When I was in high school, I did a pretty good job of pretending to be an extrovert. I was involved in everything from starring in school plays to participating in student government. I held down a job as a perky little waitress and every free moment I had was spent with friends. No one ever would have guessed that my little introverted heart craved alone time and dreaded drama.
The older I’ve gotten, though, the more my inner introvert has shone through. I have a very small, close-knit circle of friends I enjoy spending time with but beyond them, I’d pretty much always rather be curled up in bed, by myself, with Netflix and a glass of wine.
The irony is that most of my close friends are extreme extroverts to the point that when their husbands go out of town, they start scrambling to make plans so they won’t have to spend too much time alone. Meanwhile, I’m still single because the idea of having another adult in my space 24/7 kind of makes me itchy. If I were married and my husband went out of town for the weekend, I’d lock all the doors, turn off my phone, and not go anywhere for 48 hours straight.
But these extroverted friends have taught me a lot over the years. For starters, they’re always quick to let me know when I’m being socially awkward in public, which is often. But even more importantly, I’ve learned from them that confrontation doesn’t have to be a scary thing.
Each and every one of those friends of mine addresses issues in the moment, whether those issues be with their husbands or their in-laws. They’re all quick to clear the air and move forward when something rubs them wrong. Meanwhile, I let things fester, usually following the
Introvert’s Guide to Confrontation precisely:
Step 1: Someone I know and care about says or does something shitty.
Step 2: I don’t react. At all. Mostly because I’m a bit shocked by what they’ve said or done but also because I don’t want to draw further attention to whatever that may have been until I’ve had time to process how I feel about it.
Step 3: I spend the next two to three days processing how I feel about it, likely over-analyzing every word that was spoken and trying to understand the situation from all angles.
Step 4: I decide I’m angry.
Step 5: I decide I should probably address my reasons for being angry with the person who has made me angry, even though several days have passed by this point.
Step 6: I pick up the phone to call them, but when they answer, I lose my nerve and talk to them like nothing is wrong.
Step 7: I decide maybe an e-mail would be better.
Step 8: I talk myself out of the e-mail plan, mostly because it seems cowardly and things are always misconstrued in writing.
Step 9: I find myself feverishly penning that e-mail until 4 in the morning anyway. It’s eight pages by the time I’m done.
Step 10: I chicken out on hitting send, deciding to read it again in a few days and see how I feel then.
Step 11: I talk to the person I’m upset with no fewer than three times in the next few days. I may even buy them lunch, because we already had plans. They have no idea I’m upset.
Step 12: I review the e-mail. I still feel strongly about everything I wrote.
Step 13: I still chicken out.
Step 14: I decide to go back to the original “I’ll just call them” plan. I turn my e-mail into bullet points and practice what I want to say. I feel confidant, and most importantly, right.
Step 15: They pick up the phone and immediately tell me about what a horrible day they had. The next thing I know, I’m offering to pick up a bottle of wine and come on over.
Step 16: Eventually, I just get over it. Because I’m a total sucker and I live in fear of calling people out on their bad behavior.
For the record, I follow similar variations of this same guide for just about all interactions in life. You will never catch me sending back a bad meal at a restaurant. Or yelling at a stranger for stealing my parking spot. Or even getting heated on the phone with a company for providing bad customer service.
I may mutter things under my breath or vent to a friend later on, but in the moment? I’m useless. Unless, of course, I’ve really been pushed to my breaking point. But when that happens, I don’t deal with confrontation rationally. Instead, I wind up ranting like a teenager and coming off as the crazy one.
So you can imagine why I tend to avoid letting my emotions get the best of me.
I have to believe this is a mostly introverted thing. I know it stems from the fact that I’m just not good at heavy conversations. And while I’m envious of my friends who can react in the moment, I really don’t often know how I actually feel in that moment. I have to be alone to think these things through, which is likely part of the problem, but also just part of who I am.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that it is what it is. My little introverted heart will probably never be good at confrontation, which maybe isn’t the end of the world. After all, if introverts were as adept at confrontation as extroverts (instead of swallowing it all down) there would be a whole lot less art, music, and writing inspired by the bitterness of their silent tears.
I bet you Adele is an introvert.