Things could be opening up soon, but it looks like physical distancing is here to stay. Regardless of where you land on the introvert/extrovert scale, COVID-19 has been a challenge. Without notice, many of us went from working in offices filled with people, restaurants, bars, concerts, sporting events, festivals, group exercising and conferences to THIS?!?
The first few weeks of social distancing felt like a special kind of HELL.
In case you haven’t guessed, I am a full-blown extrovert. And for some reason my best friends, partner and maybe even my rescue dog tend to be introverts. During my decade as a nonprofit executive director, I took an embarrassing number of tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® that confirmed what my family and friends could have told me for free.
Disclaimer: I am skeptical of tests and labels made up by folks with implicit bias (and an abhorrent lack of inclusion), but there is something to be said when my scores on the extroversion scale were consistent. For years, people told me introversion and extroversion were about charisma versus shyness. WRONG! One of my coaches helped me realize that it’s often about energy. For extroverts, that means being around people.
The Myers-Briggs testing and others have gotten much better in their explanations over the years:
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
The following statements generally apply to me:
- I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
- I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
- I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
- I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
- Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.
Social distancing isn’t a new challenge for me. A few years ago, I made a major move to an area where I knew a total of THREE people, including my partner who traveled three to five days a week. I went from managing two nonprofit offices, pop-up family functions, the nonprofit fundraising scene and a vibrant social life to running to the door to greet the delivery people (damn those folks are fast).
Moving helped me build a tool kit for this unprecedented time of social distancing. Now friends from on all sides of the extrovert spectrum are offering advice on how to handle the cancellation culture and stay-at-home orders.
A few of those recommendations:
Create public art: My friend at a local housing agency is sheltering in place with his family, including two teens who argue constantly. They decided to get out of the house and do sidewalk art. He was inspired by folks across the country using sidewalk chalk pictures to thank medical professionals, law enforcement, delivery persons and other “essential” employees. For those who don’t have a sidewalk, window art is another way to communicate with the outside world. In his words: “Nothing settles an argument over a borrowed hairbrush like thanking people who are risking their lives every day.” If you’re feeling up to it, organize a social distancing gallery map online. Also check out: Museum asks people to recreate art from household items while social distancing and it’s delightful. Maybe start your own art challenge?!?
Check-in with a friend: Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing. We are all missing that human contact right now, but it’s harder for extroverts. Fear, anxiety, and boredom are among many of the emotions people are feeling with every minute. Throughout this process I’ve checked in with introverts and extroverts alike with a range of feelings. You could be fine one day and tearful the next. When I moved to “isolation” a few years ago, I had friends who would check-in with me daily. We commited to be honest. Key advice for anyone struggling: Don’t suffer in silence.
Have “non-work related” video calls: Julia Campbell made a good point during a chat last week. She noted that some folks (even extroverts) are probably tired of Zoom calls by the end of the day. I felt that way last week but found a second wind with an online toast that included a group of friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I borrowed some advice from Gretchen Rubin, author of “Outer Order, Inner Calm” and host of the “Happier” podcast. In terms of social connection, “nothing can beat real life,” she said, but the second-best way to interact can be through images. There are plenty of apps offering video chat or live broadcast functions, ranging from Skype, Zoom to House Party. Use one to connect with a friend you haven’t seen in a while! She recommended “lots of touches” — virtually, of course — including writing cards to friends, hosting a virtual family reunion and even basic lifestyle hacks like sending more voice memos rather than text messages. Julia made a great point worthy of sharing, which is to encourage extroverts to actually listen! You might be tired because you’re always the ones talking?
Upskill: I’ve reached out to my favorite self-care enthusiast Beth Kanter. Beth’s advice was to take an online class. She’s been gathering an open Google Document with tons of COVID-19 related resources for nonprofit staffers. This is the perfect time for online learning and trainings. She also noted there are “so many free classes available now … not just lectures.” Here’s a link to a few of those free resources and job postings.
Be positive when you can: You don’t need to be fake but try to focus on positive things like what you have (family, friends, fur buddies, a job) rather than what you lost. Ever see a series of posts from a friend and wonder “are they okay?” That was me a few years ago. Are you that friend? It’s okay. For a while, I made it a goal to post something positive online every single day. It was a challenge by aforementioned author Gretchen Rubin. Her advice is “reimagine what you want and get out in front of it.”
Join/host online group activities: I’ve personally enjoyed connecting with friends through online parties. A few weeks ago, Dave Matthews (a fave of mine and Kivi’s) kicked off the Verizon’s weekly Pay it Forward Live series to raise money for small businesses. Listening online with friends gave me a much needed extrovert fix. Some friends and family commented through text and social media when he started playing “Grey Street,” a song that inspired our publishing company’s name Bold & Bright Media.
Also, Kishshana Palmer’s Friday Night Karaoke hosted by the Rooted Collaborative: A Community for Women of Color Fundraising Professionals has been giving-me-life! I showed up on the call with NO makeup. I’m not ashamed to say… it was that kind of day. Raise your hand if you’re “over” getting all dressed up for Zoom.
From gaming to online scavenger hunts to writers group, there are so many creative options out there.
Allow yourself to be unproductive: I initially thought this time at home would mean getting to that long “to-do list.” My home is messier than ever. After entire days of not getting dressed, articles like “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” by Scott Berinato really helped me name the sadness. In Candice Marie Benbow’s “You’re Allowed to Grieve the Year That Would’ve Been,” Benbow reminds us that it’s okay to take time to process those losses. Resist what we call in racial equity training the “Oppression Olympics.” Suffering is not a competative sport. “We need to move away from hierarchies of loss,” says licensed therapist and motivational speaker Thema Bryant-Davis. The myth that we should hold someone else’s suffering as greater than ours prevents us from honoring our own emotions as valid.
Keep your head up, dear extroverted friend! This year looks nothing like we thought it would, but with a little creativity it can also become a time to refresh and enjoy the things we’ve taken for granted. A few of my extroverted folks helped me create a “Stay at Home” BINGO game for you. We can chat about it on Twitter at thewritefolks!