Social Energy Levels

Now that we can go out again, the question becomes how much do we even want to? We’ve talked already about Post Pandemic Time Warping that can make us not want to do much, even though we can. To refresh from the earlier post:

And then I saw this article on the adverse effects of pandemic (and trauma in general) related time warping. From the article:

“All of a sudden, everything went on stop.… We could not be the people we were used to being in the world anymore,” says health psychologist Alison Holman of the University of California, Irvine. “People who experienced temporal disintegration … got stuck in that past experience. They couldn’t put together the flow from past to present to future,” she says.

People got stuck in the past, and a lot of them are still stuck there, even as we are moving on more and more beyond the restrictions of the past.

So, here’s what I’m noticing. A lot of people I know really want to feel in charge of their lives.

“All of a sudden, everything went on stop.” And now y’all want everyone to go from Stop to Go, just because who said so?

Not so fast, not ready yet? Don’t exactly appreciate the demands? Whose life is this anyway?

Maybe we liked some things about that slower pace. Maybe we are not ready to give it all up. Maybe we want to be the ones to decide.

Especially Introverts. Tell me…if you are an introvert, was the pandemic not in some ways an introvert’s dream?

On the other hand, how many of us really know what introvert means? Let’s look at that.

Introversion v Extroversion: 5 Myths

Researcher, author, and Wharton professor, Adam Grant found, back in 2014, that students had grown more comfortable to raise their hands when asked how many in an audience are Introverts.

This he attributed, in large part, to Susan Cain’s 2013 NY Times bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

More recently, I have noticed a certain pride that seems to accompany the self-identification as Introvert. It does sort of convey a certain rugged individualism, more prized in our culture than some others, a kind of self-reliance that I rather like myself.

But that’s one of Adam Grant’s 5 research backed myths, as below.

Myth 1: Extraverts get energy from social interaction, whereas introverts get energy from privately reflecting on their thoughts and feelings.

Myth 2: Introverts are plagued by public speaking anxiety.

Myth 3: Extraverts are better leaders than introverts.

Myth 4: Extraverts are better networkers than introverts.

Myth 5: Extraverts are better salespeople than introverts.

It’s complicated and nuanced, so do have a look at Grant’s article for a deeper understanding of what the research has found.

There is also Cain’s book and author and entrepreneur Matthew Pollard, who wrote The Introvert’s Edge books for introverted business leaders and owners.

Meanwhile, that Myth #1 really interested me because it addresses how introverts can appear in public to have so much social energy that people think they’re extroverts instead.

Grant’s idea is that introverts can enjoy their time and social energy with others too. It’s more that they get overstimulated faster and, therefore, drained and depleted faster as well.

So, a 6th myth might be that it’s just better to be an extravert. Let’s consider that.

Introversion v Extroversion: Advantage

From a hot off-the-press Harvard Business Review article, Stop Telling Introverts to Act like Extroverts:

The modern workplace is built for extroverts. Extroverts are paid more, promoted faster, and rated more positively by their colleagues and managers. As such, it’s hardly surprising that many people say they want to become more extroverted and that employees looking to advance their careers are often encouraged to engage in extroverted activities such as networking and public speaking. But if you’re not a natural extrovert, does putting on an extroverted face really pay off?

What these researchers have found is that introverts do get mood and energy boosts from acting more like more gregarious extroverts, in networking, public speaking, let’s say—but the effects are short-term, more in the moment.

Later on, longer-term effects of behaving too much out of character can really take a mental health toll that can do more harm than good in work and life.

Therefore what?

Spending Social Energy Mindfully: Ambiversion

There is a term “social battery,” referring to the amount of energy we have for socializing. Extraverts tend to have longer, and introverts shorter, batteries.

But not every situation calls for an extroverted approach, even if someone has a long battery and loves to extrovert (can that be a verb?) their way through life.

In fact, there is research to suggest that: “Extroverts had the enthusiasm and assertiveness to get the best out of passive followers, but they hogged the spotlight in ways that stifled the initiative of proactive followers, leaving them discouraged and missing out on their ideas.”

So, what if we all became ambiverts: “An ambivert is someone who exhibits qualities of both introversion and extroversion and can flip into either depending on their mood, context, and goals.”

What if we all took better control of where and how we want to spend our social energy and then when and how we want to restore it?

Not too much. Not too little. But just the right amount of stretch in either direction, so we are doing some good on the need that is before us without getting too wiped out.

Two Tips to Try

1. Notice what is natural for you and where you may want to try something new. Then repeat and repeat until it becomes yours.

From Susan Cain in Quiet:

It’s 2:00 a.m., I can’t sleep, and I want to die. I’m not normally the suicidal type, but this is the night before a big speech and my mind races with horrifying what-if propositions. What if my mouth dries up, and I can’t get any words out? What if I bore the audience? What if I throw up on stage?

Susan is now a global professional speaker, who learned a new trick (public speaking) through practice, and I can tell you firsthand that she is awesome.

2.  If you can help it, do not wait until you are depleted already to refresh and restore your social energy. Plan ahead instead.

Figure out what kinds of situations are most depleting for you—and if you want to attend them anyway because they are aligned with your life vision and goals—pre-schedule breaks, meditation, or that 20 minute nap before 3pm. We are all different. Figure out what does it for you.

Then Practice, Practice, Practice…and let us know what you find.



Photo by Antenna  Unsplash

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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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