At a school as large and bustling like UW, it can be especially overwhelming and draining for the common introvert. And thus, although introverts can play the role of an extrovert and interact with people, they will eventually need to separate themselves and have some alone time to recharge. There can be some misconceptions around this idea, as well as some parts that can be more flushed out for people to understand why introverts need time alone.
1. Introverts aren’t all shy
One common misconception is the idea that introverts are shy or anti-social. The concept of introversion is completely different from that of having social skills — someone can have exceptional social skills, but at the end of the day, still need to be alone. It’s possible that it’s more likely for someone who’s extroverted to have better social skills due to the fact that they enjoy interacting with others more, and can handle more stimulation, so they practice talking to others more than an introvert might — however, I’m sure we’ve all met extroverts who are more shy or extroverts who can’t pick up social cues as well.
As someone who leans more towards the side of introversion, I still really love talking to people and interacting. I can get tired and sad if I don’t socialize for a while, and when I do end up talking to people, I feel much more energized. Thus, Introversion and extroversion isn’t black and white, but rather is more of a spectrum.
2. What is your most natural state?
If a so called ‘introvert’ seems to occasionally feel the same drain and tiredness that an extrovert feels after not talking to people for a while, how do they even know that they’re an introvert?
In my experience, I know that I’m more introverted simply because I feel most myself when I’m alone. So even though I love talking to people and catching up with others, I know that it isn’t the most natural state for me to be. It’s kind of like you’re performing for people, and although it’s fun, it’s also tiring and you can only keep it up for a limited amount of time before you have to get off stage and rest. An introvert can like the spotlight, but typically don’t want to be in it for that long; whereas, an extrovert can thrive off being in the spotlight and ‘performing’ for others.
3. Too much stimulation
In the end, what makes me need to be alone is that I just can no longer respond to the outside world very well – which isn’t fun for anyone. For instance, if I’m feeling drained after being around people all day, the next day I’m still a little quiet. Someone might ask me a question, and it’s like the pathway of understanding that question, thinking of the answer, and getting myself to speak the answer (and be expressive to not seem like a zombie) is much slower than usual and just takes more effort. And so towards a question I might normally respond to quickly or elaborate my answer on, I’m more brief and slower.
I’ve noticed with myself and my friends that having too much stimulation makes it so that our responses to the stimulation eventually flat-line, and it just takes too much energy to respond to everything. So even though an introvert might not want to cancel or decline a friend to hang out, they know that they won’t be very fun if they’re in that state of being slower or more quiet. Some people can push themselves to keep ‘performing’ and that can come from practice, but that likely takes a lot of energy and some discomfort to keep rallying!
4. Solving problems inside your head
In the end, introverts tend to live inside their heads. Sometimes it isn’t about energy, but about reflecting on recent events or some challenging math problem or ideas about a fictional world.
There are also times when introverts want to be alone to reflect on recent events, and in the process, figure out where to go from there. As such, they will purposefully be alone just to think or figure out how they feel about something.
Introverts also tend to work best alone, as they solve problems by thinking it through in their heads. There are some extroverts that tend to think out loud and use others as a springboard for their thoughts or to work out a problem. For instance, in group quizzes, those extroverts tend to want to speak out loud their ideas and feel comfortable doing so. However, an introvert might be used to working out problems in their head, and have that process interrupted during group quizzes which require that collaborative teamwork to figure out a problem. Such an introvert might prefer to work alone at their own pace rather than join a study group.
Introverts also just enjoy being alone! It’s fun and comfortable, and they can be most themselves without worrying about acting the right way.
Hopefully this clarifies some of the ideas around introversion, and that it makes sense now why your introverted friend isn’t up for hanging out sometimes!