9.27.2014

I AM AN INTROVERT (part II)

Okay. Here is the second half of my shpeal about introverts. You can find the first half HERE

Let me begin this post by reemphasizing that being an introvert is not a bad thing, or a synonym for "shy" or "anti-social." It is an inherently different way of interacting with others. Did you know that an introvert's brain is actually wired differently than an extrovert's? Their thought processes travel different paths!

Google it. I think it's amazing.

Now, knowing what we know about introverts, here are some tips for interacting positively with the introverts in your life. 



1.) INTROVERTS HATE "SMALL TALK"
I would prefer to give a prepared speech in front of a thousand people, rather than engage in "small talk" with a casual acquaintance. My worst NIGHTMARE is a social engagement where guests are given nothing more than food and time to mingle and chat. Especially if the atmosphere is noisy (people won't be able to hear me anyway). I'm weak just thinking about it.

I've needed to take way too many vacation days to recover from my "vacation" days this year.

The difference between a public speech and "small talk" is the task's structure (or lack thereof). Introverts are highly task oriented, so public speaking can actually be a high for me. I don't mind teaching classes, speaking in church, or leading a group with purpose. But I need time to prepare my thoughts! Making stuff up on the fly is stressful for my careful, perfectionist self. 

Let me give you some advice for those seeking to entertain introverts on a date, party, or weekend stay: Plan an activity with purpose. Give your guests something to DO. Pull out a board game, set up a volleyball net, institute a project...anything to help them relax, focus, and generate conversation beyond burdensome social pleasantries. But don't be surprised if you bring up a topic they're especially passionate about...and they talk your ear off!

2.) BE SINCERE
Sincerity is soooo important. I don't want to have to spend my precious energy discussing mundane, surface-level topics when as an introvert, I crave authentic relationships. I want to reeeally get to know someone and talk about things that mean something. Life stories. Real problems. Exciting ideas. Not 'how my day was' with people who don't care. 

I think Laurie A. Helgoe explains it well when she says:
“Let's clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
I prefer one-on-one interaction over a large group any day. Large groups make it difficult to connect with individuals on a personal level. 

I think sometimes this is a good policy & sometimes you may not see the true  depth of a person.

Because I'm all about sincerity, my B.S. radar is especially receptive. If I sense someone acting phony or uninterested, I will immediately back off to guard my inner self and conserve energy for someone who is as invested as I am. I need validation that I'm not wasting my strength! 

A good friend

This is why introverts will often have a few, lastingly loyal friendships as opposed to an extrovert's large crowd of pals.We pour masses of energy into them and as such, are fiercely devoted. It takes a lot before I let someone in on my silly, free-spirited side. 


Absolutely true--I don't make friends easily, but the few I have I tend to keep.

3.) BE KIND
Introverts rework every simple conversation in their mind to exhaustion. Because of this, be especially careful of critical remarks. One impatient tone, one biting comment on social media, one angry letter, will not be so easily erased by compliments and smiles the next day. Introverts will internalize them deeply...and they don't forget. Even if they truly forgive, they may remain wary--requiring time to build trust and really open themselves up to that person again.

Similarly, if you are rolling your eyes and gossiping about someone else, I will immediately put up a wall to protect myself. Why wouldn't I assume you do the same about me when I'm gone? Sure, nobody likes to be gossiped about.  But I believe introverts are even more sensitive to this, because their constant internal dialogue makes them especially hard on themselves. 


If corrections do need to be made, do so privately. Don't reprimand in front of a group, as this will be humiliating to an introvert's perfectionism. They hold very high expectations for themselves.

4.) DON'T TAKE THEM BY SURPRISE
I love to be social...but I absolutely have to be mentally prepared for it. I'm aware that this sounds absurd to those who are naturally outgoing. But it's true. Remember, conversation--especially small talk--is going to leech me of important energy. If I'm low on energy and I haven't prepped for it (like an athlete does for a big game), I'll probably run for cover from that neighbor at the grocery store (like, literally dodge out of an aisle before I'm seen), carefully screen my phone calls even from closest friends (I do so adore the inventor of texting), and fend off unexpected invitations for social engagements ("Uhhh...sorry. I have to do stuff...at my house...alone.") I need to beef up my store of social juices beforehand. I know of extroverts who go to similar lengths just to avoid being alone with their thoughts!

