Like many of you probably know, I am an introvert. I get energy from being alone and if I’ve been with a group of people for a while I can’t wait to get home to have some alone time. It also means that I think about a lot of things before I say them, I don’t really enjoy small talk, prefer deep chats and don’t always like being in big groups of people. This does, however, NOT mean that I am shy. Just because I’m not very talkative in big groups doesn’t immediately mean I’m shy. There is a difference between being shy and introverted. It’s true, some people can be both but it doesn’t always have to be the case.
This is unfortunately only one of the misconceptions people generally have about introverts.
One book that really helped me ‘understand’ – if you will – introverts and extroverts much better is ‘Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking‘, it’s a book written by Susan Cain who has dived deep into the world of research and has found, read, talked to and participated with many different scholars, scientists and activities. She has tried to lay down the ways in which introverts work, not only from the outside (what people see) but also from a scientific point of view, what actually goes on in our brains and how that’s different to extroverts’ brains.
I, for example, used to be really good at school, always had good grades. The only thing my teachers would often comment on is that I was quiet in class, it was their only ‘concern’ – as far as they actually thought it was a concern – but they mentioned it anyhow. Because it was commented upon so much – and still is, just not to my parents now, to me – I always thought that it was something bad, and that I should work on it. Never really did if I’m honest but always thought that I should talk in class even if it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. Even now, I am totally okay when I’ve prepared something to talk in front of the class, but if I have to think of something on the spot, I get super anxious. This book has taught me that that’s not a bad thing at all.
Just because introverts have different qualities and strengths than extroverts, doesn’t mean we are less intelligent. It just means that we are the quiet ones, in a world that is consistently focussed on and pushes people being loud. It’s not a bad thing that I can’t talk in class, because it’s not like I never have anything to say or never have good ideas. It’s just the fact that this world is so committed and focussed on us all being extroverts, praising hardly anything else, that when someone doesn’t fulfil that norm she or he is immediately seen as ‘strange’, ‘shy’ or even ‘unintelligent’.
I’m just here to say: a) read that book if you are an introvert, and if you’re an extrovert, I think you would learn a lot, b) if you’re an introvert and you’re feeling lost or not appreciated, don’t let the extroverts get you down. You are amazing and intelligent. It doesn’t matter if you can’t talk in public, don’t beat yourself up about it.
So here is a list of things that extroverts should take into account when being around introverts.
I know I’m saying ‘we’ in these notes, I’m not trying to generalise and expect all introverts or extroverts to be the same. I know you will probably not necessarily relate to all of these.
I am also in no way hating on extroverts, some of my best friends are extroverts and even my boyfriend is. I am more commenting on the fact that society and the school systems are the ones that don’t take into account the two different types of personalities, which I think should be changed.
- Don’t say: ‘oh you’re quiet’. It’s very annoying and so what if I’m quiet? Maybe I think you’re talking too much (just btw, nothing wrong with both, just stating the annoyance)
- Don’t pressure us into saying something, if we want to, we will, pressuring us is not going to help.
- Also don’t pressure us into doing something, it will make us feel awful inside, also because we think we’re disappointing someone if they’re close
- Instead, make us feel comfortable, like we’re talking to a friend and not a stranger.
- Don’t look down upon us if we don’t engage in small talk and it goes quiet, there’s two people in the conversation making it go quiet, remember that.
- But at the same time, there doesn’t always have to be small talk, having nothing to say is not a crime.
- Don’t be mean to us because we don’t want to go out. If you do convince us to go out we will probably not have a good time and then nobody is the happier.
- Don’t judge when we’re only throwing out ideas. If our first idea is put down so easily we might not have the confidence to talk about others anymore, even though they may be the best.
- Don’t interrupt
- Try to listen as well as talk.
- It’s got nothing to do with you if we just want to be alone sometimes, don’t feel too disheartened by it.