After a while being out and about with friends, road tripping and the like, it dawned on me that folks don’t really understand the introvert experience as it pertains to the human condition. Being able to engage live audiences and communicate eloquently and frequently with living “rational” beings, especially via online media, does not automatically signal extraversion. Shocking, I know. Articles like “Is social media helping or hurting introverts” serve to explain some of the aspects of the conundrum. For many shy and introverted people, writing, especially through blogs and social media, is an outlet that allows them to express exactly what they are thinking and feeling. The screen helps or protect them in a way that enables them to convey their state of mind more clearly and effectively than through face to face interaction. Online or text talk eliminates sending physical mixed signals. You, alone with your thoughts and doubts, can take time to sift through the data and take as long as required to formulate the appropriate response. No harm. No foul.
The fact that introverts self edit, writing the same sentence ten times before hitting send, is not apparent to those on the other side of the message. What takes someone like me minutes or hours to communicate comes naturally to the extrovert. In fact, while the numerous thought processes cycled through to get a coherent message out of my brain the clueless extrovert is feeding me more information to consider! My silence is misunderstood as a green light to continue speaking when truth be told I am overwhelmed by the lines of reasoning presented to me. An introvert may need a few days to get back to you for those special topics that require special consideration or finesse. Patience and understanding are not only required but necessary to give introverts the space to participate and successfully engage.
Case in point. I learned long ago that I’m not the friend you go to when you want validation or an emotional reaction. That’s W. I am emphatic and can relate to your situation and mindfulness state but that’s all you’ll get from me. I know it throws off people because I don’t give the preprogrammed traditional responses but that’s part of the problem of being an individual that takes pride in being unique and/or not drinking the KoolAid. I like reason and logic, not emotion, to guide my decisions including those based on instinct. When those interacting with me or with others start getting angry, sad, too excited or unreasonable I tend to excuse myself after a profound or perfectly worded storm off. I simply walk away and shut off for a while. Decompressing is a daily thing, and I can’t skip it.
This is why lately being around loud extroverts that inadvertently draw attention to themselves or demand it, in closed environments like airplanes or meeting rooms has become a challenge. I can’t just keep trucking with all these extra noises and information patterns attacking all my senses. I have to process every channel, every data bit, to form a conclusion and a cohesive argument. I end up escaping into my phone, a bathroom, headphones with music, or some obscure corner to regain my inner peace and balance. I will start falling asleep or looking ill naturally, a defense mechanism my body came up with as a last resort measure.
I don’t do well in conferences or in large teams. I hug a wall and slowly wish to fade away. Because I thrive on logic and silence, people misunderstand my intentions. I’m not happy you got engaged or are pregnant unless you have had a struggle with relationships or miscarriage. I am not easily impressed by run of the mill activities due to my extensive library of knowledge and examples. Chances are I have seen the same stuff over and over again on my news feed, and will be more miffed that you misspelled a word than about the content of your musings. I live and let live as long as expectations are clear about my role in their narrative.
I can accommodate almost every perspective without judgement since I want to learn from them rather than stigmatize a create a foe. I may deflect tension with some nerdy humor or an incredulous laugh, which makes me come across as cold. That’s the intention. To get a rise from me you must be overwhelming. Very few people can deplete my patience meter. Even fewer stay in my life after pushing me to the limit, pushing my buttons without a valid reason. I’m not here to destroy worlds or change minds. I am perfectly fine leading by example. Whether others choose to follow my lead is up to them.
I am an anomaly in only one area: keeping info private. I seek out wisdom by sharing my thoughts and experiences with those that engage me in conversation. I won’t just blurt out data but I don’t hold back for the sake of the learning process which is why a lot of folks like talking to me one on one, a method I prefer as well. Chit chat is not my forté although I can BS like the best of them. Being genuine forces me to be transparent with my own thought processes. I will give you advice if you ask; I will hold your baby if you offer. Imposing is not part of my brand. Therefore I run away from pushy and impolite people. Why? Because the few times I have had to assert myself I was anxious for a few days afterwards. Sad but true. My confidence level is sky high except on the days it isn’t. Those days I barely make it out of bed, exhausted by the thought of what lies ahead.
It is not easy to manage who I am with what the world expects me to be. Walking the thin line between politeness and socially awkward is a full time job, especially when I have to do it in my second language. At some point you realize the effort is a necessary evil. I live for those quiet moments. The respite from the chaos. Me, my books and peace, ftw.