• Marcus Bazley

Number 14 - The Reluctant Extrovert

I am an extrovert. Not a massive-personality, life-and-soul-of-the-party extrovert. I’m also not the effortlessly gregarious, chatty extrovert. I’m an extrovert who might choose an evening at home with a book over a night out at a party.

Now, you might well be asking at this point – are you sure you’re an extrovert? Well, yes, because I get my energy from social interactions. I feel energised after speaking to people, from being in a room with people, from working as part of a team. This is not the same as being hugely confident or being a party animal – though these things are often confused with being extroverted.

This pandemic has posed particular problems for my type of extrovert. We’re the type that doesn’t actively seek or initiate social interaction but, nonetheless, feels much better for it when it’s there. We’ll rarely feel like going to parties, we’ll even more rarely host parties, but we almost always feel much better for going to them (even if our heads and stomachs feel worse).

The big problem this pandemic has posed for the reluctant extrovert, is that inadvertent or unavoidable social interaction has been taken off the table. When we get our energy from social interaction and social interaction is taken away, we are left with very low levels of energy. It then becomes increasingly difficult to summon up the energy to initiate social interactions - especially when that interaction is probably via Zoom rather than in person.

Zoom interactions are peculiar because, from my experience, although I gain some energy from engaging with the person, I also lose energy from engaging with the screen. So, although it is a net gain, it’s not the same turbo boost I’d normally get from a positive face-to-face meeting or workshop session.

So, what’s the best approach for the reluctant extrovert?

1) Keep talking to people. Even if it’s via Zoom or on the phone. Keep interacting with people verbally – physically talking, rather than typing. It may not give you the same boost as face-to-face but it’s much better than nothing.

2) Become an initiator. Although it’s hard, force yourself to initiate some conversations. Start with family, friends and close colleagues. Use the energy from those ‘safe’ interactions, to fuel you to initiate more challenging ones.

3) Remember how you feel afterwards. Keep hold of the buzzing, energised feel you get when you get off the phone from talking to someone. Remember how good it feels. Use it to motivate you when you struggle with initiating interactions.

4) Get outside. If you’re feeling really stuck, get away from your desk and go for a walk, run or bike ride. Simply engaging with some fresh air and hopefully a bit of nature may break the deadlock. Even a simple ‘good morning’ to a passer-by will give you a little taster of that social energy boost you need.

5) Take a time out. If it is all feeling too much and initiating interactions is feeling just too hard. Do the opposite. Take some time out for bit. Focus on yourself and those around you. By focussing on yourself, gradually, that natural urge to speak to people will re-emerge. When it reappears listen to it and act.

So, there are some thoughts on what I’m calling reluctant extroversion! I hope it’s helpful for anyone out there who is a bit like me – I’m assuming there are some of you out there? If there are, I’d love to hear from you and find out how you approach this. And let me know how you get on!