“Oh I’d be interested in Cohousing, but my partner wouldn’t: they’re very introverted”.
This was an exchange I had a while ago when I mentioned my interest in the K1 cohousing community. I don’t mean to pick on this individual or suggest they were wrong: there are lots of reasons why cohousing wouldn’t be for some people.
But never-the-less, it came back to me today. Why would an introvert be interested in cohousing? Isn’t it about being around other people all the time?
I think this is a misunderstanding of both cohousing and introversion.
I’m involved in lots of community activities as a volunteer. I go to meetings, I go to busy community events. In contexts where I am comfortable and knowledgeable I can even be quite loud and opinionated.
I am an introvert. It seems to have got less pronounced as I’ve got older, but social interaction tires me out. I relax by doing things on my own. I have never started a conversation with a stranger unbidden, and it always strikes me as slightly odd when people do it to me: I can’t quite fathom why you wouldn’t see someone on their own and assume that they were okay like that.
But I still benefit from socialising with people. I can get lonely. I have things I want to do which necessitate the involvement of others. Introverts don’t necessarily view living in a cabin in the woods on one’s own as the pinnacle of human existence (though there are some…).
But it doesn’t seem to be an uncommon question how having introverted people works in cohousing: a quick search revealed lots of people asking it. There were also plenty of people answering:
Cohousing makes it possible for an introvert to both be alone and have a social context. I can go to parties for a few minutes or half an hour and leave, come back, sit in the corner and watch, whatever. People get to know when to say hello and when to leave you alone so that isn’t a problem.
Despite the image many people have in their minds about cohousing, it’s not a cultish, hyper-connected, in-your-face-all-the-time community structure. In fact, most people who live in cohousing tend to be introverts. It provides the right mix of privacy (we own our own home) and the availability of community (we can have dinner at the common house or garden with a neighbor, but we don’t have to). It provides a comfortable, well-known community where neighbors won’t be invasive but are happy to see us when we want to wander by and have a chat.
It is a key part of the cohousing concept that you have your own space: not just a room, but a kitchen, bathroom, living room of your own, separate from other households (getting away from a partner, family or housemates might be a different issue, but not a unique one to cohousing). When you’ve had as much of others as you can take, you go home. And you don’t worry about it, because they’re right there next door, or down the street tomorrow and the day after, when you’ve recharged.
Part of the appeal for me is that when I do spend time with others, it will often be with a common goal and task. Not just interacting with others for a chat, though that happens too, but creating a meal together, or a garden, learning from others and teaching others, seeing what can be achieved as a group.
Of course, this is all hypothetical for me at the moment, as we are still in the development stage. I know people from meetings and socials, but not from working and living next to them day after day. But of all the things that I think are concerns about the project, the principle of socialising isn’t one of them.