Introverts: The Misunderstood Breed

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


I consider myself to be an introvert, which seems to be something that many people either don't understand or are just reluctant to accept -- both of which are unfortunate.

I'm a shyer person; I love meeting new people and making new friends, but it's unlikely that I'll be the one to initiate a conversation with a stranger.

Spending a lot of time around people and/or outside of my house can be draining, and I need time to myself to recharge. If I've had a busy couple of days, a night in for some "me" time becomes a priority. While extroverts gain their energy from others, introverts gain it from themselves.

Feeling close to people is important. In the words of Sophia Dembling in "The Introvert's Way," (a book I've actually been meaning to read for a while now), "Introverts don't get lonely if they don't socialize with a lot of people, but we do get lonely if we don't have intimate interactions on a regular basis." A lack of these intimate interactions can make us feel disconnected from people. Even though we like to physically separate ourselves from others at times, we still want to feel emotionally connected.

For me, the worst part about being introverted is when it's mistaken for being antisocial. First of all, telling me I'm being antisocial (especially in front of other people) is uncomfortable and actually makes me feel less inclined to join the conversation. Second of all, being quiet/shy/reserved/introverted is not the same as being antisocial. To me, antisocial is not wanting to talk or be around people at all, whereas an introvert wants to enjoy people's company in their own time and in their own way. There's nothing wrong with that.

Telling me that I'm quiet won't make me any louder. Telling me I'm shy won't make me more outgoing. It's important that we not only accept each other for who we are, but also that we try to understand each other -- who we are and what we need. Let's start with some pointers on how to care for introverts...


LET THEM OBSERVE FIRST IN NEW SITUATIONS

If I'm at a new place or with new people, I'm usually off to the side listening and watching everybody for a while before I'm comfortable with jumping in to the conversation. Sure, part of this is sometimes just being nervous, but it's also me wanting to assess the situation before I throw myself into it. 

GIVE THEM ADVANCE NOTICE OF EXPECTED CHANGES IN THEIR LIVES

This is a big one for me. It dawned on me one day that I only like change if it's in my control (I'm working on this). If something is sprung on me, I often get frazzled. That's not to say I don't love a spontaneous adventure from time to time, but knowing what's going on is much more comforting for me. So thank you to the lovely people who keep me as up-to-date as possible when we're making plans. The stream of "Got delayed, leaving in 10," "On my way," "Almost there," and "Here!" texts may seem like a bit much to some, but I love them.

DON'T PUSH THEM TO MAKE LOTS OF FRIENDS

Friendships are important to me, and I want to be able to put the time and effort needed into them to maintain close connections. Having that closeness seems less possible when there are more people factored into the equation. We don't always have the energy to get through a couple of days without some "me" time, so maintaining a dozen close friendships just doesn't seem plausible. (If you know me, you already know that I'm not the best at responding to texts or keeping in touch if I'm busy.) This is not to say that I would meet an awesome individual and think, "Wow, it'd be great to be friends with her. Too bad I already have four other friends to worry about." It's just that I would much rather have a handful of genuine, kind friends whom I feel connected to than force myself to make friends. Quality over quantity.

RESPECT THEIR INTROVERSION - DON'T TRY TO REMAKE THEM INTO EXTROVERTS

The most important one of the bunch! Respect us and who we are. Is that so much to ask? This is especially important because chances are there are times when we already get frustrated with ourselves for not being more outgoing, sociable, daring, etc. We wish we went to that party, but staying in just sounded like the better option at the time. We wish we made that joke we thought of earlier or said that one thing, but we got too nervous. Oh well. There are pros and cons to both personalities. Just because someone is different from you doesn't mean they're wrong.

Everybody is a little bit of an introvert and a little bit of an extrovert; we just tend to lean toward one side. I'm introverted, but I still like people's company. I still like to go to parties. I still like spontaneous plans. I just need to be in the right mood for these things.

Introverts, don't feel pressured to be anything other than who you are. Take care of yourself.
Extroverts, acknowledge that not everyone can be as unreserved and lively as you, even if they want to be.

We are who we are. Embrace it.

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