I actually do like to be out around other people, but not to socialize with people I don't know. I prefer to hang in my little group and people watch.

And for the record. If one more person shoves a phone in my face without warning and demands that I say "hello" to someone on the other end, I might throw something. Introverts don't perform their best 'on the spot.' 

5.) DON'T INTERRUPT
Conversations can be frustrating. Extroverts seem to be overly anxious to fill the slightest bit of empty space with noise. The silence makes them feel awkward and nervous, so they take the three seconds I needed to carefully find the right word, as a request to save the day! Then by the time there is another pause in the conversation, that interesting thought I had to contribute isn't even relevant anymore.
“While the introvert is reflecting on the question (thinking first), the extrovert takes this as an invitation to fill the void (talking first). As long as the introvert doesn't interrupt, the extrovert continues to fill the interpersonal space with talk. But as long as the extrovert talks, the introvert can’t think and stays mute. Mute means the invitation is still open, and continued talk assures that the introvert remains mute. By the time the extrovert pauses to ask, the introvert’s head is pounding and he or she just wants to get out so she can think. The extrovert just assumes the introvert had nothing to say, and moves on.”
Obviously, this is not the case with every conversation. But it has happened to me enough times that I can definitely relate. Trying to keep up the conversational pace of an extrovert is exhausting. 

6.) GIVE THEM 'THINK TIME'
Let me illustrate this with an example of a Sunday school class. The teacher poses a question. After 0.2 seconds, the silence makes the teacher antsy and immediately jumps in with their own answer. This cycle repeats itself through the entire lesson, unless a quick-thinking, fast-talking, extrovert can raise their hand first. Afterwhich, the teacher promptly moves on to the next topic.

Silence does not always mean a lack of things to say. The students were just beginning to process the question, make meaningful connections, and organize their words. Count a good 5-10 seconds next time before diving in, and give those poor introverts some solid THINK TIME! Then, after all the extroverts have been called on to share, a teacher's prodding as simple as, "Great! Anyone else have a thought?" a few times, will merit a surprising number of insights from the introverts quietly waiting their turn. I bet you'll be amazed by all they had to say after all.  


Introvert - Introvert penguin: Wait for the right time to say something...get interrupted

7.) DON'T ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT THEY'RE THINKING
An introvert's mind is constantly swirling with thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Because of this, people often misconstrue my "thinking face" as being depressed or judgmental. Just know that I am probably only listening, daydreaming, reflecting, recharging, observing, remembering, waiting until you're done speaking, solving a problem, or making plans instead. Or I may be simply taking immense pleasure in the scene around me...without having to frolic around being the life of the party.

Quotes That Will Inspire You To Be A Fearless Writer #typography #fonts

Introverts are gifted at self soothing. They won't burden you with their problems unless you have proven yourself to be sincerely loyal. If you're certain I'm upset about something, just ask. Approaching me sincerely and without accusation will probably merit a truthful response. But don't come to inform me of how I must be feeling by putting words in my mouth. You'll probably be wrong, only placing me in an awkward spot.
“...Extroverts often incorrectly assume that introverts are suffering. Introverts internalize problems; we like to take things inside and work on them there. Extroverts prefer to externalize and deal with problems interactively. Because of this difference, introverts may seem psychologically burdened, while extroverts spread the burden around and seem healthier—from an extroverted standpoint. But note that I said introverts like to take problems inside. Sure, an introvert can overdo it, but so can the extrovert who feels compelled to express every unresolved thought or emotion."

8.) APPRECIATE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE
Introverts have so many strengths. Intuitive, creative, detail conscious, loyal, sincere, focused, strong empathizers, and self-sufficient to name a few. Be grateful for them and refrain from making comments about "growing out of it" or needing to "come out your shell." These only further the misconception that introversion is undesirable and weird, and hurts self esteem.  Yes, we tend to be quiet. But why do you have to keep bringing it up? Introverts need a moment to observe and process before jumping into a situation...and that's okay! Just give some personal space, advance notice, time to think it out, and don't underestimate what those quiet, introverted folks are capable of. 


Story of my life.


Let me end with one of the most meaningful compliments of my life. I once overheard a favorite college professor say of me to my Bishop: 
"She's quiet...but there's a world of depth in her."

