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Do People Need People?

Most commentators take it for granted that human beings are social animals. We need to rub up against each other to get along the world – and feel happy. 

But is that always true? Maybe not. There might be groups of people who really do thrive in solitude, even if their lives seem dominated by aloneness in the outside world. 

Science And Socializing

Scientific journal articles and reports continually tout the benefits of regular socializing. We need other people in our lives to avoid depression, or so the story goes. 

For many individuals, this makes perfect sense. They feel good when they spend time with loved ones. They imagine their lives without the people they care about around them and, naturally, assume they would be miserable. Therefore, all the science makes a lot of sense. 

But, as with all population studies, they only apply to the majority. There are always exceptions, people on the tail ends of the distribution who think and act differently. 

Introverts And Jung

Carl Jung introduced the concept of the introvert, or a person who requires time away from other people to be by themselves and recharge their batteries. This individual can socialize briefly, but then they need to return to their den to hibernate for a while. 

Introverts are masters of being alone. Unlike the general population, time spent by themselves feels good.

However, even the most ardent of introverts can struggle without other people. While they don’t like big crowds or talking about their jobs to large groups of people, they do keep intimate friends. They need the company of others.

The Loners

However, there is another class of people that you might call loners. These individuals don’t want or need the company of others to feel good, though they will accept them when they are around. And these are the most difficult for the public and science to understand. We have this collective idea that we’re all required by each other. But the truth is that that isn’t always the case. Some people are simply okay being by themselves, in their own skin, doing their own thing. 

Loners aren’t necessarily dysfunctional, either. They’re not just trying to get away from the world because they don’t trust others or they have profound emotional conflict. They simply enjoy their own company and, often, don’t notice they are indulging in it. 

This state of mind seems quite alien to a large chunk of the population. Most people require continual stimulation to feel good. They want others around them to take their minds off whatever thoughts they are having and feel good. 

But loners never have this sense. They don’t feel the need to distract themselves using the company of others. They’re okay by themselves. 

What Does This Mean For Business? 

The notion that people have different tolerance levels for social interactions is only now creeping into business. In the past, the needs of production were so great that it didn’t really matter if someone was an introvert. They just had to knuckle down and do their job, even if rubbing up against others was a wretched experience. 

Now, though, employers are more sanguine about the reality of personalities and their effect on other people. Introverts can’t thrive in working environments dominated by constant social interactions and after-work drinks. It’s a nightmare for them, even if extroverts on the team love it. 

Therefore, anyone looking to improve corporate team efficiency needs to be careful. Individuals are not the same when it comes to their desire to interact with others. 

Loners are a special case, particularly enlightened ones. These individuals seem perfectly at ease in their own bodies. They don’t have any ticks or social awkwardness. But, at the same time, they could spend a thousand years by themselves and not even notice. 

This type of individual is incredibly rare in corporate organizations. Most don’t seek out regular employment at all and, instead, look for other opportunities that are more in keeping with their personalities. However, if you do have them on your team, you’ll want to engage them. These personalities don’t see the point of social interactions unless they provide some sort of emotional reward or psychological benefit. 

Businesses, therefore, should do the following: 

  1. Generate value in relationships wherever possible. Colleagues should have the impression that they can rely on each other to get stuff done. They should also have confidence in each others’ abilities. 
  2. Everyone should have a valuable function. This point relates to the first. However, it is particularly important for the loners and introverts on their team. They need to feel like they can offer value as well as receive it to feel fulfilled at work. If they don’t have that, they’ll pursue other projects. 
  3. Train teams together. Coaching everyone, in the same way, is a great way to bring individuals closer together. People are much less likely to feel left out or separate from the corporate entity if they are all in the same boat. 
  4. Provide alone time. Corporations shouldn’t worship at the altar of extraversion. It isn’t necessary and, when you really look at it in depth, it doesn’t help a great deal. Therefore, provide plenty of time for introverts and loners to find themselves away from the corporate body. Don’t insist on a monoculture or one that praises those with the biggest social appetites. Just look for who is creating value in your organization and how you can help them. 

Wrapping Up

Of course, if you notice people in your organization deteriorating and they want to spend more time alone, it could indicate a problem. Substance abuse, poor sleep, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and depression can turn people into wallflowers. 

But, in general, there’s a point to be made here for organizations: some people really don’t need you! They don’t need the drinks after work, the Christmas parties, or even the emails congratulating them on a job well done. 

Organizations need to find these individuals and cater to them, though. That’s because they tend to be the most innovative and productive

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