6 life lessons for introverts who love people-time

Guest post by Meghan Hartley
By: x1brett – CC BY 2.0
By: x1brettCC BY 2.0

I am an outgoing introvert. Oxymoron, you say? Nope, you said wrong!

People frequently clump shyness and introversion together as the same thing, but it’s not. It was an “ah-ha” moment when I learned the actual definition of introversion. It has nothing to do with shyness, which is a fear of social situations.

An introvert is someone who is introspective by nature. Engaging in said introspection is what recharges an introvert. Being alone to sort through one’s conscious feelings and thoughts is imperative to the introverted person. Extended social time is draining to an introvert. When shit hits the fan an introverted person generally doesn’t say, “I need to call so and so now,” they say, “I need to be alone, bugger off!”

There’s a range of introversion (like everything, ’tis a very gray world, not black and white), and some introverts would really prefer everyone bugger off most of the time. Then there are people like me who adore people-time, but get exhausted from it. I love connecting with others. I need to connect with others. I adore telling stories and shooting the shit. I’ll get just as cranky if I go a couple days without decent conversation as I do if I don’t get my recharge time! It’s a very careful balance, and one that perplexed me before I pinpointed exactly what was going on.

To sum up, folks on this area of the intro-extroversion scale (ambiverts) need to have quality people-time, just as much as we need to have quality no-people-time. If either side weighs too heavily we feel “unsorted.” Bajiggity. I know that’s not a real word, but I find it perfect to describe the anxious-emo-crankiness that I get from unbalanced people-time expenditure.

But I’ve done some research on this topic, primarily by feeling awkward at social commitments, just to give fellow people-time loving introverts these tips…

Figure out CaveTime

Sort out how much awesome alone time you personally need. For me it’s three good chunks (four-ish hours) a week, at least. Any less and the bajiggity sets in. I generally enjoy even more!

Make time for CaveTime

Actually schedule it, and commit. It can be hard if something comes up to be like, “oh, no, I have plans to hang out by myself.” But remember that it’s more than that. It’s what you need to recharge and maintain a balanced and pleasant mental landscape — it is very important. If you do need/want to do something else, reschedule CaveTime and make sure to fit it in later.

Make CaveTime plans

How exactly are you going to spend your treasured alone time? If the answer is “I dunno… dinner and hanging around the house,” that’s not good enough! What are you going to cook? Are you going to watch a movie? Pick out a really good one in advance. Are you going to do something creative? Get amped about whatever you’re making. Will you hike? Where? Find new music? How? Pin it down. Planning a proper night will help you commit to CaveTime, as well as making sure that you get the most out of it.

Kick FOMO’s ass

I used to have a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, it’s totally a real thing). I had a really hard time saying no to invites, then I’d wind up feeling awkward — wishing I was home with a paintbrush, or a notepad, or Netflix, or whatevs. Now I say “maybe.” Maybe is a truly magical word.

Pick your people-time carefully

Check in with yourself to see how you feel after spending time with someone, or a group of people. You will find some people to be more draining than others. Choose people that you have a genuine connection with. I wrote an article here awhile ago about pros and cons of coupling and a few of you commented that you’ve found partners that don’t even count as “people”! Like, you can CaveTime with them there and still feel recharged! Mannnn, that’s sexy.

Try going out alone

I find that I often enjoy quality introspective time, as well as snippets of fun and interesting conversation when a book is my only partner in crime. Sometimes I show up early when meeting friends so I can recharge a bit before hanging.

Prepare for people-filled times

Wedding weekend? Vacay back home? These things are a delightful nightmare for me. I have a total blast, but don’t recharge for a few days, then all of a sudden I feel super-duper bajiggity, and wind up missing out on being present for some really great times. Boooo. Recharge beforehand, make excuses to hang out solo at opportune times, and chill out CaveTime when the event is over.

What’s your take? Do you have more tips on being a successful outgoing introvert?

Comments on 6 life lessons for introverts who love people-time

  1. I don’t have any tips to add, but I do want to say “thank you thank you thank you!!!” Really, I’m totally like this–I stress about social occasions and how draining they can be, but I also crave some social connection–but I never considered how I needed to recharge so I don’t burn out. Definitely going to keep this in mind to avoid bajiggity. (Great word, by the way!)

  2. I think those are great tips for people to organize their necessary recharge time!

    However, as the organizer of events in my group, I’m not sure I agree with the following:
    “Now I say “maybe.” Maybe is a truly magical word.”

    “Maybe” is my worse enemy as the person that sends the invitations (ok, hyperbole, but still…). Honestly, when trying to figure out restaurant reservations or possible bar options (some places are too small to have hope of sitting 8 people, etc.), if four people reply “maybe”, it may change things a lot in how the soirée will go. Same goes if I actually have to prepare food and drinks. Saying “no” is fine. Really, it is.

    I guess it depends on how far in advance you decide to go or not, but receiving a “maybe” as a reply often makes me feel like being told “well, if I don’t have anything better to do…” If I was going to use the “maybe”, then I would at least give a little context as to what factors will play on my attending or not.

