I'm an introvert. Something none of us really understood, and to this day, so much of the world struggles to be comfortable with. My mom allowed for me to be comfortable with it and hushed the discomfort in others while I figured myself out.
As an adult, it's still an area of myself that I can see creates discomfort in others. Even close friends appear to walk on eggshells when my inability to give anymore of myself is perceived as withdrawal, lack of interest in others, and sheer rudeness. The reality for me is that I am still learning my limits. I still don’t notice when I need quiet time until it is too late, until my discomfort becomes everyone’s discomfort.
I was recently on a trip out of state and surrounded by incredible human beings, yet still that yearning for solitude could not be tamed. I speak to both introverts and extroverts when I say we don't seek to offend and we certainly don't owe any apologies to anyone.
It is our duty as human beings to accept one another, seek understanding in our differences, and respect the nature of our natural drives. My natural drive on that trip led to this post and a desire to help others understand that introverts (or those with even just minimal traits of introversion) make up a large part of the population. So often it seems that introverts are expected to adjust their style for an extroverted world, but the reality is there are things extroverts can also do to support introverts.
- Give space where space is needed - My friends were great at recognizing and respecting my need for space and alone time. Extroverts and introverts alike, they may not have fully understood why I was starting to withdrawal, but they certainly didn’t push back when I made a verbal statement about needing some alone time. I can speak on behalf of all introverts when I say that you giving us space is a huge relief.
- Understand that this isn’t a personal attack against you - Introverts can feel significant guilt for their inability to keep up with the social activity of the group, but they can also become more resentful, drained, and withdrawn if they don’t get that alone time to recharge. The need for alone time is not about you having done anything wrong, rather, it is necessary so the introvert can be at their best in the time they do share with you. Do you want to hang out with a bump on a log or the sassy and fun friend? Give introverts the space they need and you will have the latter friend every time!
- Respond in kind - There is nothing I adore more than a positive reaction from those around me, or even no reaction at all! It’s fairly common for introverts to receive extra attention or negative reactions when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Imagine this scenario: at a party an introvert is feeling overwhelmed and needs some quiet time, but now is not the time so they’re just trying to sit through the discomfort. They gradually become quieter as their energy drains and soon others begin to notice. They start getting questions about whether they’re okay. More and more attention is directed at them because their behavior is becoming increasingly unusual and noticeable. They are pressured to behave according to the groups needs and if not done, reactions can be strong. This is the last thing someone who wants a bit of peace and quiet needs. So instead, show compassion and consider that this might be the best they’ve got right now. Even better, offer them an escape!
Introverts can be as social and energetic as the next person. The difference being that they first need to gather their energy and they do this in quiet alone time. Extroverts, at the other end of the spectrum, gather their energy from the social opportunity with a group. Neither one is more wrong or right than the other, just a matter of difference. If you’re an introvert with a long list of extroverted friends, this might be worth a share! If you’re an extrovert, let me know if the comments below if this was helpful!