Many introverts overlook—or are simply unable to put their finger on—the importance of depth in their daily lives. Big mistake!
Years ago, when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I would take long, invigorating power walks with my friend and mentor Bob.
The two of us never had a formal agenda for these excursions, which we came to refer to as “Bob Walks.” But we would typically end up trekking three or four miles and having a meaningful, focused, intense conversation about something unfailingly substantive: a political matter, a religious question, a work-related project, an episode of “The Wonder Years,” or virtually anything that involved psychology and people’s motivations.
I was fully aware at the time of just how much I loved these walks and how much I thrived on them.
But the question of why never occurred to me back then.
I just knew I couldn’t get enough of these experiences, and that time flew as they were happening; an hour went by in a minute. It was like we had been transported to another dimension.
“I Need a Bob Walk!”
It wasn’t uncommon for me to send Bob an email (this was long before smartphones and texting) and say, “I need a Bob Walk!”
It always seemed like he needed one too, as he rarely turned down the invitation.
So we would meet at the park and, if it was summer, Bob would shed his tennis shoes and his black socks. Then he’d walk barefoot on the hot pavement, somehow not burning his feet to smithereens, and share his wisdom with me while I strode beside him—shoes firmly on—and soaked it all in.
I would contribute a little twenty-something wisdom of my own when I could, and I’d share my ideas about the matters under discussion, too. It wasn’t a one-sided lecture by any means. The dynamic was, in the very best sense, teacher-student: caring, willing-to-share-the-stage teacher with hungry, wanting-to-learn-everything-possible student.
It was magic.
Introverts Crave Depth
I do ask that question now, and as I look back on it all, I’m able to see what made my walks with Bob so energizing.
For me at least, it was because the Bob Walks, like my entire relationship with Bob himself, were built on an allure that virtually every introvert like me lives for, even if we don’t often specifically understand it or articulate it:
We introverts thrive on depth.
Depth, too, is critical to introvert well-being.
When Depth Is Lacking
Often it’s hard to know what you really need in life until you’re feeling lousy because you don’t have it, or enough of it.
So it is for introverts and depth, in several respects.
You will start to feel antsy when, for example, you’re not having enough one-on-one, uninterrupted, thought-provoking, deep conversations with the key people in your life: your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends.
You’ll be frustrated and cranky when most or all of your conversations are transactional or gossipy or, worst of all, nothing more than mere small talk.
You may also notice a depth shortage in the experiential parts of your life. You may find, for instance, that you somehow just don’t end up with the time or the energy to dig deeply into a topic or an activity or a project that is begging you to sink your teeth into it.
Perhaps you buy yourself a new camera for your birthday, and you even splurge for a couple of additional lenses, all in hopes of going out into the woods as autumn unfolds and shooting some amazing pictures of the fall foliage. You envision yourself becoming one with both the camera and the scenery, losing yourself in the moment and the vivid colors.
Then, months later, you open your closet door and see your camera still languishing in the box as a blizzard howls outside your window.
Goodbye, depth experience.
And hello disappointment—unless you commit to pursuing, and protecting, depth in your life the same way you respect your other introvert-related needs.
Have Deep Conversations
Compared to extroverts, we introverts really do benefit from depth and quality in our social interactions, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology entitled “Is Well-Being Associated with the Quantity and Quality of Social Interactions?“
So set yourself up for deep conversations.
Arrange one-on-one or small-group meetings with the people you want to talk to, or attend lectures and similar events where such conversations are bound to occur.
Look for people with whom substantive conversations just seem to flow naturally.
And pick meaningful topics of conversation so that you can exercise your introvert muscles of reflection and analysis, too.
Pursue Activities in Depth
We all have some interest, some hobby, some something we’ve wanted to pursue more diligently but somehow haven’t.
Pursue it now, and let yourself pursue it the introvert’s way: with depth and purpose.
If you’re the one with that new camera in your closet, buy a photography book or two. Take a class to learn about lighting and composition. Participate in some photography-related chats on social media.
Then go start shooting.
Block Interruptions, Too
Interruptions kill both deep conversations and deep pursuits.
So control them to the degree possible.
Find quiet, distraction-free places for your activities. Lose the cell phone and the Internet. Tell people you’re unavailable for a few hours unless it’s an emergency.
Because if you keep missing out on depth in your life, you’ll be the one who ends up paying.