Thriving As An Introvert: Alex Anderson-Kahl of Healing Little Hearts Blog On How Introverts Can…

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Thriving As An Introvert: Alex Anderson-Kahl of Healing Little Hearts Blog On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts

Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no or to limit time spent in situations that you find overwhelming. Prioritize your mental well-being and ensure you carve out time for activities that help you recharge, be it reading, listening to music, or simply relaxing in a quiet space.

In a world that often rewards outspokenness and social networking, introverts can sometimes feel sidelined or overlooked. The workplace, educational institutions, and even social settings can often seem engineered to suit the strengths of extroverts, leaving introverts searching for a space to flourish.

However, introversion comes with its own set of unique strengths — deep thinking, the ability to focus, empathy, and keen observational skills — that are invaluable but often underestimated. The question then becomes: how can introverts not only survive but also thrive and succeed in environments that seem skewed towards extroversion? In this interview series, we are talking to introverts, business leaders, psychologists, authors, career coaches, organizational leaders, and other experts in the field who can talk about “How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing (Alex Anderson-Kahl).

Alex Anderson-Kahl, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist based in Columbia, Missouri, holds an Advanced Degree in School Psychology from the University of South Dakota and is a proud graduate of Luther College. Focused on improving the mental health of students, Alex channels his expertise into insightful narratives that help parents play a positive role in their children’s lives.

Drawing from diverse experiences in settings like residential treatment centers for children, working with individuals who have severe and persistent mental illness, and public schools, Alex blends empathy and experience in his work. His commitment to fostering healthier mental environments for children can be explored on his website,, or his Instagram @alexandersonkahl

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I’m from the heart of America and have always been super curious about what makes people tick. My dad, a pastor, taught me a lot about understanding people and being there for them. My mom, on the other hand, is a doctor and always had interesting insights about the brain.

Growing up, I loved playing games and hanging out with my friends. And I’d often wonder, why do we think or act the way we do? Why do some of us laugh off a joke while others get upset? That’s when I got hooked on psychology.

Fast forward a bit, and I found myself working at a residential treatment center for individuals with serious mental health challenges. It was a game-changer for me. But I also realized I missed working with kids. So, I thought, why not mix the two? That’s when I decided to go to graduate school and dive into school psychology.”

Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?

Professionally, I am a Nationally Certified School Psychologist based in Columbia, Missouri. My primary focus is on enhancing the mental well-being of students and families. I channel my expertise into creating insightful narratives that guide parents in playing a transformative role in their children’s lives.

My journey in the realm of mental health is rather unique, having worked in settings ranging from residential treatment centers for severe and persistent mental illness to public schools. Each experience has equipped me with a unique blend of empathy and expertise.

I pursued an Advanced Degree in School Psychology from the University of South Dakota and am a proud alumnus of Luther College. The foundation laid during these academic years ignited my passion for understanding the human psyche, especially in the context of young minds. Over the years, I’ve been driven by the goal of improving the lives of children academically, socially, and emotionally.

Ultimately what brought me to this specific career path was witnessing the incredible impact that mental and emotional well-being has on a child’s overall development. I’ve always been passionate about making a difference, and through my role as a school psychologist, I’ve found a platform to do just that. Every day, I strive to be a source of guidance for parents, educators, and, most importantly, the children who are our future.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Thriving As An Introvert. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “Introvert” mean to you?

An introvert, to me, is someone who derives energy and contentment from moments of solitude and introspection. They often prefer deep, meaningful conversations over casual small talk and value quality over quantity in their social interactions. An introvert isn’t necessarily shy, but rather chooses when and how to engage with the world, often in a reflective and deliberate manner.

Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?

Being an introvert comes with a unique set of challenges in a world that often seems designed for their extroverted counterparts. One of the primary challenges is the weight of misunderstandings and stereotypes. Many equate introversion with shyness or aloofness, leading to misconceptions about an introvert’s true feelings or intentions.

