Many people are naturally introverted—they gain energy while spending time alone. Others are naturally extroverted—they become energized by spending time with others. However, both introverts and extroverts can often benefit from finding a healthy balance between spending time with others and alone.
Introverts who spend too much time socializing and spending time with others may become depleted and drained. In the words of Henri J.M. Nouwen they come home “with a feeling that something precious has been taken away from them or that holy ground has been trodden upon.” They need to find ways to nourish their desire for solitude.
On the other hand, introverts who spend too much time alone tend to become increasingly uncomfortable and awkward around other people. Thus, to avoid becoming a recluse, it’s important to balance their preference for being alone with some ongoing association and interaction with others.
In contrast, extroverts who spend an excessive amount of time socializing often lose a sense of groundedness and depth. When they are forced to spend time alone they tend to feel listless and forlorn. An evening alone can become downright painful and scary because they have lost touch with their own self. It’s like being stuck with an unapproachable stranger.
Nourishing our natural preferences is important, but we should beware of becoming extravagantly imbalanced. It’s ideal if we can avoid both extremes of onesided socializing and avoiding others at all cost.
Notwithstanding personality differences, people who feel drained from entertaining others are perhaps putting too much effort into their interactions. The notion of having to “entertain others” may be part of the problem.
Some people think that they have to make sure everyone in a given situation is enraptured, fascinated, or amused. They may take over the spot light in an effort to enthrall and enchant others. Ironically, such forced attempts to non-stop “entertain” others can actually cause others to feel exhausted and ignored! When entertainment is a one-way profusion of speech or energy, it often neglects spontaneous interaction, and may ignore the audience’s reactions, thoughts, and even their very presence.
Being aware and open
A truly enriching relationship between people does not involve one person entertaining the other. Rather, it is based on meaningful connection, which involves being present, paying attention, and responding with authenticity. This is not to say that entertaining story-telling should be avoided. However, relating with others including story telling is more rewarding and less exhausting if you focus on being present with others rather than on entertaining them. In new age terms, it helps to allow the back and forth flow of energy, thoughts, and words.
If you notice people aren’t responsive to your “entertaining” monologue, try asking them questions. Paying attention to the other person allows you to interact with spontaneous, relevant and responsive ideas and humor that makes interaction truly interesting and alive. Cultivating genuine, heart-felt and mindful connection with others can benefit us all, no matter how extroverted or introverted our tendency.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD