5 things introverts want you to know
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
If you´re an extrovert, chances are you have at least a few introverts in your life - after all, we make up about one-third of the population. You may be accustomed to and slightly bemused by our strange ways, but what goes on inside our heads is probably somewhat of a mystery to you.
Most of us fall somewhere along the scale of introvert-extrovert, with some people landing square in the middle - these people are known as ambiverts. As an INFP with 96% introversion, I am well-versed in the ways of the introvert, and can safely say it is both a blessing and a curse (if you don´t know what you are, take this Myers-Briggs test to find out). Whilst we are blessed with rich inner worlds, navigating the outer world can sometimes be overwhelming for us.
In the interest of greater introvert-extrovert social cohesion, here are 5 things that the introvert in your life would like you to know, but probably won´t tell you.
1. We´re not antisocial - it´s an energy thing
I´ve been accused of being shy, aloof, antisocial, and even lazy, but the truth is it´s all about preserving my precious stores of energy. This is one of the main differences between introverts and extroverts: extroverts gain energy from social situations, while introverts get drained by them.
You can think of introverts as being like your phone battery: we need our “home alone” time to recharge and prepare for a social outing. And, just like your phone, our battery holds a limited amount of charge (that varies from person to person): once we´re out of juice, we´re likely to make a speedy exit, and will then need 1-2 days (or more!) of recharging until we can go out again. If that´s not possible, and we´re forced to do back-to-back socializing, we will crash out hard afterwards and need even longer to recover.
For this reason, many introverts find it hard to commit to plans and stick to them, because we can´t predict how our energy levels will be on the day of the event, which leads me to #2…
2. We may be flaky, but please don´t give up on us
We introverts often run the risk of going into hermit mode.
Sometimes, the world can seem like one big energy-zap, which makes us retreat further into our shells. If you invite us to your events, and we repeatedly turn you down or cancel, PLEASE don´t give up on us. If you notice the introvert in your life is getting flakier than usual, reach out - they may be sliding into hermit mode and need your help to get out.
Introverts do best in one-on-one situations, or in a small group of trusted friends or loved ones, and even though it´s hard, deep down we are longing for you to come and drag us out of our hole because sometimes it´s too much for us to manage on our own. Sometimes all we need is a cozy dinner with friends, or a fun outing doing one of our favourite activities, to get us back on the social horse.
3. Small talk is our worst nightmare
Introverts hate small talk. We just can´t do it! Most introverts have a very rich inner world, populated with an ever-shifting landscape of ideas, perceptions, and values, which serves as our refuge much of the time. Usually, if you ask an introvert what they´re thinking about, their answer will surprise you with its depth and richness.
That´s why we find small talk excruciatingly boring. It gives us no mental stimulation, and yet we are socially required to waste precious energy on it. I´ve been accused on many occasions of getting “too intense” at parties, because I want to talk about the deep shit, and avoid the frivolities.
Networking events are torture - asking and answering the same questions over and over again, about things which our introverted mind does not perceive as interesting (where are you from, what do you do, how long have you lived here, etc) is our idea of hell.
If you want to socialize with introverts (after all, they are pretty awesome people), try organizing a Jeffersonian dinner, named after the dinners hosted by the US Founding Father, to which he invited peers and thought leaders. Pick an interesting topic for your dinner, and have your guests bond over it by all participating in the same conversation at the table (no side conversations or phones allowed!).
4. We wish we were more extroverted
We live in an extrovert´s world. Two-thirds of people are extroverts, and in our society, the squeaky wheel gets the oil - in other words, an introvert will usually be passed over due to their quiet demeanour, in favour of a more attention-catching extrovert. This is a shame, as introverts have rich inner worlds and are often capable of insights and perceptions that more outwardly-focused people are not.
Yet, in many situations, we feel invisible and undervalued. We have to overcome many obstacles and challenges that extroverts do not face - sometimes, just getting out of the house becomes an insurmountable task, and we decide to stay home instead. If we make it out the door, we must put on an “extrovert mask” and try to interact in ways that are expected but do not come naturally to us, such as making small talk. We hate being put on the spot with spontaneous invitations, because “Sorry, I need to go home and spend time by myself,” does not usually go down well as an excuse. Once our energy stores are depleted, staying a moment longer becomes excruciating - but usually, we have to.
And so, sometimes, we feel life would be so much simpler if we could just be more extroverted.
5. But we also know that being an introvert is a gift
Ultimately, though, that´s just how we feel on a bad day, and deep down we know that introversion is a gift.
In fact, we can´t really imagine what it would be like to need so much external stimulation when life is so interesting in our heads. While others are talking, we are usually listening, observing, connecting the dots, and coming up with unique perceptions, insights, and solutions.
And although we (mostly) love people, we also love our own company and are very self-reliant. When an introvert finds their balance, they can enjoy the best of both worlds.