Yesterday morning, my phone rang and my immediate (and normal) reaction was, “If that isn’t my husband, I’m not answering.” However, it was him, so I answered.
Social convention says that my reaction was rude. I wasn’t doing anything really important. I wasn’t driving. There was nothing keeping me from answering the phone. In our modern society of GPS and hands-free, phone-in-car-dashboard-tech, there isn’t much of an excuse for not answering the phone, unless you’re trapped under something heavy. However, for the introvert, the phone is only for texting, games, and googling. When it rings, it’s like our child suddenly started vomiting pea soup and chanting Latin. We just want to leave the room as quickly as possible.
The main thing about introverts is also the one thing that puzzles the world so very much: we prefer being on our own and moving to our own rhythm, which is decidedly less frenetic than the mainstream. And when we choose to go out into the noisy rush of humanity (or are forced to do so), then we need time later to be alone. We need time to “recharge”, that is, to rest our minds and gather ourselves. Such behavior is puzzling for the vast majority of extroverts, so here’s a handy guide for ya’ll.
1. If you call an introvert, do not be hurt/angry if they don’t pick up.
This goes back to my opener and is probably the biggest source of misunderstanding. If we don’t pick up the phone, it’s not because we’re being rude or selfish or that we don’t like you. I am not extremely introverted, so I will pick up right away for a select group of people or for business reasons. But there are introverts like this guy whose friends have to practically make an appointment to have a phone conversation.
The reason why we dislike the phone so much is threefold.
One, the sudden ringing breaks us out of our train of thought and interrupts the rhythm of whatever we’re doing. It shatters the silence and we prize silence. Secondly, we take visual clues from the person we’re talking with. Therefore, phone calls that don’t involve some form of Facetime are very difficult for us. We’d much rather see the person.
Thirdly, some introverts prefer to communicate via the written word. I am one of those people. I would much rather someone text me if it’s not complicated or urgent. And if it’s complicated, I’d rather physically be in front of said person, unless that said person is a very close friend. And if it’s urgent, well, I’ll just deal with it.
2. We are not “just shy”. Repeat: introverts are not “just shy”.
Being shy is behavior. Being an introvert is a personality trait that we cannot help. Getting angry at or frustrated with someone for being an introvert is like getting pissed off at people with blue eyes because they have blue eyes. Yes, a person with blue eyes can wear colored contacts and an introvert can force themselves to be an extrovert. But is that really fair?
If a person is shy, then that just means they feel intimidated or afraid in social settings. An introvert is someone whose interior life is very active and busy but prefers to not express it except to a select few. We prefer smaller groups and hate awkward social situations.
Being around a lot of people is difficult and we’d rather have it in small doses. That does not make us shy.
3. We’d rather be doing quiet activities. That does not mean we don’t like you.
When someone asks me if I’m doing anything on a particular evening, that does not necessarily mean I’m open to a social invitation. Let me illustrate, using a fictional person called “Jane”. First, the external dialogue.
Jane: So, Suzanna, you doing anything Friday night?
Me: No, not really.
Jane: Great! You want to go try that new night club that opened last week?
Me: …..I’d rather not. Thanks.
Jane: Oh…okay. Maybe some other time, then?
Now, the internal!
Jane: *Oh, so, she’s not busy! That must mean she wants to go out!*
Me: *I can’t wait to sit down with my cat and catch up on Bones.*
Jane: *I love to be in noisy places to dance, flirt, and laugh!*
Me: *SENSORY OVERLOAD ALERT. HELL TO THE NO.*
Jane: *She must not want to hang out with me.*
Me: *If she wants to come over and watch tv or meet in a quiet coffee shop, then I’m game. Otherwise, Bones awaits!*
See what I mean? Extroverts love to be out and about. Introverts are more like:
Be understanding. If you have a friend you know is a bit introverted, instead of asking if they want to go to a particular place, just ask if they want to hang out. Hey, maybe they’ll even get a wild hair and agree to go out to something loud and externally busy. But you need to ask and discuss rather than expect. When an introvert feels like something not of their nature is expected of them, that just makes them feel bad for being what they are.
4. Be patient. Be understanding.
We will call you back or text you. One night, we will go out with you somewhere. We are fully capable of having a fun time. But we aren’t going to enjoy ourselves if we’re feeling forced. Drop the modern societal expectations and meet us as we are, then things will go a lot smoother.
I think a lot of misunderstandings occur because people don’t discuss what they’re thinking and feeling. There are so many expectations in certain situations and no room for people who behave or think differently. If an introverted person is truly your friend, then you should talk to them. Ask them what they like to do. We introverts do not need or want to be changed to meet the expectations of those around us. I mean, really, who likes that anyhow?
Shout out to my introvert readers: what are some things you wished your extrovert friends knew? And to my extrovert readers: do you have any questions? I look forward to hearing from you!