I recently read a thought-provoking blog post from Sarah Athanas, co-founder of Groundwork in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In it, Athanas asks the question, “Is coworking is suitable for introverts?”
A self-described introvert, Athanas explains that being introverted doesn’t make her averse to people, or to spending time in the company of others.
“It means that I need alone time to recharge,” she writes, “that I prefer one-on-one conversations, and that I almost always feel awkward at parties and networking events.”
To answer her question, Athanas asked introverted Groundwork members to share their thoughts on coworking for introverts.
Here are two of my favorite responses:
There’s a common thread of respect and understanding that members are free to choose whatever works for them. On any particular day, an introvert could be the one organizing an event just as much as an extrovert could be the one working quietly with earbuds in. There isn’t any good or bad, right or wrong — and somehow it all comes together in a flexible, productive and enjoyable environment.
I definitely need time to be alone with my thoughts or to concentrate, but I like the natural interactions that occur in a coworking space. Because it’s a workplace first and foremost, there is no pressure to be social if I’m busy or need time to think. But the informal and structured social opportunities are always there to take advantage of on my own terms.
When I shared the article in last week’s Coworking Out Loud Newsletter, my friend Mara Savina Falstein, the Community & Content Manager at ShareDesk and Optix, replied to the email with some interesting insights of her own, including a reminder that ambiverts can be both introverted and extroverted:
I consider myself quite an ambivert, but my social anxiety has a pretty big impact sometimes on how I form relationships with strangers. I wrote an article in a similar vein after an experience coworking as a drop-in at a new coworking space. Great to see more content around these topics! It’s such a fallacy that introverts don’t like spending time with people.
Mara and I went back and forth a bit about being both introverted and extroverted in our own lives and spaces. Further down the email thread, Mara shared the following gems:
I have a friend who’s a “Quiet Leadership” coach, which means he works with introverts to coach them to be effective leaders without forcing them to resort to “playing” extrovert, which is what many introverts naturally do.
What he’s taught me about one of the big differences between being introverted and extroverted is that it’s actually not about how you feel while you’re at the event, so much as how you feel when you leave. You think of it kind of like a battery. Extroverts gain charge by being in social environments of any type. When they leave a party, they’re energized and lit up and ready for the afterparty. They gain energy by being around others.
Introverts, on the other hand, feel depleted. True introverts can gain lots of enjoyment out of social interactions (especially smaller groups with people who they know well), but after lots of socializing they need to recharge their batteries with solo time, regardless of how much fun they had while they were in the process of socializing.
Mara tied it all up nicely with the following description of her own position on the introvert/extrovert spectrum:
I find I’m firmly in the middle. Some interactions leave me feeling really pumped up, almost caffeinated with excitement about the interaction I just had and I want to immediately go and tell others all about it. However some events (i.e. networking, conferences, especially things that are high on stimulation factor) have me so excited to get home, get into comfy clothes and literally stare at a wall for an hour. Haha.
What about you? Do you define as an introvert or extrovert? What does that look like in your coworking space and community? Let me know in the comments. Thanks to Mara who agreed to having our email back and forth made public. 🙂
Coworking space operators: Subscribe to the Coworking Out Loud Newsletter to get industry insights, resources and content marketing tips delivered to your inbox.
Coworking the Future: 5 Million People will Cowork by 2022
Coworking Etiquette: the Ultimate Guide
39 Things I Love About Coworking