This meant a great deal to me because it was one of the few times I felt validated for who I am as an introvert, rather than made to feel guilty...like I'm supposed to change or fix myself. Assume this is true about the introverts in your life, that there is a world of depth in them not visible to the outside eye...and appreciate their need to keep it sacred. 


7 comments:

Tiffany said...

You sound exactly like me. Glad I'm not the only one and there are others out there who understand me.

Anders Omel said...

I find this all very interesting and I've found that Extroverts actually feel a lot of similar emotions. I think a lot of times extroverts are just written off as loud and irrational. It's like people think they don't care at all about what's happening or the process you're going through. Actually, I know a lot of extroverts who do think before they talk, simply because that's what they were taught to do when they were growing up. And Extroverts actually do sometimes like quiet time. They are not always out having a party or seeing a movie. And, also, a lot of extroverts are really good at being leaders and being creative. I personally think that both Extroverts and Introverts are part of our world and both are important. Really important. and it's OKAY to be either one. Neither is superior. We're all human. We all make mistakes. With all this talk of introverts VS extroverts that's been going around on the internet, I feel like there's two groups of humans going to war and honestly it's a little bit frightening. Sorry if I've seemed really passionate or overly expressive. I've had a lot of thoughts about all this. I'm sorry if I was mean or cruel, I didn't mean to be in any way shape or form!
God bless!
~Anders

Rachel Ashmore said...

Anders,

No offense was taken by me. I agree with you 100%! I mentioned in my posts that there is a social spectrum. People fall at both extremes and everywhere in between. No one will fit the profile for introvert or extrovert perfectly.

I certainly hope that introverts and extroverts aren't at war as you say. Luckily, that is not what is going on here on my blog, I can assure you. I was careful to include a section on how much I appreciate extroverts and their strengths. And the overall theme of my post was that one type is not better than another. They are however, different. And that's okay.

Andrea said...

Rachel,
Thank you so much for this post. It was so carefully written and I learned so much from reading it.
Emmett is an introvert and I have tried so hard to understand how he thinks and this completely made sense. He expresses himself a lot differently then my other kids and I always wondered if there was something wrong. That probably sounds awful :( Reading this brought me to tears because it made clear the fact that there is nothing wrong, and he is as happy as any other child, just expresses it differently. He has always been my most intuitive child and just a quiet peace in what can sometimes be a storm. I love my little introvert and my extroverts!
And another shout out for intoverts his Sunday School teacher told me the other day, "Emmett is such a quiet giant. He is so wise and patient and I wish more adults were like him!! She went on, "I don't know why some people, adults included, think they have to talk all the time even when they have nothing to say." lol.

Ali Foster said...

Great Post! I am very much an Introvert and Shy-- and I will say it has been very difficult sometimes. I was a Cheerleader and Dance captain so people were always confused on why I could perform in front of so many but had a hard time just talking in a group. Now grown up I feel like I'm able to control more of my situations-- your not forced so much to interact-- but Church is always rough and lonely because it's hard to make close friends and get to know people when all there is time for usually is chit chat- and I hate feeling inadequate for my kids when they need a mom that's not afraid to call other random mom's to set up play dates and calling schools and teachers and getting them involved.{seriously makes my heart do flip flops thinking about it- but I have to force myself even though I feel so so awkward :) } So while being an Introvert we definitely have some pluses we also live in a world that is easier if your an extrovert- It's getting better though-- Thank you Internet, email, texts and blogs :) Anyways wow long comment-- really just wanted to say I loved your post :)

Anonymous said...

(name=Twana) EXACTLY!!! how I feel! As I've gotten older and more of a hermit, because I love all the things I can do at home, woodworking, pottery, reading, sewing, refinishing my house, yard work, growing gardens, building a fence, on and on….. Then if I do go out, there has to be PURPOSE to it…..not just mingling! And my friends wonder why I don't want to leave my house to go to their house and sit on the couch watching tv that I don't want to watch…..wasting the time of my life…….we are only given so much time……and there is so much to experience I don't want to waste a minute of it! Gift of words given to you "She is quit…..but there is a world of depth in her" The best compliment EVER!!!

lorrie said...

I totally enjoyed these posts and relate. I do recommend you read the book Quiet if you haven't. It's great for introverts to read, but I practically push it at extroverts so they can finally understand us.

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