Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Care for an Introvert

I'm an introvert.

In case you didn't already know that.

I suppose it is hard to know that in the blog world where all you mainly do is talk about your and your family and show pictures.

But trust me, I'm an introvert.

Not the extreme kind. The kind who never come out of their house or hides behind people whispering their words so that someone else can express them.

I draw my energy from my alone time, or my time with my family in my own house. I mentally process before speaking (mostly.) I don't like confrontation. And I hate spontaneous changes to plans.

Growing up, I was around the same group of people mostly. My closes friends were both introverts and extroverts, but since we had known each other so long, we just accepted how each other operated and it was never really talked about.

In middle school and high school I was a leader at my school and youth group. Always volunteering to step in, speak in front of crowds, or organize things. That was because I knew everyone. I was comfortable!

When I started college, I stayed home and went to a major university that was only 2 miles from home. I still was a leader in my classes- perhaps because of confidence or comfort in the classroom.

Where I saw my introvertedness really start coming out was at church. I still volunteered to welcome guests, host the breakfast bar, lead classes, but suddenly I was nauseous and dreaded those things. I'd get sweaty and couldn't think of the right thing to say (nice, huh?) I would be exhausted after a two hour time and found myself searching for any reason to show up late or not at all.

In hindsight, I understand completely that it was because I was out of my comfort zone. We were still on my home turf (my church,) but there were more new people than there were old!

From that point on, I saw how being an introvert affected my life, for both the good and the bad. Yes, I wasn't the quickest to make close friends as we moved around alot. I liked to sit back and observe people first, to get a feel for their personality which led people to think I was unsocial or aloof. But it also meant that I held my tongue alot more. I didn't come across as bossy or opinionated as other people could.

When we moved overseas, I became friends with someone who is quite possibly the most extroverted person I have ever been friends with. Our first 6 months were a learning experience for both of us.

I would constantly turn down her invitations for social hings because I was just exhausted beyond belief. I know she walked away frustrated and confused many times.

We finally had a conversation about our personality types. She said she was an extrovert and I said I was an introvert (duh.) We were talking about how I needed to get out and practice my Arabic with locals more when she asked "How can I make you more of an extrovert?"

Now, my answer was not said nicely, but surely you can understand when I understood her question to be "how can I make you more like me?" I think I replied sharply, "I don't need to become more of an extrovert. Thanks."

Later, I understood her meaning to be one of good intentions, she wanted to help me feel comfortable in the language and the culture. But it took a sharp conversation to really help me see that both sides don't always understand where the other is coming from, in respect to being an introvert and extrovert.

I saw this online (original source unknown,) and it struck such a chord with me that I honestly started crying as I read it.

My friend saw it too and we both thought it would have made life so much easier at the beginning of our relationship if I had been able to hand her this list and say "Now, you don't have to follow this list exactly, and of course everyone deserves respect (which I think is the underlying sentiment in this list), but if you really want to understand how I think and how I process things, these are some tips to think about."

On the list, numbers 2, 3, and 8 really resonate with me. Number 10 and 11 makes sense also, since I had the same group of girlfriends since childhood. The rest are good but 5 and 7 don't really touch a nerve with me- they just seem like common sense but wouldn't be deal breaking-situation changing issues.

Now, because the inverse isn't really the list for extroverts, I'd love to see a list of tips for how to care for extroverts. Any thoughts? Are you an introvert or an extrovert?


Callie said...

Hmm, this is interesting. I have a hard time figuring out what I am, because there are certain groups where I feel like I am an extrovert, and certain groups where I feel like an introvert. I think for me, it's relative to how extroverted/introverted those around me are. I can take either role depending on the personalities of those around me. If someone is pretty quite I tend to act more like an extrovert - and in those situations, though I'm pretty good at keeping a conversation going if I have to, I can't do it indefinitely all by myself if the introverted person I'm talking to doesn't contribute, at least a little. So I think on my list of "how to care for an extrovert" would be "Show a (positive) response to their efforts to reach out to you". That's my two cents. :-)

Jessica said...

I love this so much! I am a fellow introvert, and I feel really misunderstood sometimes.