Don’t worry about your personality – manage your energy

People often confuse being an introvert with being shy or socially awkward.  But this is not the case.  Introversion simply means that you tend to focus your energy inwards and get energy from your own thoughts and feelings.   Extraversion means that you focus your energy outwards and get energy from the external world of people and things.  Introverts tend to be more sensitive to external stimulation, and therefore require less of it, while extraverts are less sensitive to external stimulation and therefore require more of it.  Simple!

Nobody could be wholly introvert or wholly extravert – if they were, they’d be a hermit or a 24/7 party animal.  In reality, we are all a mixture of the two, but we tend to lean more towards one than the other.  If your balance tips towards extraversion, then you probably like to spend relatively more time in other people’s company, while someone whose preference tips towards introversion would relatively less.  Knowing where your balance lies is an important piece of self-awareness, as it means you can run your life in the way that suits your personality and enables you to thrive.

This came up in an article in the Guardian recently, where Sirin Kale described learning to say no to parties.  In a job with a lot of interaction with others, she says “I found that my energy levels for nonessential socialising became depleted and I had nothing left to draw on in my personal life”.  This is a common experience for people with the introversion preference. 

Extraverts also need to manage their energy levels.  If they have too little interaction with others in their jobs, they may need to compensate by having active social lives.  On the other hand they sometimes feel pressured by others to be the life and soul of the party, when they don’t always want to be.  Extraverts too need quiet time – just less of it. 

A key aspect of self-care is to manage your lifestyle so you get the right balance of interaction with others and time alone – do what works for you.

For more on this, see Chapter 17, Building your Resilience and Re-energising, in my book, How to Get On with Anyone.