As is so often the case when a thought, concept or idea catches the public imagination and runs away with it, what introversion is and how people now perceive it have become slightly detached. Somehow introversion has been turned into something it is not. Introverts are not socially awkward creatures who don’t know how to dress themselves. We are not hermits who want to be shut ourselves away and lock the door.
It isn’t just these stereotypes that get on our nerves, either. Somehow some ideas have snuck into the public discourse and now we’re a little bit afraid to tell you they’re not true, in case you end up disappointed. In other places, in the meantime, you haven’t yet come to fully understand what it means to be an introvert. So in the name of full disclosure, here are seven things we’d like to tell you but haven’t so far (and probably never will).
1. We actually like to be dragged to parties sometimes.
Just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we’ve got perfect self-knowledge. Sometimes we’re wrong about how we’re feeling. Sometimes we’re wrong about how much we’ll enjoy seeing other people. We’re introverts, not hermits – but sometimes we forget that. So occasionally we like to be dragged to a party against our will and will really enjoy it.
But we’ll never tell you that. Otherwise you might get it in your head that should do so all the time. And that, quite frankly, is not the idea at all!
2. Often what we’re thinking is far more interesting than what you’re saying.
Just because I’m an introvert and you’re an extrovert doesn’t mean you should talk all the time. In fact, it means exactly the opposite. What you like to talk about often isn’t that interesting to us. We like to delve deeply into a particular train of thought – not leap from track to track and run from carriage to carriage.
Of course, we can’t tell you that. You’ll get offended and then you’ll want to talk about it. At which point we’re all even further from home then if we would have just let you prattle on, while we listened with half an ear. But you can’t stop us from thinking it!
3. I love you, but sometimes I need you to go away.
I know you’re afraid of being alone and so I can never tell you to go away, because you’ll get offended and think it’s a critique. Sometimes, however, I really wish you’d give me more me time. You know that saying, “it isn’t you, it’s me”? Well, for once that isn’t just some lame excuse and it actually turns out to be true. I need my space. Sometimes just having mental space will do. Occasionally, however, it has to be physical.
So perhaps go hang out with some of those friends you talk about so much and leave me to stare at a bare wall in blessed silence.
4. Could we write this argument down instead?
Because then I might finally get this point across that you keep interrupting. It might be better for you as well. You could think about what you’re going to say, instead of grabbing the tail of your emotional tiger and letting it run away with you.
Oh, how I wish we could have our arguments that way. We can’t, of course. Writing is somehow seen as impersonal, as cold, and as distant. The thing is, we wish more arguments had exactly that element. Then we could turn what we’re doing from you arguing against me to us trying to sort this out together. Wouldn’t that leave both of us better off?
5. I’m not shy or socially awkward.
You’ve just painted me into a corner when you heard I was introverted. And though I would love to tell you that it’s not the case, I can’t anymore. You’ve drawn your conclusions and you’ll somehow feel robbed if I tell you it’s not the way you think it is.
Introversion has nothing to do with social awkwardness. I’ve met plenty of extroverts who find it very hard to make friends and can’t make a bartender engage with them as they’re buying bottles of champagne by the truck load, and I’ve met introverts who can charm the pants off somebody who is wearing a dress.
The one has nothing to do with the other.
6. You telling everybody I’m an introvert is not helping.
I don’t know why you feel the need to explain to everybody that I’m an introvert and you’re an extrovert, but it’s not making my life any easier. It’s like you’re hanging a big sign around my neck and the moment everybody reads it the say, “Oh, you poor thing. Isn’t there a cure for that?”
And that’s ridiculous! There is nothing wrong with being an introvert! We just recharge our batteries in different ways, that’s all. We can be the life of the party. We can be social butterflies. We often just don’t want to. So stop labelling me and let people discover me for who I really am. Will you do that for me?
7. In fact, can we drop this introversion-extroversion thing entirely?
Aren’t there more interesting things to talk about? I mean, I appreciated Susan Cain’s book Quiet as much as anybody, but isn’t it time to move on? Haven’t we reached the point where talking more about this is just making it harder for people to escape the labels that we keep stamping on their foreheads?
Introversion and extroversion aren’t fixed characteristics, like hair color or height. They are fluid and often change over your lifetime. The thing is, they’ll only do that if you let them. And if you keep hammering the introversion nail that will never happen. So though I very much enjoyed the topic when it first came out and it let me learn a lot about myself, can we move on now, so that I can stop being an introvert and go back to just being me?