Guest Post by Pallavi Shrivastava, MRICS LEED AP ID+C, Head of Workplace Consulting, India, JLL Work Dynamics

The COVID-19 pandemic caused unique times of isolation, lockdowns, and separation. Every way which we have conditioned ourselves to be social was challenged.

It was anticipated that introverts would thrive during this prolonged period of isolation more than their extrovert counterparts. As a bona-fide certified member of the Introverts community, I can safely say, it is simply untrue. Despite navigating all the coping mechanisms with all that has unfolded in the last 24 months, I could not wait to see and meet 3-dimensional people. The basic human need of feeling connected to other human beings became more accentuated in absence of it. So, despite all the assumptions, pandemic-induced isolation has impacted introverts just as hard. Introverts have just come up with a lot more elaborate inward-looking mental exploration to navigate and cope with these strange and often disorienting times.

No Introvert Advantage

It was predicted that introverts would thrive and do better during isolations and the solitary life of the pandemic, yet mostly everyone is feeling a sense of relief at the signs of social life reviving.

As many countries reduced their social distancing and employees have begun to return to their offices, many introverts have been pleasantly surprised by their increased opportunities to meet people face-to-face. Many organizations are still navigating the right format of return to office and continue to allow some remote and hybrid work. This is enabling employees to ease into the transition.

The study conducted by psychologists Danièle Gubler and Katja Schlegel, from the University of Bern, in the earlier part of the pandemic, suggested that extroverts and introverts had almost the same level of impact with their loneliness, anxiety and depression. Everyone seemed to be suffering similarly. No amount of technology could save us from our human needs of connection, being seen, heard and validated. As soon as we were deprived of human connection, we suffered. No degree of algorithms, social media followers, hashtags, Insta stories, Netflix binge and perpetual virtual connection could uproot our need of human proximity. So, it is not really about introverts and extroverts but rather an overall environment that is strange, unnatural, and mired with uncertainty and doubts. And even the most resilient people have had their moments of crumbling.

We have heard on multiple occasions, even from the most private and less social people, that the pandemic-induced circumstances and way of living has been hard on them. As humans, we derive our energy and social meaning from each other. Communities were the starting point for any civilization and togetherness was its building block. In absence of togetherness, we feel disoriented, confused, foggy and perplexed. Togetherness provides a social structure and cues of references and association, yes, even to introverts. The pandemic has taken that very structure of relatability which we build ourselves around. As we know and perceive, the rhythm of life is togetherness. In all its messy forms it is still wonderfully human.

A lot of people have intuited that extroverts had a more difficult time adjusting to not being social and being isolated but introverts faced with unpredictable circumstances like these felt just as much exhaustion. It appears that living like this, perpetually in an uncertain phase is draining, for all kinds of people, introverts, extroverts or ambiverts. The degree may vary, and the impact may vary. As we moved ahead into uncertain time of surges and isolations, it became clear that it is important to cultivate deeper and meaningful relationships to nourish us.

There is a certain degree of disconnectedness in our online connected presence.

Instead of debating where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, we should look at the multifaceted nature of our personalities and how individuals have had very different responses and coping strategies to deal with these times. Human behavior is a lot more complex, and it only gets more complex as each takes his or her own individual approach to mental health, wellbeing, optimism, and strategies to traverse the survival journey. It most certainly is okay to be not okay all the time and have moments of doubts, self-reflection, and vulnerability. The truth remains that the pandemic has changed us forever (introverts and extroverts alike).

The Nature-Nurture debate in psychology is an age-old deliberation regarding which plays a greater role, inherited (personality type you are born with) or nurture, where life experiences play a significant role in shaping your personality and responses. The answer is not either/or but yes/and. Instead of relying on extreme views of buckets, psychologists are now more and more interested in how nature and nurture scenarios play out across a wide spectrum. And rightfully so.

This is probably the best way forward. Instead of getting caught up in overly simplistic definitions of introverts and extroverts, it will be crucial to look at the whole spectrum and vignettes of introverts, extroverts and ambiverts in varying contexts. Personality psychologists acknowledge that we can feel sociable at 5pm and in keen need of solitary times by 9pm in the same day, and these fluctuations are situation and day dependent. This highlights the need to move away from fixed to variable personalities and conversations about them.

Closing this article with the quote:

Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything. ~Robert Rubin, In an Uncertain World.

Pallavi Shrivastava – MRICS LEED AP ID+C is Head of Workplace Consulting, India, at JLL Work Dynamics.