    • I agree with this and would further add that “maybe” bothers me *because* I am an introvert. Since I have to plan my social time carefully and often work myself up to it, to hear “maybe” from people leaves me feeling uncomfortable. I’m unable to imagine the context of this future social interaction because I don’t know who will be there or if I’ll be left hanging so I can’t relax. I totally understand the desire not to commit, so my compromise is to tell the person extending the invitation “I’m not sure, I’ll let you know by [reasonable date beforehand.]” That stops me from saying yes due to FOMA and gives me time to decide if the social interaction is worth the amount of time it will take me to recharge. If I say I’m going and decide at the last minute I don’t want to…. nine times out of ten I go anyway. I believe self-care is important but I also believe in treating people the way I would like to be treated (read: showing up when you say you will.)

    • i obviously try to balance it with not being an ass, but “maybe” is super important to me. partly because logistics with kids are always in a state of maybe (like it or not), and partly because my social anxiety doesn’t tend to give me advanced warning about when i am going to literally not be able to walk through a door.

      in the interest of not being an ass, i have found that in a lot of ways hosting actually makes both of those things easier – that, and i’m a big fan of open-invitation type things like potlucks and public events where just flaking out is minimally problematic.

      • Word. I’m always there for my homies and make sure to recharge before, but if it’s a big group thing and no one’s really going to care if I’m there – “maybe”. I’m an event planner as well, I just figure 30% of maybes are yes’s (yes’?)!

        • This is how I treat it, too. I take my commitments very seriously and I try to plan so that I don’t have to back out when I’ve committed to something.

          It does also depend on the exact gathering. Restaurant/home cooked where headcount matters? I’ll be clear about my RSVP. Hike or beach day with more or less unlimited space? “Maybe” all the way (unless it looks like the event is way too big/small). Close friend I can text with and check if I can come without trouble? “Maybe” and a message letting them know I’m on the fence about being too busy but will try to decide before it’s too late.

    • I also agree with this– I’m introverted myself, and struggle with an anxiety disorder, and “maybe” is one of the worst things people can say to me. I don’t care if you can’t make something, but for god’s sake tell me one way or the other so I can stop stressing out over it. I HATE “maybe”.

  3. I struggle with this a lot. I like being around people but even small interactions, like lunch with a friend, leaves me totally drained and needing a couple of hours to recharge. So I usually reserve the social time for big stuff, like having people over for board games. Because of this, I spend a lot of time feeling lonely because I’m afraid of getting too drained by the friendship-nurturing interactions (like hanging out one-on-one for a little while, more often) but the bigger things are harder to organize.

    I do really like the concept of CaveTime though. It sounds better than MeTime and is a different thing, I think. For me, MeTime is “I would like to spend time on myself just for fun” where CaveTime would be “I would love to do other things but I will not be happy or comfortable until I’ve hung out under my blanket with a book for a couple of hours.”

    I have spent years trying to figure out a way to “quick charge” but so far nothing has worked. The only thing that does it is quiet time, so I have to just plan accordingly.

  4. I understand the logic of the author, but “maybe” is one of the most frustrating, anxiety inducing responses for me to receive. However, there is an easy solution-
    If you are going to use “maybe”, form a sentence as “maybe, reason, deadline.
    Maybe, I have a really tough week ahead, I’ll let you know by Wednesday.
    Maybe, I already have a lot of plans, I’ll let you know tomorrow.

    This changes it from feeling like a brush off, or an excuse because someone doesn’t want to go, to a way of showing interest, but also laying the groundwork to possibly say no.

    The other important part: don’t use “maybe” when you really always mean no.

    • Yes times a million to this! All my internal alarms started going off at ‘maybe’. Clare, I really like that you’ve included a date. It’s like, ‘I’m a maybe right now, I’m genuinely unsure, but I’m committing to give you a concrete answer at a specific date’. That makes a huge difference to your people.

  5. This is totally my jam.

    And to add to this- we stay with friends for anywhere from a weekend to 5 days or so a few times a year, and I really have to plan in some quality CT. I’m also scheduling in a morning to myself on our honeymoon, just in case I need it. My gent doesn’t typically count for me, but while we’re out in the world it changes a bit.

  6. BLARG. This post X1000000000!

    I’m most definitely a people-time loving introvert. I’m lucky enough to have one of those “non-people” people that I hang out with for CaveTime, which would be my husband. We either hang together and watch movies/TV series/hobby-time, or we “separate” and do our own things but in the same space.

    However, I’m long overdue for some social interaction (think nearly a year). Getting together with friends is ridiculously hard because half of them are never available when we are and visa versa. And then the other half don’t plan things so it’s left on our shoulders to plan (and we’re busy enough as it is with our toddler). Plus I don’t have any “just mine” friends (how sad ugh), and that makes it hard. So I get most of my social interactions with my family, or forcing my husband into doing things all the time so I can get out and about. He’s lucky enough to be able to get out and about with friends/colleagues/teammates often enough…I don’t get that luxury and it drives me insane.