In addition, bustling environments like crowded events can be overwhelming, resulting in mental and emotional exhaustion. This overstimulation can make regular social participation daunting. As an example, the contemporary emphasis on networking, especially in large group settings, can be particularly challenging. Introverts may prefer intimate one-on-one or small group interactions and navigating larger gatherings can feel inauthentic. This pressure to conform and adopt extroverted qualities can lead to feelings of inauthenticity.

In group dynamics, an introvert’s contributions might be overshadowed by louder voices, making it challenging for them to be heard or recognized.

Lastly, the professional world often expects individuals to champion their achievements actively. For introverts, this overt self-promotion might not come naturally, not due to a lack of accomplishments, but because they might be less inclined to boast about themselves. While these challenges are significant, with understanding and self-awareness, they can be successfully navigated.

I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?

Being an introvert undoubtedly presents a range of unique advantages that can be instrumental in various situations. One of the standout qualities of introverts is their propensity for deep reflection and analysis. This innate ability to introspect ensures that their decisions and contributions, whether in a work project or an academic setting, are often well-considered and enriched with innovative solutions.

Coupled with this is their approach to relationships. Instead of casting a wide net, introverts tend to value quality over quantity, leading to authentic and deep-rooted connections. These relationships, whether personal or professional, are characterized by trust and understanding, often resulting in substantial support and collaboration.

Another significant advantage that often goes unnoticed is an introvert’s exemplary active listening skills. They don’t just hear; they absorb, leading to a nuanced understanding of conversations. This is particularly invaluable in settings like business negotiations or in understanding complex issues, where their attentive listening can pave the way for tailored and effective solutions. In essence, while introverts might have a different approach than extroverts, their strengths offer invaluable perspectives and capabilities in a myriad of scenarios.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?

By understanding and dispelling myths about introverts, society can better appreciate the diverse strengths that introverts bring to the table and create more inclusive environments for all personality types. There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding introversion. Here are some prominent ones, along with explanations to dispel them.

  1. Myth: Introverts are Shy or Antisocial. Introversion is not synonymous with shyness. While some introverts might be shy, many are not. Being an introvert means one tends to recharge best in solitude or in low-stimulus environments. Introverts can enjoy social interactions just as much as extroverts but might prefer them in smaller doses or in more intimate settings.
  2. Myth: Introverts Don’t Like to Talk. It’s not that introverts dislike talking. They instead prefer meaningful conversations over small talk. Given a topic they’re passionate about, many introverts can and will speak at length, offering deep insights.
  3. Myth: Introverts Always Want to be Alone. While introverts value their alone time to recharge, this doesn’t mean they always want to be isolated. They value deep connections and can be very loyal friends, partners, and team members. They just might need occasional breaks to rejuvenate.
  4. Myth: Introverts are Rude or Aloof. An introvert’s tendency to be reserved or to take a step back in large social gatherings can sometimes be mistaken for aloofness. However, this reserved nature often stems from their preference for observation and introspection, not a lack of interest or rudeness.
  5. Myth: Introverts Don’t Make Good Leaders. Many successful leaders identify as introverts. Their ability to listen, reflect deeply, and form genuine connections can make them effective and empathetic leaders. They may lead with a different style than extroverted counterparts, but this doesn’t diminish their leadership capabilities.

Do you have any role models who are also introverts? What have you learned from them that can help introverts navigate the challenges and benefits of introversion?

In my mind, school psychologist Nathan Garrett stands out as a quintessential role model for navigating the intricacies of introversion. One of his most admirable qualities is his profound ability to analyze situations, reflecting deeply to derive insightful conclusions. This introspective nature, a hallmark trait of many introverts, is clearly evident in his approach.

I’ve also observed practical strategies he employs, such as meditation, to ensure clarity and focus before tackling complex or potentially stressful situations. His adaptability shines through during the pandemic, where he seamlessly transitioned to platforms like Zoom and discussion boards to maintain efficacy in his role.

Drawing from Nathan’s example, I’ve recognized the value of introspection, especially in the realm of mental health. This has influenced my approach to complex cases, encouraging me to embrace a more reflective stance, mirroring the thoughtful consideration Nathan consistently displays. Through this role model, I’ve been equipped with strategies that accentuate the strengths of introversion, offering a blueprint for success in professional and personal realms alike.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Things Introverts Need To Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

For the following, I use examples of college students, but parallels could easily be drawn for professional settings.

