An Introvert's Guide to Isolation
Let's avoid binary thinking for a moment, shall we? Like gender, no one entity is truly one thing or another: good or evil, black or white, introvert or extrovert. There is the beautiful gradient in between the extremes where we all float around and co-mingle, at least to the extent to which we can tolerate.
I, by and large, consider myself an introvert, although the intensity of my introversion has mellowed over the years. When it comes to the workplace, I tend to hit the ground running from a business perspective, but it takes me several months to really warm up from a social standpoint. Typically, by month six I am in my prime and ready to socialize with my co-workers beyond my day-to-day team. Any guesses when my sixth month at The Many occurred?
And so here is the problem: In the moment in which I usually find my stride, I'm now pacing my 11-by-12-foot room and connecting with my colleagues virtually. Isolation may seem like an introvert's dream, but it does present its own set of challenges. Spending extensive time alone can be mind-numbingly boring. There are only so many hours in the day when you can stew in your own thoughts. Even introverts miss connection with another human being.
Over the past however many weeks of isolation, I've picked up a few tricks that are helping me thrive in this new time.
Turn your video on during conferencing.
When you dial in to your conference call, it's easy to sit in the background and take in the conversation instead of participating. By enabling your video function, you are able to connect with clients and co-workers in a more intentional way. Bonus tip: This also helps you read cues from body language that would be otherwise non-apparent over the phone.
Join those silly Slack channels.
Or however your workplace keeps things light in a very serious period of our lives. Some of the best parts of my day involve taking a quick break to scroll through the various conversations surrounding Tiger King, Photoshop challenges, and more. Make it a goal over to shift from bystander to participant in these lighthearted conversations.
Overcommunicate with your team.
Let your team know what deliverables you are jamming through and reach out over chat with any questions that pop up. Remember there were a lot of small conversations we had in the office that are now lost in the WFH universe. Of course there is a balance, and you don't need to let the world know you are stepping away from your computer to run to the bathroom—just find the right balance for you and your team.
Change up where you e-meet.
The current environment is ever changing, but at the time of this writing, the public can still go for walks while practicing physical distancing. Take your one-on-one FaceTime meeting on your walk, be it outdoors or on your treadmill. Or move from your desk to your living room to mimic changing rooms for meetings. Find ways to keep things fresh and interesting, which will help you stay attentive and engaged in your interactions.
Try out different methods for connecting with your co-workers that push your boundaries as an introvert. Join the happy hour karaoke Zoom meeting. Host a video conference cooking lesson and teach your co-workers a family recipe. Get weird. Working in advertising opens us up to a world of brilliant and strange people, all of whom are equally self-quarantined and looking for some form of stimulation. Put yourself out there in a way that feels manageable, yet still pushes you to grow as an introverted individual.
This is such an uncertain time, but if there's one thing I've taken away from this experience thus far, it's that humans are (more or less) social creatures. We want to engage, and we want to connect. Finding ways to do so within the confines of our current situation may be challenging. But it is also essential. And I firmly believe we can find ways to socially thrive in our isolation.