Introverts are making a lot of progress at work. Companies have begun recognizing the advantages introverts bring to the table and introverts are starting to recognize they no longer needed to pretend to be extroverts in order to excel.
While there are certainly many reasons to celebrate introversion, a new book by writer Emily White called Count Me In: How I Stepped Off The Sidelines, Created Connection And Built A Fuller, Richer, More Lived-in Life warns introverts about shying away from social life altogether. Although extroverts are known to have large social communities, White says even introverts need a community.
“[A community] enriches our lives to the same extent that it enriches the lives of an extrovert,” says White, speaking as a fellow introvert. “Extroverts may have an edge on us there, but introversion doesn’t mean you don’t need a community.” White says the difference between the two groups is that introverts need to do more to find their community.
We all have a need to belong. The need to belong to either private relationships––which is what introverts tend to have––or to larger public groups is the same for both introverts and extroverts. “It’s like saying introverts don’t need to eat,” says White. “We all need that sense of being part of something, but for introverts, we find it in a slightly different way.”
Extroverts have an easier time tapping into a wider social community because they enjoy reaching out for new experiences and introducing themselves to new people. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to loathe this type of outward networking and often struggle to find social networks.
For an introvert, their community may only consist of a small group of friends and family. But, White argues, introverts need to move beyond this small private circle and into the community. While introverts may rather eat a mouthful of hot peppers than be forced to join community events, White says introverts often avoid community activities because they fear they won’t fit in. “Broader community ties can offer us socialization or ways of being with people that are actually in sync with out personalities if you find the right group,” she says.
A community garden, for example, can provide an introvert with the opportunity to become part of a community without having to change their personality. “Introverts aren’t antisocial,” says White. “We’re anti-constant conversation.” “What community groups offer is a chance to be with other people and a chance to learn new things and have fun in ways that aren’t socially demanding.”
How can introverts find their community?
A trick White uses to get around this reluctance is to tell herself that she only has to attend one session, and if she doesn’t like it, she never needs to return. “If you tell yourself you’re going to go out there and build a huge community network, that’s going to be overwhelming,” she says.
“If you tell yourself you’re going to go to one group and see what it’s like, that can help build momentum.” Giving yourself permission to leave if you’re not having a good time can also help overcome a reluctant attitude.
While standard networking advice includes talking to at least three people and arriving at an event with a set of talking points to start a conversation, White says these conditions can be overwhelming to an introvert. “It’s not about going to an event and talking to 15 people. It’s about feeling you belong somewhere,” she says.
“Introverts can be as open to new experiences as extroverts if those experiences are right for us,” says White. Select organizations that are based around your area of interest. Connecting to work organizations is a great way to build a professional network.
White also encourages introverts to look for connections outside the workplace. Looking at your hobbies and pastimes and choosing groups such as book clubs, chess clubs or gardening groups are great ways of forming a social network that will connect you with the larger community.