1 . Recognition of Their Unique Strengths: Mia, a college junior, was often overshadowed in group discussions during her seminar classes. However, when she submitted her essays, her professor was always impressed with her depth of thought and analysis. Recognizing Mia’s strengths, the professor suggested she lead smaller breakout sessions. This change allowed Mia’s insights to shine, benefiting her and her peers.

2 . Space & Time for Solitude: Natalie, majoring in graphic design, often struggled to find creative inspiration in her crowded dormitory. She discovered an old, rarely-used greenhouse on campus. The serene environment amidst plants became her favorite spot to sketch and brainstorm designs. Over time, other students noticed and started frequenting the greenhouse for their own moments of solitude. The once-neglected space became a quiet haven for many seeking a break from the hustle of college life.

3 . Adapted Networking Opportunities: Sameer was daunted by large student networking events and career fairs on campus. Instead, he began attending department-specific seminars and smaller alumni meet-and-greets related to his major. In these settings, he was able to have meaningful conversations with professionals, one of which led to an internship opportunity.

4 . Multiple Platforms of Communication: Jade, an anthropology major, felt her input was often missed in large group discussions. Her professor, noticing her hesitation, started an online discussion board where students could post thoughts before class. Jade’s detailed posts caught everyone’s attention and began to influence class discussions, allowing her to contribute without the pressure of on-the-spot speaking.

5 . Authentic Relationships & Deep Connection: Diego, a resident assistant (RA) in a freshman dorm, was not as outgoing as other RAs. However, he made it a point to have one-on-one chats with every resident. These individual conversations made the freshmen feel seen and heard, with many of them noting that Diego’s genuine interest made their transition to college smoother.

In each of these cases, the common thread is the recognition of introverted strengths and adapting environments to cater to these strengths. When given the right opportunities and tools, introverts can not only match their extroverted counterparts but often surpass them in specific domains.

How should an introvert navigate social relationships and networking, activities that are often touted as extroverts’ forte? Do you have any advice for introverts in these areas?

While social relationships and networking can be seen as an extrovert’s domain, introverts have their own unique strengths that can be harnessed for these activities. The goal isn’t to change who you are but to find ways to make your natural tendencies work to your advantage. Embrace your introversion and know that it offers its own set of valuable social and networking skills. Here’s 10 tips tailored to introverts.

  1. Embrace Quality over Quantity: Instead of trying to connect with everyone, focus on building a few deep and meaningful relationships. It’s okay to have a smaller network if it’s made up of strong connections.
  2. Prepare Ahead: Before attending social events or networking gatherings, do a little research. Knowing the attendees or the main topics of conversation can help you feel more confident and prepared.
  3. Set Realistic Expectations: It’s okay to limit the time you spend at social events. Decide beforehand how long you’ll stay and give yourself permission to leave once that time is up.
  4. Use Active Listening: Introverts often excel at listening. This can be a valuable tool in social settings. Truly listening to someone can make them feel valued and lead to deeper connections.
  5. Seek Out Smaller Gatherings: Instead of large parties or events, look for smaller gatherings or one-on-one interactions. This can be a more comfortable setting for introverts to connect with others.
  6. Utilize Online Platforms: Social media and professional networking platforms can be a great way for introverts to initiate and maintain connections. You can engage in meaningful conversations and share insights without the pressure of real-time interactions.
  7. Practice: The more you put yourself in networking situations, the more comfortable you’ll become. Start small, with events or situations you’re somewhat comfortable with, and gradually challenge yourself as you gain confidence.
  8. Recharge: After social interactions, ensure you allow time to recharge. Understand and respect your need for downtime.
  9. Seek Support: Consider attending events with a friend or colleague. Having someone you know can act as a comfort buffer and make the experience less daunting.
  10. Focus on Shared Interests: Join clubs or groups that align with your interests. It’s easier to connect with others when you have common ground.

What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?

