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If You Are an Introvert, Tell People

If you are an introvert, you might find that you feel completely misunderstood by the extroverts of the world. If they do not know that it is your introversion that keeps you from spending time with them, they might assume you have some negative reasons for being the first to leave when you attend the party that they spent hours planning and hosting. Sometimes it will help a great deal if you tell people, you are an introvert so that they don’t have to come up with negative reasons for why you were the first to leave their cook-out or you skipped it completely. Here I will explain why something so simple can help so much.

Figure out if you’re an introvert:

Introverts generally feel more energized by spending time on their own. If you are an introvert, it does not mean that you don’t like people or that you don’t enjoy some social time, it just means you need a lot less of this in order to feel fulfilled. Too much time with others, even the people you love, can make you feel exhausted. You might find that you don’t fully understand all of the extroverts in your life who feel energized by being around others. You might, at times, wonder what is wrong with you because you cannot think like them or be like them. At other times, you wonder why everyone does not prefer to be alone with their thoughts as much as you do.

I am approaching this topic with the idea that introversion is self-defined. There are assessments out there such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator that can help you figure it out if you are not sure whether you are introverted or extroverted.   

Consider what the extroverts may be thinking:

When an introvert is at a meeting and not saying much or skipping the dinner planned with old friends, the extroverts can jump to some negative conclusions about them. The thoughts can be harsh sometimes. It might just be a passing thought or sometimes it is a firm judgment.

Brace yourself for some of the negative thoughts the extroverts wonder about. They might think that you don’t like them, that you think you are better than them, that you only want to be around them when you need something, that you only want to be around them if you have nothing better to do, and that you don’t talk more because you don’t really care. 

This is not meant to imply that all extroverts have negative thoughts about introverts. The point is that this is an area for some misunderstanding and it can be helpful to try to repair it if you notice it happening within your relationships. The thoughts I listed were not a complete list. In many cases, they are passing thoughts and an extrovert will ignore them. At other times, there can be rifts in relationships because of the misunderstanding. Hopefully many of the extroverts try to challenge those negative thoughts and give you the benefit of the doubt.  

Reasons you get misunderstood:

It is human nature to try to make sense of things. If we don’t have all of the facts to explain something, we come up with a potential reason. So, if your friends cannot understand why you do not want to spend time with them every weekend, their brains may naturally create a possible reason. Since we often have a tendency to assume that others think like us.

Explain your introversion:

As you practice explaining your introversion to others, you might have to test out a few ways of doing this and see what works best for you. If you notice that you speak the least in office meetings, consider letting your supervisor know that you want to make sure you don’t appear disinterested when you are quiet. Let them know that you are an introvert and that you are thinking a lot about what is said, but that you don’t have a tendency to think out loud. You could offer to give your thoughts in writing or in your one-on-one meetings with the supervisor since you might prefer more time to internally process the points discussed in the meeting.

If you keep coming up with reasons for not meeting up with a friend, you might try reassuring them that you do value their friendship, but as an introvert you are less social. If an effort to keep contact with friends, family, and colleagues causes you to get exhausted quickly, tell your friends that. If you find yourself needing lots of alone time in order to feel energized to go to work and be social enough to do your job well, tell them that.

Try to explain that your introversion is not an all-or-nothing thing. Since introverts are not all the same, it can get confusing to the extroverts. It can even get confusing to some other introverts. For example, a person who Is just a little bit introverted might not understand how the extreme introvert needs such a massive amount of time away from people. Likewise, the extreme introvert might not even believe that a mild introvert identifies as being introverted. Think about a long continuum that ranges from being highly introverted to highly extroverted. Most people you encounter would not fall exactly where you would fall on this continuum.

Explaining that introversion is not an all-or-nothing thing might seem confusing at first to others. If you tell a friend that you get completely exhausted by going to parties, they might wonder why you do attend some parties. They might be thinking in all-or-nothing terms. It’s human nature to do this. Here is an example to help explain what introversion is like for many. Think about when you are thirsty. You might just need a few sips of a drink and the thirst is quenched. At other times you might need to drink a huge glass of water and then you still need more. For introverts, they still need that metaphorical water. They just find that their thirst is quenched more quickly after a few sips.

If the extroverts still do not understand you, another metaphor that may fit would be to think about being like a remote-control toy car. It gets charged at the base. You enjoy operating the car, but you cannot do it for too long or the battery loses its charge. Since it begins losing its charge when leaving the charger, this does not mean that you never want to have it leave the base. You will just be mindful of knowing when it needs to go back to the charging station.   

The Take-Away:

If you suspect that your introverted nature has caused some difficulties in your relationships, it can be worth a try to let them know that you are introverted and to reassure them that you really do care about them. There could be just as many ways that you might be misinterpreting your extroverted friends, family, and colleagues. Starting the conversation might just lead to some really interesting clarifications of misconceptions.