Introverts and COVID-19 – Jennifer Oaten

With current restrictions in place, I feel no guilt about wanting to stay at home on Friday night and sit on the couch, rather than attending a social gathering.  There is no one I have to see, and nowhere I have to go!

The recent upheaval in our social lives has impacted on our social connection and our sense of belonging, so people are finding creative new ways to satisfy this need. For some, living with restrictions might feel like working on a space station while others may feel they have been training for this moment their whole lives. The social connection was one of the main reasons why our girls were so keen to come back to school!

Personality traits

Personality traits exist as a continuum, and the vast majority of us aren’t introverts or extroverts, we generally fall somewhere in the middle, known as an ambivert.  Personality influences how we approach the world and how we respond to different social stimulation.

I consider myself to be an introvert who enjoys time alone. I need time alone to recharge. This doesn’t mean I dislike socialising; it does mean downtime is important. My role is people focussed so I often crave the time and space to sit and be alone as solitude can be therapeutic for me.

One of our teachers recently shared with me that during isolation, she and her sisters were constantly “connecting” online. They are likely to be extroverts who crave the company and friendship of others and found our “stay at home” requirements challenging. Extroverts are energised by time spent with other people and prefer company than being alone.

"I consider myself to be an introvert who enjoys time alone. I need time alone to recharge. This doesn’t mean I dislike socialising, it does mean downtime is important." Jennifer Oaten - Principal

In the past week

In the past week, I have had TEAM meetings with up to 160 WA Catholic School Principals, Zoom meetings with Principals in other Mercy schools across Australia and conducted enrolment interviews via Skype and Facetime with prospective families from both the UK and USA. Friends have downloaded House Party as a way of connecting, while our Zoom meetings with family in America meant we are more connected now than we have ever been before.

I don’t love online meetings, whichever format they take! Others have embraced these new and different ways of connecting socially. It is interesting that with all these online opportunities some participants have much to say, yet others sit very quietly in the background. Some prefer to have their video and microphone muted so they can be present but are very comfortable in the background.

Our girls varied greatly in their reaction to these opportunities, some have thrived while others have been challenged. In the teenage years, friendships and connections are crucial to a sense of identity. While at home some of our girls shared ‘recess time’ together where they used teams to chat, because, for them, social connection is all about being face to face.

Current environment

The current environment is one that rarely exists. Many have had the luxury of having time to contemplate and to be creative, in a quiet space without the interruptions of co-workers or other students. Introverts often enjoy having their own space to process ideas and work undistracted, so for many, it is an ideal environment. Introverts usually prefer to plan their contributions to a conversation or meeting and being able to contribute their thoughts through a chat stream is perfect.

The nature of communication, during this period of social distancing, has enabled introverts time to think and prepare. The depth of sharing and the considered contributions of our senior students, made in an Art TEAMs meeting, while students were working remotely, demonstrated to one of our teachers that this style of discussion could be extremely beneficial to introverts. Something for us to reflect on for the future. Perhaps these strategies will have greater relevance in education in the future in encouraging our quieter students to have a voice.

To end...

Perhaps one of our learnings from this time in isolation is that solitude, time to breathe, time to think, time to be innovative, without the influence of a group could be of great benefit to many of our students and many of us as adults. Each of us is an individual with different social strengths and talents all which should be valued and nourished, particularly the understanding of each other’s preferences.

Suggested reading and viewing

You may like to also like to read and view

Ted Talk- The power of introverts- Susan Cain

Introverts at School – Santa Maria College 

Introverts at School



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