For many years, I thought the types of interactions that tire me out are mainly the ones that involve many awkward silences and not too many topics of conversations that can be discussed.
Lately, however, I have noticed that even when a social interaction is had in a chaotic environment, the social interaction requires a lot more energy. There are times I have met friends who I am highly comfortable with at home and outside. The difference in the energy I use up is very obvious to me in the way I feel after we part ways.
In situations where I meet a friend at a busy mall or coffee shop, I get tired within 2 hours and am ready to return home. For one, it takes more energy to focus on my friend while there are a number of other environmental stimuli thrown at me. Second, I find that just being in a place where there is a lot of activity drains me of energy as opposed to meeting at home or in a quieter less frequented public space.
With coronavirus, there are also additional stressors when meeting outside. In Singapore, it is compulsory to keep masks on other than when you eat at a restaurant, which means that for the most part, talking and being clearly heard requires a lot more physical effort than it used to minus the masks. For me, I also try to ensure I am not standing too close to people / sitting at tables that are very close to each other just as an extra precaution. Not to mention, I am constantly sanitising my hands when I touch something.
Realising that my energy drain often comes not from people but from crowded spaces makes me wonder where I really fall on the introversion scale. Many a times, introverts assume that if social interactions tire them out quickly, they are rightly categorised as an introvert. However, what if it isn't the social interaction that tires them out? What if it's the chaos in the places they tend to meet? Or if their outing involves physical exertion, what if it's the physical fatigue that is tiring them out?
Other factors come in too - I find that there are certain types of interactions that drain me more than others, no matter what the location. When I meet friends who want to spend time gaming, for example, I get tired much faster. Similarly for small talk - I tend to get tired when the conversation revolves around nothing meaningful in particular. However, in situations where I am in a meaningful conversation or doing an activity I enjoy with other people, very little of my energy is drained. In fact, often times I feel energised after such interactions.
So before we label ourselves and let that dictate our day to day choices, I would highly recommend thinking through what type of interactions are energising versus draining, because that could go very far in enhancing one's quality of life and social interactions!