I have heard many stories since the beginning of the lockdown period, about how people dealt more or less effectively, some with ease, some with pain, stress and high emotions. One of the aspects I have noticed was how differently introverts and extroverts handled the situation of lockdown and remote working. So I went back for guidance to Susan CAIN’s book “QUIET: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking”.
In her book, she mainly focuses on introverts and how we live (or used to) in an world made for extroverts. Now that our world has been drastically changed in terms of relationships at work and in society, how does each type cope?
I thought I’d use Jung’s definition and apply to our current confinement situation of global remote working and connect to real-life examples.
Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.Carl JUNG
The covid-19 crisis has offered for introverts an opportunity to distance themselves from the world, and have the time and space to introspect. It is seen as a rare occasion to review their priorities, reconnect with themselves, what they want in life, and find some quiet time to do so. Except that for many, having all of their life in one space (partner, kids, work etc.) is actually not creating the space they used to have while commuting or traveling between places for example.
Advice for introverts sharing their home with family: create and protect a time-space each day to isolate yourself. I suggest at least once in the morning for preparing for your day and once in the evening to debrief with yourself.
Advice for managers of introverts: ensure your employees are not stuck all day in Zoom meetings. It is draining for anyone, but especially for introverts. Keep your big meetings short and to the point, just enough time to ensuring people connect, are clear about their missions and feel supported by the community. Favor one-to-one meetings with them if necessary.
The social distancing and isolation have been harder for extroverts as connecting with people is their main source of energy. For them, remote working doesn’t really cut it. I have heard many stories about extroverts being depressed, especially the ones who live alone. Fortunately social media and virtual meeting rooms have allowed for some visual connection at work with colleagues and in personal life with friends and family. Everyone reporting an increase of exchanges with people they usually had some but not that much contact with. As extroverts plunge into the events, they are the ones who are more involved and emotional about the « new » situation. They have also a tendency to be a bit more vocal about their feelings so chances are you have been hearing them a lot in the media and during conf calls.
Advice for extroverts stuck at home alone: when you are not busy with work, occupy your mind with varied activities. Connect with people like you with preference for using visual means. Do not get stuck in your head. Airbnb experience online can be an interesting source of new activities with people.
Advice for managers of extroverts: ensure you have a visual contact with them every day, or at least regularly. Debrief their experience of the situation constructively, acknowledging the emotions without dwelling on them, and addressing the underlying messages to address their real needs. Do not focus your team meetings on business and performance only, you can dedicate the first 15mins for informal exchange around coffee, like you would do in normal setting at the office.
Introvert or extrovert, please be self-aware to detect your own signs of emotional response and pay attention to your friends, family members and colleagues to ensure they get what they need whether it is more contact or more space-time to themselves.