In The Empath’s Survival Guide, I emphasize that empaths and highly sensitive people have different styles of socializing and interacting with the world. Most empaths are introverted, though some are extroverted. Other empaths called ambiverts have qualities of both. It’s important to notice what your own styles are so you can honor them. Each day, your style may shift according to your own energy level or needs.Tracking these fluctuations is a form of self-care that will keep you balanced.
Introverted empaths, like me, have a minimal tolerance for socializing and small talk. They tend to be quieter at gatherings and prefer leaving early. Often they prefer to take their own cars so they don’t have to feel trapped or dependent on others for a ride. As an introverted empath, I love my close circle of friends and mostly stay away from big parties. Noisy restaurants or loud gatherings can be over-stimulating for my sensitive system. A common challenge for introverted empaths is that they may stay too long at gatherings just to be polite, though they are tired and would rather go home. As an introvert, I can enjoy socializing in groups for usually two to three hours before I feel drained. My friends all know this about me and don’t take it personally when I excuse myself early. Learning the skill of leaving a party or gathering tactfully or unnoticed has been called making a “French Exit.”
In contrast, extroverted empaths are more verbal and interactive when socializing. They enjoy the ongoing banter with others more than introverted empaths do. They also can stay longer in social situations without getting exhausted or overstimulated. Extroverted empaths still need to practice diligent self-care and make time to decompress after a high-stimulus situation to keep themselves balance. So ongoing self-awareness and self-care is vital.
Empaths can also be ambiverts. As a psychiatrist, I’m often asked if an empath can exhibit both introversion and extroversion. The answer is “yes.” Ambiverts can embody the qualities of both an introvert and extrovert. They are capable of displaying either style of relating–depending on the situation, their energy level and mood. Ambiverts are great at listening to a friend in need, as are introverts. At times, they also may love being in high energy social interactions with a group of people, something an introverted empath might not want to do.
Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert or an ambivert, it’s important to know your limits when it comes to socializing. It’s liberating to have self-care strategies in place for navigating social situations. For instance, ask yourself, “What is my ideal time limit to socialize?” Also ask, “Do I prefer smaller gatherings to large groups? Do I prefer going to an event with others, driving yourself, or taking an Uber, taxi, or Lyft?” If your partner or friends like to stay longer, you may want to arrange your own transportation so you’re not stuck. Clarifying your needs will strengthen your self-care program and help you feel more comfortable in the world.
Set this intention from Thriving as an Empath
To relieve the pressure in social situations, I will recognize my empathic needs and act on them. I don’t have to be stuck anywhere if I’m uncomfortable.