Most people expect a book about introverts to include stories about wanting to leave parties early and despising small talk. Not this one. The Quiet Rise of Introverts : 8 Practices for Living and Loving in a Noisy World is a book about loving solitude, but also craving connection. It is about honoring our nature while creating secure, healthy relationships.
As an introvert myself and author of The Quiet Rise of Introverts, I’ve read, written about and studied all of the qualities of introversion. I understand we are sensitive to stimulation and often need solitude to recharge. I know we need extra time to formulate responses to questions. I even know our brains are chemically different than extroverts. But… bottom line, I have found we need relationships as much as we need downtime and our relationships shape us as much as our temperament.
Where it gets tough
The trouble arises when we find ourselves in mismatched relationships where we can’t be ourselves. We set aside our natures for what our partner or family expects. This can make us feel alone. The Quiet Rise of Introverts includes my stories about growing up as an introvert in a primarily extroverted family. In the book, I talk about my marriage to a ‘take charge’ man, the high achieving/fast paced lifestyle and family we built together and the lessons learned from them. Within my families, there were times I felt separate and exhausted.
Maintaining feelings of security and competence
The tag line for my blog (space2live) used to be: Pay attention. Reflect. Evolve. I still feel that is an appropriate message for the site, but I feel the need to expand it to include relationships. Perhaps: Relationships. Reflect. Evolve.
UCLA clinical professor of psychiatry and author, Dr. Dan Siegel says how we take in our experience of others through reflection, is the root of resilience. If we have good, safe, open experiences with others, we feel competent and connected. Even if we have a negative experience with someone, if we can reflect and make sense of it by considering different perspectives or understanding their relationship history, then we maintain feelings of security and competence. Being able to process other’s behavior through our autobiographically tainted lens and come out feeling at ease, is resilience.
Even though I believe relationships are important, our trek toward resilience begins within ourselves. To maintain integrity within a relationship and not lose ourselves, we have to know ourselves. This is something at which introverts and the highly sensitive can excel.
In Quiet Rise, I give specific actions steps at the end of each chapter to help the reader move from reading or thinking about a practice to actually implementing it in their lives. It’s scary for introverts to move out of their heads into the real world, but it is also amazingly rewarding. In a compromise, I came up with action steps for waking up and fostering self-awareness that include reflecting and practicing.
Action steps to self-awareness
- Notice the places where you feel a tension or dissonance in your life. Do you tense up when a certain person enters the room? Do you feel blue on Sunday nights because you have to go to work the next morning? Are you tired of watching so much TV?
- Engage in and protect your solitude. See time alone as vital to your well-being, just like sleep or exercise. Explain to your loved ones that solitude is a preservation of you, not a rejection of them.
- Practice intuitive writing. While alone or in a group, use a prompt such as, “The last time I was angry…” to start a minimum of ten minutes of uncensored writing. Do not stop writing the whole time. Do not edit. Let the subconscious become conscious. Share with others if you feel comfortable.
- Pay attention. At night as you lie in bed, picture a scene from the day and describe it in words in your head, including details from all five senses.
- Notice where you feel energized or at home. Who, if anyone, is with you? List your relationships that feel most nurturing and non-judgmental. Spend more time with them. Try new things with these safe people. People we love and admire positively influence our behavior and character.
- Foster self-respect. Put yourself in a humbling experience and let yourself make mistakes and survive. Instead of watching Netflix all day, offer to help someone and come through for them. Instead of competing with someone, try collaborating with them instead.
Though knowing ourselves and understanding our sensitive natures is crucial to thriving relationships, it is not enough. We have to learn to be both courageous with our authenticity and considerate with our expression of it. We have to honor our temperament but also use respect and responsiveness to honor our partner’s experience. Feeling reassured and heard makes for secure and resilient individuals and relationships.
Action steps to calm each other’s nervous systems
Here are some of the action steps outlined in The Quiet Rise of Introverts for calming our partner’s nervous system and creating connection:
- Decide which partner is most secure at the moment. They set aside any of their issues and become the soother.
- The soother acts quickly and gives positive reassurance right away. Ex. (Using verbal reassurance), “I want to work through this until we both feel satisfied.”
- Use touch, a hug, eye contact, or physical closeness if your partner is most reassured by non-verbal contact. Use heartfelt words and affirmations to comfort your partner if they prefer verbal soothing. Ex. “I love you and I will love you when we get through this obstacle.”
- Boost empathy through oxytocin production. Increase production of oxytocin by touching your partner through massages, long hugs, handholding or by having orgasms (preferably together). Even petting animals can increase oxytocin production in humans. Eye gazing is another way to create oxytocin and connection.
- When a partner bids for your attention respond quickly. Turn toward them or move toward them to demonstrate presence. Look for ways to appreciate and express gratitude for your relationship.
- Assume your partner has good intentions and give them the benefit of the doubt more often than criticizing them.
When we combine our inner thoughts with our external relationships and come out feeling good and at ease, that is resilience.
May we all rise to this level of comfort and security.
Where do you feel the most at home? Which relationships have most shaped who you are? Would you like to feel more competent and connected?