The Social Introvert’s Dilemma

The Social Introvert’s Dilemma

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Do you get drained by social encounters, yet find yourself sometimes liking the company of people?

Do you find that you hate going to the club, yet enjoy having a small group of people over?

Do you find that you can be sociable and talkative up to a point, and then you become suddenly irritated, aloof, and reserved?

Me too.

If these things apply to you, then congratulations: you are a social introvert, possibly the rarest type of introvert to exist.

If these things apply to you, then congratulations: you are a social introvert, possibly the rarest type of introvert to exist.

Introversion and extroversion are, by now, pretty well understood personality types. There are, of course, different types of introverts and extroverts as defined by the Myers-Briggs and other personality tests. But at the simplest core of these two concepts is this: introverts expend energy in social situations and must be alone to recharge while extroverts are the opposite: they gain energy from social situations and cannot be left alone for too long.

Naturally, this fundamental push and pull leads also to rather predictable social situations: introverts are shyer, more reserved, and generally uncomfortable in social situations. Extroverts, on the other hand, are more at ease in social situations, in their element, and are unafraid to meet new people or talk over shy people due to the comfort in their surroundings.

This is simple enough, and holds true for the vast majority of introverts and extroverts. But there is a small subtype of introverts who often exhibit extrovert tendencies: they are comfortable in a crowd, they are sociable, they don’t mind meeting new people and are comfortable around them, and yet at the end of the day they want nothing more than to be alone and enjoy the comfort and quiet of their solitude.

Sound familiar?

These introverts are known as social introverts, and increasingly the broader field of personality types has been changing to recognize them. If you’re not a social introvert, it’s very difficult to imagine being one: you like interacting with people, you enjoy interacting with people, but there comes a moment when your social batteries have simply been drained, and you need to recharge.

If you’re not a social introvert, it’s very difficult to imagine being one: you like interacting with people, you enjoy interacting with people, but there comes a moment when your social batteries have simply been drained, and you need to recharge.

This can be hard to manage because many people don’t understand this need. They think you’re an extrovert, because you’re not the shy, quiet introvert that they’re used to from their company of friends. You are friendly, talkative, and at ease in social situations – that certainly sounds more like an extrovert to them!

And so they don’t understand when suddenly you have to go. They don’t understand that it’s been nice, but you have your limits: you know when too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. You like hanging out with your friends, you like talking and conversing, but there comes a point in the night when you know your batteries are running desperately low and if you stay any longer you’ll become depressed and irritable.

Other people might see this as moody, or antisocial, which conflicts with their perception of you as an otherwise sociable person. The social introvert can constantly feel like someone who is living a lie to their friends: someone who occasionally exhibits extrovert qualities, but is at the end of the day an introvert, and needs to recharge their batteries.

Many social introverts have developed coping mechanisms for this sort of thing. Recovery days, for example: it’s very common for social introverts to take a day off on the weekend. So if they go out Friday, for example, they may take Saturday for themselves, or Sunday if they were out Saturday. They enjoy the expenditure of their energy in social situations, but need the recovery day to recharge.

Many people don’t understand this need for recovery day. If you just had a great night out on Saturday, for example, why wouldn’t you want to go to brunch on Sunday? It’s just more fun with more people that you enjoy! But they don’t see the recovery day for what it is, and simply think you’re being antisocial or don’t want to hang out with them – when both are far from the truth.

And sometimes what can hurt the most is when you try to explain your recovery day to people and they laugh it off or don’t understand. They may even accuse you of pretending to be a social introvert just to “seem deep”.

They may even accuse you of pretending to be a social introvert just to “seem deep”.

Because many people see the world in the black and white of introverts and extroverts, and they don’t see the shade of grey complexity that the social introvert brings to the table – the heightened creativity and awareness you get from being an outsider who both can talk and engage as well as pull back and people watch from afar, as well as the loyalty and friendship that we bring to people who understand and appreciate us!

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