Readers, writers, and anyone who loves a good story have probably read Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. This classic work is celebrated by scholars and anyone who has picked up the book in the last few centuries.
I don’t know what you believe, but I believe that everyone has their own personal hell while living on Earth. These hells manifest in the form of regret, depression, addiction, greed, and other vices that eventually control our daily lives.
When you’re an introvert, you can become alienated from your friends, family, and coworkers. Strangers oftentimes think you’re rude for being quiet. People just don’t understand the struggles that come with being an introvert.
Last year I discovered that I’m heavily introverted. I just thought I was shy because of my upbringing. I like talking with people and I love helping people; the problem is my battery drains very fast in these situations and I’m petrified to initiate conversation. When I worked in radio I would go to a live broadcast and feel completely drained once I got in my car to go home. I completed maybe 2–3 hours of work and always wondered why I felt so exhausted.
Conversations can be daunting depending on the type of platform that’s used. For example, I’m more likely to text you than pick up the phone and call. That’s not to say I never call people. Texting and even writing letters is just easier, and better, forms of communication for me. They’re not overwhelming after a long day at the office where you’re surrounded by people, phone calls, and “urgent” emails.
Here are my seven levels of communication hell for an introvert, ranked from the easiest to the most anxiety-inducing.
7 Levels of Communication Hell for an Introvert
1. Social Media
This is the easiest level of communication for an introvert. It’s not overwhelming because you can log out of your social media apps at any given time. Social media allowed me to create relationships, both business and personal, because there wasn’t a huge commitment. It’s a great way to establish connections with friends that don’t take a huge chunk of energy away from you.
Social media is an introvert’s best friend. There’s no pressure to respond to anything as long as you’re not using it for professional purposes. Most introverts pull out their phones when things get chaotic in real life (i.e. too many people talking at once, at a party, etc.) so social media can be a light-hearted way of maintaining your sanity while fielding the desire to connect.
Social media and texting are separate because of one thing: You can’t delete your text message app from your phone. Texting can sometimes cause anxiety for an introvert if it’s a message from an employer or someone you don’t have an answer for at the moment.
However, texting is my favorite form of communication with friends and family. It still allows me to check in and see how everyone is doing throughout the week. Texting also doesn’t require a lot of energy on your end. That is, unless it’s one of those texts that are urgent or from an employer. Then texting becomes a mess as you try to figure out what to say on the spot.
If you’re anything like me, I hate having email notifications. Actually, seeing any notification on my phone or computer bothers me. When I operated an indie hip-hop blog, I could feel myself getting anxious when I couldn’t get my inbox to zero at the end of the night. I tried as hard as I could to go through as many submissions as possible. Turns out, this was just as draining as trying to talk with people in person.
Email is a layer deeper than texting because this is the main source of communication that you’ll experience through your job. Piles and piles of emails come in every day, no matter what line of work you’re in. For an introvert, it can become tiresome fast if you’re constantly responding to inquiries from your boss or coworkers.
A solution that has worked for me is to only check my email three to four times per day. Once after I get to work, once after lunch, and once before I leave for the day. This allows me to still respond to the needs of my job, but it also helps me maintain sanity and control my energy levels so I can focus more on creating content, research, and analysis.
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4. Phone Calls
Now we’re getting down to the real layers of communication hell for an introvert. Unexpected phone calls rarely get answered by me. This makes me feel guilty sometimes but I also need to manage my energy level to focus on work and my family.
I compare a phone call to watching your life bar being drained during a boss battle in a video game. You start out with a full health bar, or near full, only to get hit with lots of damage during the course of the fight. For an introvert, as a phone conversation continues, you can feel your energy being drained. This isn’t the fault of the person you’re talking to; introverts thrive more when conversations are had on their terms.
5. In-Person Meeting
Social media is full of memes related to how people feel about canceling plans. I relate to these just as much as any other introvert. Anytime someone cancels plans and allows me to stay in for the night, I take it as a sign that the universe loves me.
I’m not saying that I don’t like hanging out with friends or family. Introverts can only take so much of it before it becomes exhausting. If you’re not an introvert, you don’t understand the energy that it takes to have conversations. Even with your closest family and friends.
There were times when I would spend all day at my best friend’s house watching football, or we would go out with my cousin to the bars. At first, these seemed like great ideas. However, the more time I spent out or surrounded by people, the more I could feel myself becoming tired. By the end of the night, I just wanted to sit alone in silence to try to get some energy back.
6. Networking Event
I worked at a job that required us to attend one networking event every month. The goal was to speak with two people and get two business cards to help grow the company. I never returned with business cards.
Introverts aren’t known for their conversation starting skills. I went to a handful of these events, skipping as many as I could. The events I went to, I made sure to tag along with a coworker in order to avoid starting a conversation with a complete stranger.
Networking events are a nightmare for an introvert. Most of these happen in a bar setting, which is already chaos. Mix that with having to speak to strangers, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
During my radio career, I attended a few showcases that record labels put on for radio stations in my surrounding geographic area. The main goal for the label was to expose the on-air personalities to their upcoming talent. Even though I was around people in my field, it was still hard for me to muster up the courage to strike up a conversation. It became easier after everyone started drinking, but the first hour was always the most nerve-wracking.
7. Public Speaking
We’ve reached the final — and worst — level of communication hell. The previous six levels are absolutely nothing compared to making an introvert speak in public.
When I worked in radio, I was petrified of speaking in public at first. It took years for me to become comfortable with this. Even when I would host my show live on location, I tried to slip away to the most private corner I could find in order to record my on-air breaks.
If you’re like me, public speaking causes the most anxiety because you can’t stop thinking about messing up. Your brain keeps making up scenarios where you stumble over your words and everyone laughs at you. You’re nervous every day leading up to your public speaking engagement. That energy doubles the day you have to actually do it.
Are there other levels of communication hell for an introvert that I missed? I’d love to know your thoughts and which levels give you the most anxiety.
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