The research is clear: Making extra small talk or raising your hand for networking opportunities can help introverts find more energy, better social connections and higher levels of happiness.
But if you aren’t an outgoing extrovert, you can’t fake being one forever. Over time, it’ll leave you feeling drained and unable to engage in the workplace interactions that help you feel like part of the team, according to multiple studies.
Without careful recovery, you’ll become “incapable of keeping [your] energy levels up,” according to Mary Shapiro, an adjunct faculty member at the Simmons University School of Business who teaches about introversion and leadership.
That could mean missing out on everything from friendships to networking and career growth opportunities. It’s a tricky line to walk, gaining the short-term benefits without overdoing it and burning yourself out.
Here’s how to strike the right balance, experts say.
Figure out which activities drain you
Everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum between introversion and extroversion, says Evy Kuijpers, a postdoctoral researcher who’s studied introversion at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Extroverts may feel recharged and revitalized after some small talk, while introverts are ready to lie down, even if they enjoyed those conversations just as much. Of course, not every stereotypically extroverted action drains introverts: Some might love rowdy happy hours or off-the-cuff brainstorms.
It all comes down to what drains or energizes you. “Acting like an extrovert” might just mean reaching out to others more often, despite knowing you typically find those interaction tiring.
A simple calculation can help you determine when to put yourself out there and when to pull back, Shapiro says.
If being more outgoing will help you achieve a specific goal, like getting added to a new project at work, feel free to act the part. If it won’t, and you’re simply doing it to keep up with your colleagues, it’s fine to take a step back.
Learn when to recharge
Healthy workplaces value everyone, Shapiro notes — and if you’re constantly changing who you are, there’s likely a time limit on how long you’ll be able to stand it. So, on any given day, take stock of how your “introverted” or “extroverted” actions made you feel.
Maybe a few minutes of water cooler talk really boosted your mood, or a group meeting left you ready to contribute more. But whenever you feel an extroverted behavior draining you, find some time to take a break.
Shapiro recommends bestselling author Susan Cain’s advice: Find “restorative niches,” or places you can recharge after depleting all your social energy. Maybe it’s a contemplative car ride home, or journaling at night. Find what works for you and get comfortable retreating there whenever you need it.
Over time, the strategy is one of your best defenses against energy drainage, Kuijpers says. Just don’t wait until you’re already feeling exhausted to “cure” your fatigue, she adds: Make a plan ahead of time for when you’ll make an effort to be more outgoing, and how you’ll recover afterward.
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