19. Significant Social Environment

19. Significant Social Environment

Everyone has a “people fuel tank” which holds their fuel for engaging in social interaction. Some people have a tank that can hold 55 gallons of people fuel. Others are designed with a very small tank that holds at most 5 gallons of people fuel.  Because people are designed differently, we need to appreciate and accommodate those differences. We can’t assume that everyone has the average 23 gallons of people fuel. What’s too much social interaction for one may be just right or too little for another.

Introspective individuals are not being hostile when they want some time alone; they are simply evidencing their design to enjoy their own company. They are made to rejuvenate inside themselves. When they do that, they’re more receptive to human interaction.  Conversely, it is not unusual if a Gregarious person never wants to be alone; they’re designed to thrive and revive with the stimulation of people, around noise, next to other human heartbeats.

At an office party, you can spot a Gregarious colleague who bounces from one person to another.  You’ll have to look a little harder, but you’ll see an Introspective colleague who gets with one person and spends the entire party engaging in a one-on-one stimulating conversation.

Here, you need to schedule your week around your design. If you’re a private person, carve out time for introspection. If you’re a Gregarious person, surround yourself with friends who champion you and with whom you can play, grow, rest, feel safe, clarify, and interact.

Your Significant Social Environment is where you find your greatest freedom, safety and rewards in life. It’s where your unique abilities are best clarified, evaluated and refreshed. When you inventory this area of your life, the question to ask yourself is: “Am I getting the people time or private time I need to rejuvenate, restore my enthusiasm, and prevent burnout?” These benefits are important.

Of course, there are many different capacities and situations. Investigate to gauge your capacity, and relate it to your living style. Questions to ask yourself include: Are my relationships toxic for me? Are they moving me forward? Do I have balance in this area? Am I too withdrawn?  Am I at every party, but not getting anything done? It’s worthwhile asking these filter questions to create awareness and clarity in this area of your life.

As a sad example, I had an Introspective client who created very little time to rejuvenate herself. When I asked about her significant relationships, she replied that she was allergic to her friends. Initially, I thought it was a bizarre statement. Then, I realized that, as an Introspective woman, she hadn’t celebrated her introspection and created an environment for it. Therefore, she resented her friends for depriving her of much-needed private time.

Whether you are Introspective, Gregarious, or Introspective-Relational, it’s worth repeating that no ability operates in a vacuum.  It is possible to be a truly Introspective person and yet have one or more relational abilities. And this can cause internal conflict. You may feel you need your own company and yet you also need the company of others occasionally. You’re truly Introspective, but you like people and like to help others. That’s very natural. Similarly, you may be a Gregarious person and have a learning style that requires you to remove yourself from distractions.

The key to determining your Significant Social Environment is determining what environment allows you to rejuvenate.


Introspective individuals value their time alone. They’re motivated to designate significant time for personal reflection and meditation. They’re designed to enjoy their own company with a few close friends. It’s important that they allow themselves time to reflect and create a heightened perspective of their work and life. They’re at home in their private world and don’t tend to feel isolated or lonely when working alone.

They need their private space and time. It’s in their best interests to have a place of refuge where they can escape on a regular basis from people-related demands. They’re able to contribute clarity and insight when they maintain this private sanctuary. Without it, their relationships and world become toxic for them. They must carve out private time in their daily and weekly schedules.

They need a work environment that permits private space and regular intervals of private time so they can refuel their people tank.


Introspective-Relational people are ideally suited for people-saturated, service-driven industries. They come to life when they’re around people. They only require a small amount of private time to refuel their energies and process their own thoughts.

Because they revive around people, they need to remain focused relationally rather than on projects. They atrophy emotionally without a goodly amount of people interaction. They find significance in both private and public time, so they need to balance the two. They gain clarity both by having meaningful encounters with others and by spending time alone. Without maintaining a balance, they may become disoriented. Introspective-Relational people can become toxic if they do not spend meaningful private time.


Gregarious individuals thrive and revive around other people, lots of people. They are in heaven in a crowded room. Without lots of people interaction, they can become depressed. It is important that their work and play involve interaction with many people. They value time spent with others and are motivated by relationships, social events, and other highly relational activities. They work well in environments requiring interaction and contribute warmth, humor and vitality.

If called on to work by themselves, they may get bored easily and find inappropriate ways to socialize. They must find appropriate times for socializing and make the most of those opportunities. They need to remember that life does not consist entirely of socializing and that they must get down to work occasionally.

They gain clarity and perspective when they interact with people. They need meaningful social events and activities. If they don’t schedule regular people times, life may become stale for them. Regularly rewarding themselves with social events, parties, and gatherings will keep them energized.

It is a mistake to assume that people-lovers can’t burnout on people.  They must reduceexposure to anyone toxic for them, such as fearful or complaining clients or colleagues. To protect against people burnout, they must socialize with friends who aren’t business-related. Depression negatively impacts their interactions and sphere of influence.  To counteract it, they can consciously choose to be around positive people.


How does your Significant Social Environment affect relationships? Again, we’re back to awareness of who you are and with whom you’re in a relationship. This applies professionally and personally.  You’re not going to get others to change to be like you. People in good relationships learn to negotiate, and vice versa. My wife is Introspective and I’m Gregarious.  We’ve negotiated in our relationship to take two cars to a party. Joan says hello, visits an hour or two, and says goodbye. I close the party down. When she’s done socializing, she leaves in her car, and I leave much later in mine. And it’s okay because we know each other’s needs and have learned to accommodate. On Saturday morning, we may have breakfast together; I am dismissed for the day; and she goes to walk the dogs or work on crafts.

One person’s style in this area can be threatening to another.  For some undefinable reason, it can undermine a sense of safety or stability simply by being what it is. My Introspective wife can feel that my open invitation for friends to pop by is intrusive. We have a revolving front door on our home. For her, it dilutes the intimacy and connection to host a large group. Another of our negotiations: whatever home we live in must have a large master bedroom to which she can retreat. When I want to talk to someone until 2:00 am or when I have twenty family members over for a game night, she needs a place of refuge.

As a Gregarious person, sometimes I feel thwarted by her introspection. I may plan to go out with my movie club; if we haven’t negotiated this, she may say, “I wanted us to stay home tonight.” I may feel a bit ambushed and disappointed because, as a Gregarious person, I generally relax and have more fun in a group dynamic. It brings out the best in me. Negotiation is highly personal and requires constant attention.

Ability management is proactive. It’s working and living smart, not hard.  If you’re surrounded by people at work and you’re Introspective, you need to inject private time into your world, like doses of vitamins.  If you’re Gregarious and you’re isolated at work, you need social engagements to look forward to: lunches, movie clubs, whatever. But in your daily life, it is important that your social significance is honored. In this balance, you are mastering the simple and the subtle aspects of your nature.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0Email this to someone