I was an adult before I realized that I wasn’t an extrovert after all. And really maybe my emotional and mental makeup shifted as I got older, I’m not sure. But after doing some research, I learned that I am actually very introverted. And I’m also learning that that’s okay. However, I’m finding that the term “introvert” is still largely misunderstood (just like I misunderstood it myself), and I think if more people learned about the key concept of introversion vs. extroversion, we might all have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other and even ourselves.
Of course not all the ideas I give here apply to all introverts, but they do apply to a lot of us. 🙂
1. Introverted is NOT synonymous with shy.
I think if I could get my extroverted friends to understand just one thing about us introverts, it would be this: we’re not necessarily shy. I mean some of us are, but so are some extroverts. Whether you are considered an introvert or an extrovert doesn’t have to do with whether you are nervous in front of a crowd, run out of things to say, or have lots of friends. These are all moot points. The determining factor is what gives you energy: being with people, or being alone.
I enjoy reading articles from Introvert, Dear. They have a lot of really insightful, digestible content that is comforting to introverts and informative for our extrovert friends and family, to help them understand us. This article gives more info. about introversion vs. extroversion, and even has a fun little quiz you can take to see which category you fall in, if you aren’t sure.
But seriously, don’t make the mistake of thinking introverts are afraid of people or don’t have anything to say. Usually, we don’t come off as super friendly because the truth is, most of us really hate small talk. We don’t enjoy the disingenuous social routine that goes something like this: “Hey, how are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good.” “Hey, we should do lunch sometime!” “Ya!” “It was great to see you” “You too!” We actually have a lot to say, but we also have limited social energy. Many writers and psychologists refer to this as your social battery. Introverts have a smaller social battery. And our battery is drained by social interaction, no matter how fun or positive. Those who are extroverted actually need social interaction to recharge. So since we know that we only have so much energy to give to engaging with other people, we try not to “waste” that energy on empty small talk. We’d rather talk to you about how you’re really doing, deeper subjects, and interesting, meaningful topics.
2. We’re not snobs [probably].
I can’t speak for everyone, but as for me, and my introverted friends, it makes us sad when people mistake us for being rude or snobby because we’re not grinning from ear to ear and working the room, engaging with everyone around us. Again, remember the battery. It’s limited, and we don’t want to use it up too fast. Otherwise, we will clam up for the rest of our social time, or at worst, have a panic attack or anxiety episode and have to leave entirely. (Sorry if this sounds dramatic to you, it’s just our reality.)
3. We’re probably going to turn down most of your invitations to hang out.
This is one of the downsides to being an introvert. We want to have friends, we really do. But if we’ve used up our battery on work, church, and family… there’s not a lot left for your birthday party, casual dinner, or hanging out at the mall. And we know that that sounds so terribly selfish and rude. And we’re really sorry. But you can’t get blood from a turnip, as your grandma would say.
We have to have a break between social situations, or we will have a breakdown.
It’s as simple as that.
For most introverted people, the number of people at an event plays a role in how quickly their energy is depleted. I can more easily do a quiet dinner with another couple than I can do a church-wide fellowship. I love my church family- in fact, we recently joined a new church, and everyone is so kind and welcoming. But if there’s an event that involves several hundred people crowded into one room, all. talking. at. once., there’s a good chance I may not attend, because I really, really struggle with those situations. It’s complete mental and sensory overload for me (and a lot of other introverts), and I hate not to participate, but I already know I will need some serious recoup after such an event.
Now, here comes the ironic part: we really, really want you to still invite us. Ya, I know. But here’s the thing, remember, we do still want to have friends. We’re not people-haters. We don’t have a bad attitude. We’re just limited in what we have to give socially. So even if we turn you down immediately with some weird, lame excuse, or if we cancel last minute with a hundred apologies and yet another weird, lame excuse, it doesn’t mean we don’t want you to try again next time. Because when we finally have a day or evening when we have enough social battery left over after all of life’s basic demands, we would love to spend some time with you.
Please don’t read this, and think, Wow. How lucky am I- maybe I’ll get some of your leftovers, if you deign to accept my invitation and spend some of your precious “social battery” on me. It isn’t like that. It really isn’t- please know that. It’s just that there are things (like our job) that automatically require a chunk of our social energy, and well, it’s just really impossible to manufacture more. We would if we could, believe me.
4. We don’t need to “come out of our shell.”
Again, see #1. We aren’t shy. We have friends. Most of us are probably pretty content. We honestly don’t feel like we’re missing out. We aren’t going to change, and we don’t need to change. We have our own unique gifts and traits that come along with our personality, and we’re not looking for our extroverted friends to take us by the hand and lead us into Social Land. We appreciate your concern, but we’re good. Really. 🙂
What about you- are you an introvert or an extrovert? What things would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below!