselves grieving and isolated.)
- Don’t make friends do all the reaching out, and don’t assume they will be there even if you don’t put a lot of effort into the friendship. (See: answering the telephone, above.) Making and having friends sometimes requires doing things that might feel difficult, uncomfortable, or just wearisome. But be as generous with yourself as possible so that people will return the generosity when you need them.
- Don’t always rely on others to make plans or to choose you as their friend. If you don’t always want to be surrounded by extroverts doing extroverted things, you will need to reach out to other interesting introverts you know and make introverted plans—museums instead of parties, perhaps, or lectures instead of karaoke.
These are the most important lessons I’ve learned these past dozen years that have helped me live a rich and fulfilling life as an introvert. Thanks, everyone, for joining me here in the corner. It’s been swell talking to you and learning from you. Go forth and live your best introvert life. Quietly.
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