A tweet from @tomandlorenzo, responding to a tweet touting an O magazine article about how introverts can become more social, read, “Just once I’d like to see an article like, ‘Extroverted? Here’s Some Tips on How to Be Quiet and Reflective.’”
Brilliant. And so right on.
Introverts are constantly being schooled in how to be different from how we are. And to a degree, I’m OK with that. It benefits us all to be able to adapt to whatever life requires of us at any given moment. However, Tom & Lorenzo are exactly right — I’ve never seen an article teaching extroverts how to calm down.
I don’t suggest that extroverts are incapable of calming down any more than I think introverts are incapable of being social. We all have the capacity for both. But our culture thinks nothing about affecting a patronizing you-can-do-better tone with introverts who want only to live true to our nature while letting extroverts just chatter blithely through life without a thought to the alternative.
So let’s talk for once about what extroverts can learn from introverts about living quietly. Feel free to add your tips in the comments.
1. Read a book for one hour. Set a timer if you must, to keep you honest. Do nothing else for that hour, except maybe sip a cup of tea. No texting, no emailing, no Twitter or Facebook. Leave your phone in another room or turn it off; whatever it takes. Just sit in a comfortable chair and read. For a solid hour.
2. Take a solo, silent hike. No companion. No earbuds. Nothing but you and nature. Look at the sun in the trees. Listen to your footsteps, your breath, birdsong, breeze, the rustles of small critters in the undergrowth. Let your mind wander where it will. You are permitted to talk to yourself or sing out loud, but try to be a little bit embarrassed if someone catches you.
3. Invite a friend to lunch or dinner. Just one friend. Come prepared with some deep questions to ask. (Here’s a list of suggestions.) After you ask a question, listen as hard as you can to the answer. Resist the urge to jump in and explain how you would answer the question until the other person has clearly exhausted all that he or she has to say on the topic. If you must interrupt, do so only to ask leading questions relevant to the subject. When it’s your turn to talk, say as much as necessary to make your point and no more. Then ask another question and listen hard.
4. Eat a meal in a restaurant alone, without chatting anyone up. Use your phone if you like, but only to read—not to text or otherwise communicate with anyone. A book also is fine, or you can just sit quietly and eat and watch the activity around you (graduate-level introverting).
5. Go to a movie alone. Lose yourself in the story. Afterwards, think about the movie before you discuss it with anyone.
6. Step to the side at a party. You don’t have to leave the spotlight the whole time—we don’t want you to hurt yourself. But take, say, 15 minutes to just sit or stand to one side and survey the room. Note who the extroverts are, note who the introverts are, see if you can glean what sort of interactions are happening among people. Look at the bookshelves. Pet the dog. Maybe pop into the bathroom to relish some silence.
7. Don't go to the party at all. Also high-level introverting, but try it next time there's a big party where your presence won't be particularly missed. Just don't go. Then, to follow through the introvert way, put on stretchy pants and hit the couch. Although as an extrovert, you might want to make alternate plans the first time you try this and work your way up to stretchy pants. Baby steps.
8. Don’t make weekend plans. Not Friday happy hour, not Saturday night clubbing, not Sunday morning brunch. Just you and nothing to do. Sleep late. Netflix and chill alone. Eat whatever you feel like whenever you feel like. Perhaps try some of the previous suggestions—a solo hike or meal. See who you are when you aren’t performing for other people.
Extroverts, how do you feel after trying some of these things? Peaceful or restless?