These days, most people know that introverts — whether they are quiet or loud, shy or outgoing — require adequate amounts of alone time in order to recharge their mental and emotional batteries.
However, it’s a little known fact that — in addition to alone time — introverts also require territory. Introverts are territorial people. Make your cat jokes, if you must.
You’ve seen them at Starbucks with their telltale noise-cancelling headphones, or at the very least, earbuds. I have a friend who uses public transportation a lot and never leaves home without her earbuds. Earbuds create a small personal territory, a private space. Many people wear earbuds publicly in order to create a subtle personal boundary and may get irritated when people strike up a conversation with them, despite the earbuds. What's intended by well-meaning extraverts as friendly sociability is often felt by introverts as an invasion of privacy. “But… I was wearing my earbuds!?!”
Extraverts, although they might appreciate having their own space, and may very well need this too from time to time, usually do just fine in shared spaces with others, like shared bedrooms or shared office spaces. This setup allows for spontaneous conversation and even interruption, which are often welcomed by extraverts. They are often energized by these types of interactions. But this practice will drain an introvert faster than Snapchat drains my iPhone battery.
It’s because this setup never allows an introvert to enter into that oh-so-replenishing "flow state."
Introverts truly need a space to call their own, whether that’s an office, a bedroom, a corner in the attic, whatever. They need a space that’s truly and only theirs, a place where they are free to focus for long periods of time and enter into that much-needed flow state. It’s in this state that they are able to fully recharge, use their cognitive powers to the best of their ability, and ultimately, you’ll get their best work. Personal physical space is not a “nice to have;” it’s a “need to have.” Territory is a necessity, just like alone time.
I used to work in a giant, open-air, shared office space. You could see everyone’s desk from anywhere in the huge, open room. The extraverts who designed it loved it and thrived in it. The openness, the noise, the constant interruptions, all those opportunities for spontaneous community dialogue and brainstorming — it was called an “energizing” space. And for the extraverts there, it was energizing, for the most part. (There are always exceptions, of course.)
But for us introverts, this space was a daily nightmare. With nowhere to escape except a bathroom stall, most of us went home utterly exhausted every. single. day. (Insider scoop: That’s why introverts in crowded offices pee so often.)
As I write this article, it’s the last day of winter break for my three kiddos. Tomorrow they all head back to school. And although we’ve had a wonderful time of rest and fun together, it’s always especially obvious to me during these long breaks that I don’t actually have a space to call my own. I don’t have my own bedroom, although all three of my kids do. I don’t have my own office, nor my own music studio (my kids and hubby all use it too), nor my own closet or bathroom. All of these spaces I share with at least one other person. Even my van is not my own as I have to adjust the seat and mirror after every time my husband drives it. And, of course, there are those three lovely ginger headed girls who are in there with me oh so often. As I look around, I can't point to any one space and say, "That's my space."
One of my goals for this year is to create a workable space to call my own. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy; it just has to be mine. If this is something you're craving too, whether you are an introvert or an extravert, maybe you’ll consider doing the same.
Oh, and Happy World Introvert Day! Maybe we should all celebrate together! Online. In our own spaces.
© 2017 Michele Kus, M.A.