The Guide to Introvert Happiness - Find the Jobs and Friendships that are Right for You
There has been much more written about introverted people in recent years, and a lot of the old myths are slowly starting to fade. Before books like Quiet by Susan Cain hit the market, it wasn't unusual for online discussion to be filled with misunderstandings and tips for "shy" people to get out of their shells.
Now at least you'll see more understanding and acceptance of introverted personalities as distinct from extroversion, and just as valid. Still, everything from dating, to making friends, to getting along in the workplace is more difficult, simply because of the differences between extroverted and introverted thinking.
Making things more complicated is that no two people are the same - there are plenty of outgoing introverts who simply need time to recharge after socializing, and more extreme cases who prefer very quiet lives and a few close friends.
What's an introvert to do to keep themselves happy and healthy?
Where are you on the Introvert/Extrovert Spectrum?
You've likely read elsewhere that introversion and extroversion are a spectrum; that people who are purely one personality type or the other are very rare. In brief, introverts are usually drained by social interaction and need time to recharge, but extroverts need constant social interaction to be happy.
Figuring out where you stand exactly is the best way to apply this article's advice to your own life. I personally am a mix of outgoing and introvert traits; I prefer quiet, contemplative office environments that let me focus on my work and leave me with plenty of energy for the extroverted social interactions I love.
Simply taking an introvert test won't tell you everything; put some thought into what you like and how you behave in certain situations to get the whole picture!
Introverts in the Workplace
Workplaces are often dominated by extroverts, and it can be a great source of anxiety if you don't fit that mold - after all, your livelihood depends on it.
However, instead of worrying about what the best jobs for introverts are (in terms of content), you should be more worried about finding a work environment that suits your personality and needs.
Having a positive and supportive workplace environment is vital for our happiness and productivity at work. Unfortunately, some of the same things that would be laughed off as silly misunderstandings in our personal life could potentially have more serious effects in the workplace.
How Introversion Can Be Misunderstood at Your Office
I once applied to, and got accepted for, what I thought was going to be my dream job. This position would have me doing a variety of tasks that interested me, and would open up many doors for other careers in the future.
However, I would soon discover that the office I was working at was incredibly extroverted, and as the lone introvert in my workplace I started to worry. This was a work environment where people chatted and gossiped constantly during slow periods, spent personal time with each other outside of the office, and even invited each other to their weddings.
I was the only introvert in my office - quiet, serious, focused on work, and rarely discussed private matters. While the job still had its merits, and my coworkers were otherwise competent and friendly people, this still caused a lot of tension and misunderstanding.
Most of my coworkers were nice enough, but some treated me poorly due to my reserve, and others thought my not discussing my personal life meant I literally had no friends.
Of course there are things I could have done better - such as being more socially open, critical to getting along with my extroverted coworkers in that environment. Regardless, you can't flip a switch and become a different person, and despite your best efforts to get along in a highly social workplace, it can be draining and affect your happiness and well being.
Finding the Right Workplace Environment for You
So what should an introvert do? Think not just about what kind of work you'd like to do, but also the typical environments you might find in that profession, and consider a company's work culture and values before accepting a job offer. Even little things like office layouts are important - being in open office layouts, for example, can cause introverts extra stress due to constant distractions.
If you're in an non-supportive extroverted workplace and you can't quit, try to at least find ways to cope. See if you can work from home at least part of the time, or at least find quiet spots in the building to focus on work.
Of course, that might not always be possible, or even desirable depending on just how introverted or extroverted you are.
Introverts and Quality Friendships
This is true for everyone, but I think it is especially important for introverts. The key is to have good friends who are accepting and non-judgmental, regardless of their personality type.
It's wishful thinking to hope that every friend you have fully understands your introverted ways - there will always be at least a little bit of confusion and misunderstanding. However, this doesn't mean we have to put up with extroverts who are outright hostile and judgmental.
It may seem cautious of me - but whenever I meet someone new for the first time I always think in the back of my head, "is this person going to misunderstand me - tell me to lighten up, stop being so shy, or to smile more?" If so I usually cut my losses and politely excuse myself at the first opportunity.
Every introvert has experienced attitudes like the above countless times. And as I mentioned, misunderstandings happen - but for me it is a big red flag when someone is making these judgments so openly after first meeting someone.
Something Every Introvert Hears Too Often
One of my favorite examples happened at a bar recently. I was there by myself on a slow night, and about to leave when a group invited me to their table for a few drinks, which I happily accepted.
Not much longer a group of (mostly female) friends came in, and I excused myself to talk to them a bit. Someone else caught my attention and for a short while and the conversation with the girls stalled. This prompted someone from the first group to say something like, "What, did you just give up? You just need to man up and get in there - be confident and funny, and throw in lots of jokes to make them laugh!"
All this over a short pause in the conversation! Needless to say I didn't spend too much time talking to him for the rest of the night.
On the other hand, I have plenty of extrovert friends who like and accept me for who I am, even if they may not fully understand everything about introversion. There are plenty of such people out there, which is why as an introvert I feel no need to pursue friendships with more judgmental types.
Finding the right people and environments are crucial for success and happiness as an introvert. It's the same for anyone else, of course, but introverts in particular should be careful to choose social circles that are warm and accepting of who they are. Workplaces are of course a little tougher, but thinking long and hard about both the content and work environments of certain careers should at least minimize some of the typical frustrations introverts feel.