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Social Distancing: Different Impacts on Extroverts and Introverts

When social distancing became our way of life this winter, the balance of power shifted in our society. We sought work-arounds for Meetup groups, Toastmasters, people working from home, and groups of friends looked for new ways to socialize. A number of people tried Zoom for the first time, and an interesting thing happened.

Virtual Meetings . . . and They’re Good

First off, I will admit to being an introvert. Zoom isn’t new to me. I do plenty of podcasts on it for my business, Stroke Forward. I was pleased when many people in my circle started using Zoom as a way to stay in touch.

Wednesday I had a lovely video conference with some friends (instead of the dinner we try to have every month). It was the first time many of my friends had tried Zoom. We liked it so much, we made reservations to chat next week. Thinking about that next time together gives us something tangible to look forward to on our calendars. Although we didn’t meet in person, we got the opportunity to talk about our lows and highs like we do at our dinners. I will be honest. I did not think of what it did to introverts and extroverts at the time.

I got up the next day and Zoomed in to the Northern Virginia Business Referral Roundtable (NVBBR). They were giving Zoom a try for the first time. It would be their initial virtual meeting. Would it be attended? I had no idea. I dialed in to support the club’s founders, Darren Marquardt (an extrovert) and Marvin Powell (an introvert).

The Meetup actually worked like, well, their regular meetings. We started off with our elevator pitches and Darren kept it moving. He told important pieces of information about the people who had previously attended. We talked about collaboration, a main point for doing great business. I felt fabulous to be part of this group. And then Darren said something that made me stop and re-think how I was feeling.

Darren said,"I am going crazy!"

That’s when my vision shifted, and I tried to see the world from his viewpoint.

Extroverts Feel Lost

The next morning, I attended the NVBRR Friday roundtable virtually. We had only four members, so I was able to explore how social distancing impacts all of us. It is important to understand the shock of what’s happening to our society.

Darren told us, “Yes, I am sitting next to Marvin, but there is still a sense of being alone, which is weird for me. Yesterday I was at home. I was comfortable in my own space, but there’s still that feeling of, ‘I’ve got people here but they’re not really here.’ Yes, the Zoom call was satisfying. I was actually interacting with people again.’”

What I took from that: The Zoom meetings might energize him, but it doesn’t sustain him because it is not a true meeting. There are no people to gain energy from. When the Zoom meeting is over, Darren is alone. Physical contact and body language so important to extroverts are gone. He is a performer without a stage and without an audience. Ouch.

Home for me is more than a place to sleep, but as he talked, I could see the differences more clearly in our lives. I don’t need other people to motivate me. My endorphin high comes from within me, not without me. But here is an extremely motivated guy telling me that his engine stops when he is all alone.

“Even now, I have to leave my apartment to be within reaching distance of people because otherwise, I wind up sleeping the whole time. That is what my house is for—sleeping,” Darren explained.

Later he said, “I don’t do well at home because I get distracted by my personal stuff. I miss being in my office. I’ve got no one to bounce ideas off of. I didn’t know how much I would miss it until I can’t go to my office.”

Introverts Have a Different Pain

Ok. I had a sense of the pain Darren (and other extroverts feel) so I decided to ask Marvin what social distancing had done to his own life. Interestingly, he talked about being home with a wife (who is an introvert) and a college-aged daughter who came home because dorms closed. Too much goes on in his own residence for him to be wholly comfortable. Marvin looks for somewhere else to be and sometimes sits down in an empty hotel lobby.

When it came to Zoom Marvin said, “As an introvert, I don’t like being on camera. I would like to turn it off. But I understand to have the face to face recognition and see the non-verbal queues because it gives more communication than we actually recognize. Most of our communication is nonverbal so we can understand your gestures and verbal communication, we can understand more the quality of your character by seeing you then just listening to your message you want to deliver.”

Seven percent of language consists of the words we use. Thirty-eight percent of language is vocal variety. Think pitch, tone, rate, volume, intonation, and rhythm. A whopping fifty-five percent of communication consists of non-verbal cues like posture, gestures, and facial expressions.

“While I am an introvert, I have trained myself over the years to express myself a lot more,” continued Marvin. When he brings new ideas to light, Marvin takes the time to listen because communication is a two-way street. I find that so important because that is so critical for today’s business leaders.

Another Introvert's Perspective

Our meeting had a fourth member, Alex Llora. Alex told us that he doesn’t mind sitting around the table with ten-twelve people, but being in a meeting with a large group of people is difficult for him. I get what he’s saying because I am the same way. A limited amount of people is more manageable for an introvert.

Alex also works from home and keeps his office door shut so that he is not disturbed. It’s not easy right now. He has two kids at home while brick and mortar schools are shut down. The smaller child doesn't quite know what work is about, so he sometimes interrupts Alex. With a wife that is also talking on the phone, it gets a little too busy.

Connect with Someone

At the end of this conversation, I had a better understanding of the predicament. Oddly, I found both the conditions extroverts and the introverts have unique implications. I picked up the phone and started to communicate the people I know, introvert or extrovert because they both need something different. I invite you to call, text, or Zoom someone you know because they might be lonely during our nation’s social distancing. Your call may bring some happiness.

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