I’ve had this post sitting in drafts for ages. I wrote it more as a way of venting and then just left it in drafts. Then, recently, I was at a conference and some things happened that brought it back to the forefront of my mind. Please know that I DO understand that this will not apply to ALL extroverts but maybe it’s worth a read for all extroverts. Maybe this will be a peek into the world from the perspective of an introvert. Maybe you’ll see some of yourself in this.
You see, I think I get it. You get all excited and start having fun and you just want everyone to join in. You are a high energy person and you want to feel that energy all around you. When you’re enjoying yourself, you don’t want to keep it to yourself. You want it to be a shared experience with others. Expressing your delight in something is a very outward experience – at a conference, you might be the one who’s “wooting” at the top of your lungs, jumping up and down, waving your arms over your head.
You look over at me, sitting quietly in my chair and in your enthusiasm and perhaps a misguided need to be my own personal cheerleader, you yell, “Come on! Get up on your feet!”. I smile, shake my head and say no, but you are insistent. Soon you are tugging at my hand, trying to pull me to my feet as you yell at me to get up and make some noise. By now, heads have turned and there are multiple eyes on me.
Or at a motivational event, the leaders turn on loud music and call out from the stage, “Everybody dance!”. A conga line forms and as it makes its way past the chairs where everyone is sitting, more people are grabbed and pulled into the line. As I see the line making its way towards me, I put my head down and start rifling through my purse in an attempt to avoid eye contact. It doesn’t work. The extrovert on the stage grabs the mic and says, “Hey you in the pink dress, we see you! Get up and conga with us!”
Or we’re at an employee retreat together. You decide to set up some “fun” team-building activities which include role-playing, creating skits ,songs, and cheers and then not only performing them in front of the entire room, taping them to be shared on social media. I want to hide in the bathroom (after all, the whole thing is making me feel sick to my stomach) but in the spirit of “team-building” I have to participate.
Or you’re a friend and we’ve gone out for a girls’ night out on the town. In an effort to “help me break out of my shell”, you attempt to push me onstage for karaoke. I refuse but you persist. At first, it’s friendly cajoling but as I continue to say no, it becomes less so. “Come on, it will be good for you,” you say.
Well, here’s a little secret for you extroverts out there. I don’t need your help. I am not damaged. I don’t need to be fixed. I am an introvert. I process situations differently than you do. I am not a “party pooper” or a “spoil sport” or any of the other names you call me. I can have fun without dancing in the aisles, jumping up and down or hooting and hollering. And in fact, your attempts to force me into behaviour that is uncomfortable for me, is the exact opposite of fun.
Your – ok I’m just going to say it – pushy behaviour has caused me to hide out in public bathrooms as a pre-emptive move when I could see some stress-inducing extroverted activity about to happen. i have refused invitations to events I wanted to go to because I was certain that there would be too much extrovertedness (new word – I made it up) going on. I have gone home from events with migraines, sick to my stomach, and once, I even broke out in hives because of an extrovert trying to “help me” break out of my shell.
What can you do about it….also known as the care and feeding of introverts:
- When planning an event, bear in mind that not everyone who attends will be an extrovert.All events and activities should be optional and voluntary. Include ways for introverts to participate on their own terms. Plan for some quiet spaces to serve as a little retreat away from all the noise and activity to allow the introverts to regroup and regain their balance.
- If you are speaking at an event, never ever ever put people on the spot by calling on them to answer when they haven’t volunteered to do so, or by calling them out when they choose to sit quietly instead of dancing along with the others in the room. You have NO idea the stress you may be placing on that person. You also have NO Idea if that person might have some health conditions that would prevent them from taking part in a physical activity.
- Never touch someone without their permission. You, the one who grabbed me and tried to pull me into a conga line…..you caused me 3 days of pain and difficulty walking because my injured hip and knee can’t take that kind of movement.
- Stop trying to fix introverts. We don’t need to be fixed, it’s not your job to decide that anyway, and it’s certainly not your job to try to fix them. Have you ever considered that there are some introverts out there who might be thinking that there is something wrong with YOU? I’ve heard some say “oh she’s such an attention seeker – wonder what she’s trying to compensate for!” and I think that’s as unfair the way some extroverts try to pull introverts out of their shell to make them “better”. Just stop it. Different doesn’t have to mean wrong.
- Understand that quiet doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Just because I’m sitting quietly, that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying what I’m hearing and participating in. Your need for noise and energy to feed off of is just that – your need. You’re going to have to find a way to get that without my help. Perhaps if you’re a speaker, you should ask some of your extrovert friends to sit in the front row and provide you with that. Most of us introverts would rather sit at the back of the room anyway where we can feel less “watched” and slip out to the bathroom easily in case we need to hide from you.
- In this case, treat others as you would want to be treated yourself may not exactly apply. Treating me like an extrovert makes me uncomfortable and I want to retreat. Treating you as an introvert – well I don’t know how that would make you feel because I’ve never been an extrovert but I’m guessing you would find it boring and uninspiring. In either case, it shows a lack of respect for your fellow human being. Or a lack of understanding.