In a workplace environment that often favors extroverted behaviors, introverts can harness specific strategies to not only fit in but truly shine. One pivotal strength that many introverts possess is proficiency in written communication. This aptitude can be a game-changer. By drafting comprehensive emails, preparing insightful reports, or offering written feedback, introverts can articulate their thoughts in a manner that often stands out for its depth and clarity. Suppose you find vocalizing feedback in group meetings challenging. In that case, a well-crafted follow-up email post-discussion can ensure your viewpoints are both heard and acknowledged.

Another practical approach is to establish regular one-on-one meetings with colleagues, supervisors, or team members. While large group interactions might be daunting for some introverts, these individualized sessions can provide a more comfortable platform. They allow for a focused and direct exchange of ideas, ensuring that your contributions are recognized and valued. For instance, if you’re immersed in a project and wish to share innovative insights, a dedicated one-on-one with the project leader can be the ideal setting. By embracing these strategies, introverts can navigate and excel in their professional spheres, proving that success isn’t solely the domain of the extroverted.

Have you noticed any specific ways that being an introvert affects mental health or overall well-being? Any tips for introverts to maintain good mental health?

Being an introvert, like any personality type, comes with its unique set of challenges and benefits that can impact mental health and overall well-being. From my observations and experiences working with students I have seen the impact introversion in an extroverted facing world can have.

Effects on Mental Health and Well-being:

  1. Overstimulation: Introverts might become easily overwhelmed or drained in highly stimulating environments, such as crowded places or noisy events. This can lead to feelings of anxiety or a strong desire to retreat and find solitude.
  2. Misunderstandings: Sometimes, introverted behaviors can be misunderstood by peers or educators. Being quiet or reserved might be mistaken for disinterest, aloofness, or even perceived as rudeness, which can lead to feelings of isolation or being misunderstood
  3. Internal Pressure: Some introverted students might put undue pressure on themselves to fit into an extroverted mold, especially in group settings or social scenarios. This internal conflict can lead to stress or self-doubt.

Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health:

  1. Self-awareness: Recognize and accept your introverted tendencies. Understand what situations might be draining for you and which ones rejuvenate you. By acknowledging these, you can better navigate and choose environments that are conducive to your well-being
  2. Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no or to limit time spent in situations that you find overwhelming. Prioritize your mental well-being and ensure you carve out time for activities that help you recharge, be it reading, listening to music, or simply relaxing in a quiet space.
  3. Seek Support: Build a support system of friends, family, or counselors who understand and respect your introverted nature. It can be beneficial to discuss feelings, experiences, or challenges with someone who offers empathy and understanding.
  4. Engage in Reflective Practices: Activities like journaling, meditation, or mindfulness can be particularly beneficial for introverts. They offer a space for introspection, self-awareness, and relaxation.
  5. Challenge Yourself Gradually: While it’s essential to respect your introverted nature, occasionally pushing your boundaries can lead to personal growth. Maybe it’s joining a club, attending a social event, or participating in group discussions. Start small and gradually expand your comfort zone, always ensuring you have the means to recharge afterward.
  6. Seek Professional Help If Needed: If feelings of isolation, anxiety, or depression become persistent, it’s crucial to seek professional help. School counselors, therapists, or psychologists can provide guidance tailored to individual needs.

In your opinion, are societal views on introversion changing? If so, how do you think this impacts introverts positively or negatively? Can you please explain what you mean?

In recent years, societal perceptions of introversion have experienced a notable shift towards greater understanding and acceptance. Historically, traits associated with extroversion, such as outspokenness and sociability, were often given preference in various societal domains. However, a confluence of psychological research, influential literature (notably works like Susan Cain’s “Quiet”), and an expanding discourse around personality diversity has led to a heightened appreciation of the strengths inherent in introversion. These strengths, including the capacity for profound reflection, adept listening skills, and concentrated focus, are now more recognized and valued.