  7. First of all, I have to say thank you for acknowledging ambiversion!! I am an extreme extrovert, and hate the whole “introverts vs. extroverts”debate on the internet, especially because most people are ambiverts. It’s a bell curve, and very few of us are in the extremes. I wish I was an ambivert!

    The line that really caught me was that partners don’t count as “people.” I totally get this. I love my husband dearly, and love when just the two of us hang out, but sometimes, I just need to be around MOAR PEOPLE!!

  8. So very much THIS! My non person is also my husband, who works in much the same way. And I think we are raising our kids to be ambiverts, we really believe in Quality vs Quantity, and our home space is our haven.

    I love the term “maybe” being freeing, and was surprised at the number of comments about it. I wouldn’t imagine using it with out an explanation, or in the case of a catered/reservations situation. (Some consideration of others, please!) But, the people who recharge me, that I love spending time with (be it infrequently,) those who get what having kids is like, and the ones who really understand how I work (and maintain my sanity) know why I use “maybe.”

    One part of the post that I love but really need to improve on is specifying and planning my cave time, too often I spend it plopped in front of the computer. I should plan on more kid activity and garden time (my two favorite recharge activities :D) LOVE THIS!

  9. I loved the part about picking the people-time carefully, and I want to include: pick your people carefully! The older I get, the more okay I feel about having the work friend who stays the work friend, and I’ve stopped fretting that if they get a new job I’ll lose touch, because that person brings value to my life in this moment that has yet to transcend outside out job. And I also make room for the flexibility of that happening, too. But after trying really hard to make room for people who actually make me feel depleted, I’m picking my people more carefully, which allows me to feel like I’m thriving as an ambivert, rather than failing at being an introvert or an extrovert.

  10. I totally relate to this. I’m hugely introverted, except that I’m a teacher, lead teacher for my department, on a variety of committees, and I often feel depressed if I don’t talk (on the phone, I’m pretty remote) with my family or boyfriend every few days. On the other hand, I really value being able to fix myself some spaghetti and binge watch Grimm or Warehouse 13, and when I lived at home while I was getting my degree, I would often disappear to my bedroom for several evenings in a row just to get away from my parents, who are wonderful, but who I sometimes just need to be away from. I don’t live with my boyfriend, but I’m having a difficult time picturing what it will be like when I can’t just disappear into something for 5 evenings in a row.

  11. I learned the word “introvert” quite young and have identified as such for a long time. Thus, my path was completely the opposite of yours – I learned in my early twenties that I NEED PEOPLE TIME. I thought being an introvert meant maximizing alone time would make me more energized and happy, and it was super easy to stay inside and not interact. Of course, I wasn’t using my CaveTime constructively, and I had some realization that I was pretty depressed and would cheer up a lot at department social events. DUH. Socializing and having >1 friend is important!
    I almost need an article that, rather than teaching introverts how to balance their natural outgoing natures with their introversion, teaches introverts to balance their natural avoidant tendencies with a little strategic, productive socializing. Like, why it’s not the end of the world to be a little vulnerable with new people. Or how small talk freaks everyone out, and a bad small talk experience is not a sign from God that you were predestined to live in a cave. Everyone is awkward sometimes, it doesn’t mean your only hobbies can be binge TV, watercolors and cooking for one. Or like, “Making friends, for people who thought they never needed friends but sometimes wish they had more.”

  12. I’m so confused about why this piece seems to imply that ambiverts are a type of introvert. Why is everyone obsessed with being an introvert recently? We’re not “people-loving introverts” anymore than we are “socially-drained extroverts.” We’re just ambiverts. And that’s totally okay. You don’t have to fit into either the introvert or extrovert box.

  13. I definitely always thought I was an introvert until I heard about ambiversion. I love my people time, I just love it in balance with my alone time. I also completely understand the love of “maybe.” Of course it’s best used conscientiously. I don’t say maybe if it’s something important that people need a definite head count for. Like another commenter, my friends get that social events can stress me out, especially lately now that I’ve got work and school along with my social life. My hermit tendencies are more pronounced now that I have more time when I’m required to be around people. Luckily I’m another person who’s partner doesn’t count as “people.” We can just chill and be around each other, and I still get the home time recharge benefits.
    I really love the idea of planning my personal time, rather than just letting it happen. I usually have nights during the week when I’m not going to have plans, but I don’t usually make specific plans for that time. Will definitely have to try that!
    Thanks for the great article!

  14. I really loved reading this article. I was so happy when I started hearing about “ambiverts”! I thought for the longest time I was an extrovert-my mother is definitely an introvert, so comparatively I look extroverted. And I’m friendly and outgoing and enjoyed performing in school, etc.
    I’ve been realizing that I may need some Cave Time to recharge, but I’ve also realized that I don’t have to be alone, so much as not be around people that know me…
    Such as: I can get a bit of “alone” time by driving to the grocery store all by myself (no kids, hubs, or phone calls/friends) it’s enough for me to process my insides but if there are a bunch of strangers around I just avoid them as best I can, while I do my recharging! Just thought I’d add that as an idea for others to try if they like.

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