IS there anything more horrifying than the idea that you might actually bore people?
We all dread getting stuck in the kitchen with the dull guy at work, or having to chat to that tedious mum at the school gates, but just imagine if people thought that about you. Ouch.
Because they are not the life and soul of every party, people who are introverted are often accused of being a little, well, boring. But with 50% of Brits these days considering themselves introverts*, is it time to rethink what it really means, and whether there’s anything wrong with being a bit duller than our extrovert friends?
Chartered psychologist Dr Audrey Tang, author of The Leader’s Guide To Resilience argues that society needs both the energy of the extrovert and the more pensive side of the introvert in order to operate effectively.
Here, Audrey reveals the perks of being a wallflower and how to reap the rewards…
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The Benefits Of Being ‘Boring’
Don’t let anyone tell you that being an introvert is a problem – there can in fact be many advantages.
Zero pressure to be the centre of attention: There can be a real expectation on extroverts to entertain others, when maybe they don’t want to be the performing monkey all the time. That pressure can result in stress and anxiety.
If you’ve got a reputation for being more of an introvert, then you’re rarely going to be called upon to amuse others.
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Higher self-motivation: Introverts don’t necessarily need other people to motivate them. If they want to do something, they don’t need to be told to do so – they just go and find out how. They may find it harder to ask for help, though.
Contentment with going solo: Introverts tend not to feel bad when deciding to have lunch alone, spending time people-watching over a cup of coffee, or taking a walk on their own. It doesn’t feel like a chore – for them, it’s a way of recharging.
Not getting sucked into social media stress: Introverts are potentially less affected by social media competition, because they’re quite content doing what they’re doing. The extrovert may have that extra pressure of: “I must post this and be seen to be that person.”
Better connections: Extroverts might know lots of people, but they can be around them and still feel lonely. Meanwhile, introverts may only have one or two friends, but feel much more comfortable in their company.
A greater sense of happiness and fulfilment: Positive psychology says there are three key things that make us feel fulfilled:
- Being in a state of flow (the feeling of being “in the zone”)
- Having meaning and purpose
- Healthy relationships
All three of the above often come more easily to the introverted. First, an introvert can get lost in a state of flow – where you’re fully absorbed and focused on a particular task – quite easily, because they work well independently and in quiet spaces.
While the extrovert needs to calm their mind first or requires other people around them to get in the zone and access that flow.
Secondly, when an introvert is in a state of flow, working on a particular task, it’s easier for them to find meaning and purpose in what they’re doing, because they know what they’re working towards.
Finally, with healthy relationships, it’s sometimes easier to coordinate one or two friends than it is to organise a party.
So even though the introvert may stick with only a couple of people, it’s likely they see them more often. That can be a problem for the extrovert who wants to go out with more people all of the time.
How To Find Balance
Ideally we’d all have some introverted and some extroverted elements to each of us.
We can all benefit from having the opposite experience sometimes, so it’s up to the introverts to find ways of asserting their voice, but also up to the extroverts to find ways of saying: “I need some time to myself.”
So how can we do that? Ask yourself: “How am I best energised? With whom? And how can I make more time for this?” Then go and do it.
Tips For Introverts
Write down ideas to voice: In a brainstorming session, extroverts will simply shout things out as they come to them.
As an introvert, if you have your ideas written in front of you so that you can read them out, then you won’t need to feel nervous or worried about saying the wrong thing. That can help you voice it and become more assertive.
Treat small talk as a skill: Have a list of things that you could chat to someone about. It might feel silly and prescriptive, but it stops the feeling of panic that you don’t know what to say. I
f you have a list ready in your head, you know you can talk about the weather, what was on TV last night, the other person’s interests. Having it ready takes away some of the panic of needing to think on the spot.
Find like-minded souls: Join a club or volunteer somewhere that suits your values. For introverts, it’s helpful to be around people who are similar, because again, it takes away the panic of making conversation.
Tips For Extroverts
Set boundaries: It’s worth remembering that being charismatic attracts people, so you need to set your own boundaries for self-care and know when to say no.
Make sure you’ve got substance: It’s easy for extroverts to overwhelm people with their enthusiasm and ideas, but you’ve got to have the focus and grit to back it up.
Be wary of your own charisma: Charisma is a power – make sure that people aren’t just going along with you because they are caught up in the moment. Think through actions and consequences. If you’re an extrovert, you’re likely to be a bit of an instigator.
If you end up encouraging people to do things you haven’t thought through, you might both end up in a situation where you’re up a creek without a paddle.
Shake Off Self-Doubt:You might now know that being “boring” is OK, but if you’ve internalised a lot of negativity around the word, or have been bullied for being boring, your self-esteem may have taken a severe hit.
That can come from someone close to you calling you it a lot. Unfortunately, these words can wound us deeply. In some cases, it may be that you need to explore professional support, such as talking therapies, to deal with this.
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If you’ve used the word “boring” to describe the things you don’t like about yourself – and thereby discounted the joys of introversion – you need to really think about what you actually mean by it.
Some people will say: “I’m so boring, I don’t have any interests.” In that case, you know what you need to work on. Or if they say: “People don’t engage in conversation with me.” Then work on your conversation skills. Once you break them down, you can identify the things you can change.
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