This evolving perspective has had several beneficial repercussions for introverts. For one, it has reduced the likelihood of them being misunderstood or feeling compelled to mimic extroverted behaviors. As society becomes more attuned to the qualities and contributions of introverts, individuals with introverted tendencies can experience heightened self-worth and societal acceptance. Further, contemporary workplaces and educational settings are becoming more accommodating, tailoring environments that cater to introverted needs and strengths. This is particularly evident in sectors like technology, writing, research, and design, where the ability to focus deeply and work independently — common strengths among many introverts — has become especially prized. As a result, the shift in societal views on introversion has created avenues for increased job satisfaction and diverse opportunities for introverts in various fields.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve frequently heard the quote, “Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you.” I thought it was good advice. But then someone else spoke up and said “No. Do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love all the people. No conditions attached. No wondering whether or not they are worthy. Cross oceans, climb mountains. Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give.” And I changed my mind. — Unknown

Initially, I had only ever heard the first part of the quote, “Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you.” At the time, it resonated with me due to my experiences in friendships where I felt I was often giving more than I was receiving. My extroverted nature, which thrives on social interactions and connections, was seeking a more interactional bond. However, it sometimes clashed with the introverted tendencies of some of my friends, leading me to feel that our relationship was imbalanced.

When I heard the latter part of the quote which emphasizes, “Do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love all the people. No conditions attached… Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give,” I found it aligning more closely with my core values and the life lessons I’ve garnered over the years. I have a genuine passion for helping others, and through this, I’ve discovered the sheer joy of selfless giving. Over time, I’ve learned to let go of the expectations I had of others, focusing instead on my actions and emotions, adopting a philosophy rooted in unconditional love and support.

This evolution in my perspective is emblematic of my growth and deeper understanding of relationships. I’ve come to realize that everyone is on their unique journey and might not always reciprocate in ways I once hoped or expected. This quote encapsulates my journey from seeking validation and reciprocity to embracing the joy of giving without conditions and understanding the diverse dynamics inherent in human relationships.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would champion is the idea of “Empathy in Action.” This initiative is deeply rooted in the time-honored wisdom of “doing justice and loving mercy,” embodying a dual approach to fostering personal connections and facilitating broad societal change.

The essence of empathy lies in the ability to perceive the world through another’s eyes, to genuinely feel their emotions and experiences. “Empathy in Action” would focus first on cultivating personal empathy. At this grassroots level, the movement would prioritize the development of educational programs, workshops, and immersive experiences specifically designed to nurture empathetic understanding. Such initiatives serve a dual purpose: not only do they bridge divides born from misunderstandings or a lack of knowledge, but they also instill a deeper appreciation for the myriad walks of life that compose our global community.

Yet, as crucial as personal empathy is, it is just one facet of the equation. To effect widespread, enduring change, the movement must also address larger systemic issues. This is where “Systemic Change through Empathy” comes into play. At this scale, our approach involves scrutinizing societal structures, institutions, and policies with a discerning, empathetic eye. Decision-makers, guided by the principles of this movement, would constantly question the justice and mercy inherent in their choices. “Does this system uphold justice?” “Is this policy crafted with genuine understanding and compassion for its subjects?” By centering empathy in these processes, we can reshape our societal mechanisms to inherently prioritize and care for every individual, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized.

The true power of the “Empathy in Action” movement resides in its ripple effect. Empathetic actions, whether by an individual or a governing body, not only directly benefit recipients but also set powerful precedents for broader society. By melding justice with mercy, and underpinning both with a foundation of empathy, this movement strives to harmonize fairness with compassion.

In our ever-evolving world, where divisions often overshadow unity, “Empathy in Action” emerges as a beacon of hope. It emphasizes the fundamental human need for understanding and unity. And in our collective endeavor to benefit the greatest number of people, it’s imperative that we possess both an empathetic heart to comprehend diverse perspectives and dedicated hands to mold a world that celebrates shared humanity.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If readers are interested in further following my online work, check out our blog “Healing Little Hearts” on our website at Additionally, for regular updates, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and interactive engagements, I invite you to follow me on Instagram at @alexandersonkahl. Your support and engagement are greatly valued, and I look forward to connecting with you through these platforms.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thriving As An Introvert: Alex Anderson-Kahl of Healing Little Hearts Blog On How Introverts Can… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.