In the olden times, before social distancing became the new normal, extroverts would happily go to the office, congregate with friends, and even chat up perfect strangers to get the stimuli they need. That’s because extroverts are energized by being around other people—a fact that may be misunderstood by more introverted people. A 2019 report by researchers from the University of Toronto described the “prototypical extrovert” as talkative and outgoing, as well as preferring to take charge, express positive emotion, and seek out new experiences. These attributes give them a “small, persistent advantage in the workplace,” the report found.
But now that one in three workers has been sent home for an undetermined period of time during the to work remotely and physically distance, extroverts may be at a disadvantage. “With extroverts, the superpower is building community,” says psychologist Melba J. Nicholson Sullivan. “How do you build and sustain community without this physical contact, without being present with people and being able to read and feel their energy?” she says. Without such stimuli, extroverts may feel lonely, sad, or depressed.
A combination of technology and resourcefulness is helping some extroverts cope with their isolation. Here are some ways extroverts can connect in an era of social distancing:
Opt for face time
Whether it’s a meeting with coworkers or a virtual happy hour with friends or your monthly book club, make ample use of the videoconferencing tools available to you, says executive coach and leadership consultant Susan Bernstein. One of her corporate clients sent employees money for lunch and then hosted a virtual social lunch on Zoom for coworkers to connect. “There are ways that we can join other virtual gatherings and start our own gatherings,” she says.
Reach out to colleagues
Deloitte principal Melinda Reno leads a team and is a self-described extrovert. She craves the social interaction of her office, “even if it’s just me in the same room as others and not directly working with them just hearing the buzz of activity around me. It keeps me going,” she says.
Extroverts may find it helpful to talk things through with others, so having access to coworkers is important. Reno has found that her style has changed a bit since she’s been working remotely, and she’s thinking through her ideas more before she reaches out to colleagues for input and discussion. “Instead of jumping right on my idea that I want to start brainstorming on, why don’t I spend a little bit more time thinking it out, jotting it down, getting a little bit more out of it to stress test and proof point it, get it more organized,” she says. By bringing more developed ideas to colleagues, she finds the discussions are more fruitful.
Seek out interactive experiences
Beyond the office, Reno finds that feeding her competitive nature helps stave off the effects of remote work. She does online group exercise classes for the interaction and competition. “I immediately ordered a Peloton because I liked the sense of the leader board competition, seeing people in the room on my screen. That made me feel like I was with a group and that I was competing there,” she says.
Sullivan says that more interactive experiences are emerging to help people deal with isolation. Derrick Jones, known as DJ D-Nice, has been live-streaming dance parties on Instagram, which have attracted tens of thousands of viewers. Artists are turning to Zoom to connect with fans. And apps like Zenly turn social distancing into a game you can play with friends.
Change of scenery
Sometimes, Reno finds that simply changing her environment helps her get the stimuli she needs. If you regularly work in your home office, try working in a different part of your home. Or try doing different tasks in different locations. She also gets creative with meetings, encouraging team members to go for a walk while they’re meeting, assuming that’s safe to do in their neighborhood.
Seek the feedback you need
“Some extroverts may have difficulty navigating intruding thoughts or emotions that are more easily avoided when they are with other people. Others may struggle with people-pleasing and be challenged when there is an absence of immediate feedback,” Sullivan says. If you’re feeling the weight of these negative emotions or troubling thoughts, reach out to others for feedback or reassurance. Or find community through some of the interactive experiences or virtual get-togethers that are emerging now.
Social distancing has also led some to find creative ways to give back. Some professionals are hosting streaming tutorials in their areas of expertise. Bernstein has been hosting online events to give people a place to talk about how they’re feeling in this time of uncertainty. These types of interactive events can help you connect with others.
Finally, Sullivan says extroverts should be mindful of self-care during this time. Notice when you’re being unkind to yourself and how you’re dealing with the sources of stress you’re facing from isolation. “What have we been practicing in terms of community? What have we been practicing in terms of how we take care of ourselves and whether or not we’re kind to ourselves when we make a mistake,” she says. “That’s the ask all of us is to really start to look at what have we been practicing. What’s the training that we fall into?” And when we see areas where we need help or are not being kind to ourselves, then it’s time to look for ways to expand our tool kit, she says.