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How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

As an introvert, I value my tendency to reflect and think deeply and to crave substantial connections. I love to listen. In fact, part of my decision to become a psychotherapist was based on my affinity for listening and understanding rather than talking. However, no matter how much more comfortable it might feel as an introvert to listen, it is necessary on occasion to be able to talk, and to talk with some authority, feeling able to voice your opinion when you need to. Over time it can become frustrating and depleting for introverts if we find that we’re not able to express ourselves much at all – or that when we do, no-one is listening!

When it comes to friends and partners, you can choose who you spend time with and can navigate those relationships in your own time and in your own way. But when it comes to relationships that we can’t choose, such as colleagues or family members, trying to be heard amongst loud groups or people who are extroverts can be exhausting.

It’s vital not to try to override your introvert qualities for the sake of being heard, but being introverted rarely sets us up to ‘shout the loudest’. So, being an introvert but wanting to be heard can sometimes feel impossible. An introvert needs to have time to consider, reflect and prepare first means that by the time we’re ready to contribute a well thought-out comment your extrovert colleague has probably made their point and moved the conversation on to a different topic!

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Here are some tips, from one introvert to another, on how to be heard and find your voice in group settings and around extroverts.

Pick your battles – learn how to interrupt 

Interrupting is difficult for introverts. As an introverted psychotherapist, I’ve struggled for years to get comfortable with interrupting people at salient moments to add in something of benefit. I’m still not comfortable with it overall, however. Interrupting goes against the grain for introverts but sometimes it’s necessary to interrupt in order to be heard. Other times, however, it’s simply not worth it. Well-timed interruption, or intelligent interrupting, is a skill that can be learnt and is a skill that is sometimes vital if you want to get in a word in with some more extrovert or chatty counterparts.

I’m not suggesting that interrupting is always the way to go, but if you don’t find a way to do it from time to time it’s likely that you’ll be railroaded in most conversations. I know we introverts prefer to listen but sometimes we need to communicate some of our thoughts so that we don’t feel perpetually overlooked or excluded, and so that an alternative perspective is offered. Interrupt when you either really want to contribute something or when you’re starting to feel downtrodden or used as a sounding board.

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If there’s no natural pause just start talking…as I write that it goes against everything I know and treasure about relationships. It seems unbelievably rude to just start talking over someone, however, I’ve come to realise that the reason I find it such an awful concept is because I would hate for someone to interrupt me harshly. However, people have different levels of sensitivity and not everyone will be  as offended by being interrupted as you might assume. I’ve found that extroverts or very talkative people often don’t actually mind being interrupted (this was quite a revelation for me following years of withholding information for fear of being rude!). Test the waters a bit for yourself. Now and then interrupt someone when they’re not leaving a gap for you to talk and observe their response.

Work with your introvert strengths

Generally as introverts we tend to find giving instant responses in conversation challenging. Contributing to conversations off the cuff isn’t usually easy because it doesn’t allow any time for the reflection and thought that we crave. As Susan Cain writes about introverts, “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.”

Marti Olsen Laney has written about the reason introverts take longer to respond saying that “it’s because they have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli because introverts process information through a pathway associated with long term memory and planning, so it’s more complicated (and takes longer) for introverts to process events interactions and their surroundings.” This longer processing can slow down input into conversations. Quick responses and starting up new topics of conversation might not be your strong suit but you will probably find that you’re naturally curious and have questions during most interactions. The tendency for introverts to ask why and to want to understand is one of our most valuable social assets.

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If contributing new information or telling a story doesn’t feel natural (and it almost never does!) then work with your strengths and ask questions instead. It’s a good way to contribute and become part of group discussions in a way that’s less jarring than trying to match our extrovert counterparts. Asking questions gets you heard in a more subtle way than trying to interject with a captivating story or by speaking the loudest. It can help you to influence the direction of your conversations whilst playing to your strengths.

Another introvert strength is that we often find solace in writing. Depending on the circumstances a well-timed and thought through email can be more beneficial that a face to face conversation. Although emails or texts can’t replace face to face interactions, there is definitely a time and a place to get your message across by writing it versus not communicating your point at all.

Be patient 

It’s often the case that extroverts seem to make quick gains in situations that require social interaction; in the workplace, when socialising and at family functions. Introvert qualities, however, like listening, reflecting, considering and thinking deeply all contribute to playing the long game instead. It will probably be hard to always be heard sometimes, but your actions and the way you might naturally execute your plans will allow you to be seen fully at some point rather than just heard instantly. Be patient as the introvert route is likely to take longer. As Sophia Dembling writes “Extroverts sparkle—introverts glow”.

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Strength isn’t always found in numbers

It’s likely that you naturally form bonds one on one with people rather than in groups. If groups aren’t your thing then don’t expect yourself to have a loud voice in a group. If, however, you find it frustrating because decisions are made without you in group settings, try to connect with group ‘influencers’ instead. You can be the voice in the ear of someone who is happy to ‘shout the loudest’ and spread the word. If commanding authority in a group is likely to take you hours to build up to and a few days to recover from then buddying up with someone who naturally likes get their point across can be a less draining way of getting your point out into the group ether!

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

More by this author

Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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