Several years ago I went to my first (and last!) high school reunion. Now I can say I’ve “been there, done that,” and my husband can brag that he was “arm candy.” Before the event, we met up with a few old friends and I told them how nervous I was about what people would think of me. My high school best friend (HS-BFF) told me not to worry, that most people, she felt, probably wouldn’t think much at all. My HS-BFF was a floater, and could get along with anyone. She surely would know. What she told me surprised me greatly. She said that most people thought I was rather quiet.
That revelation threw me. Among my close friends, I was loud, talked way too much and could be a goofball. I had an atypical, drama-filled upbringing, and finding reasons to laugh and enjoy life was one way I coped with it. I took some time to think about what she said and eventually realized she was right. Those who knew me, truly knew me. Everyone else merely knew I existed. (That part I was confident about, as I was a Southerner transplanted in the “North” long before moving South was a thing.) If nothing else, I was the girl who talked funny, and had ears that stuck out. Everyone knew that.
Years later, I still come back to what she said. It’s funny, put me in a room full of people with a lectern and a microphone and it’s easy to talk to them all. But I’m honestly more of a quiet person, a “thinker” type, and in certain circumstances am rather on the shy side. In reality, I’m likely an ambiavert. Regardless, I’m married to self-professed introvert. Over time I have seen him and his introverted peers be overlooked for various things as they aren’t out there selling themselves, talking it up. They tend to think before they speak, while some of us speak in order to think, to clarify our thoughts. Too many times they are told, “get out of your shell,” when what they wish is for the loud shoppers over in the next aisle to go back into theirs. I’ve seen countless times how introverts are chastised for their behavior and strongly encouraged to be exactly who they are not: extroverts.
We’ve tried to explain to over-enthusiastic extroverts that, no, we don’t want to do X, Y or Z, to no avail. How standing in crowds waiting for anything from BBQ to Walt Disney World is exhausting, how small talk is draining and how we really do like staying home and reading instead of going to a loud party. They just don’t see or experience life the way we do, and that’s ok. The frustration lies when others can’t respect the other way of living, and we’re called anything from losers to loners to underachievers (because we don’t do well at buttering up the bosses – it’s not our style.) We’re totally misunderstood.
Today, I saw a tweet retweeted in my newsfeed that said this:
I thought of my husband – and myself – and smiled. We *do* enjoy getting together with others. We just do best in smaller settings. And, yes, we see no point in wasting words that have no meaning – or worse, are intended to stir up others. Now, that quote isn’t about all introverts, for sure. However, it does explain one reason I always had a hard time fitting into “that” crowd. I never understood saying nice things (that weren’t true) in order to make someone feel better, or to manipulate a situation, even if all the manipulation was was to get out of something uncomfortable. I still don’t have an interest in gossip, and feel it hurts others. I mean, when is the last time gossip “helped?” (…still thinking…)
And if I’ve made extroverts come across as boorish, that is not what I intended, either. Considering that quote, many will ignore the drama and the posers and not let it get to them, but others don’t want to deal with it in the first place. The fact remains, some people love living life out loud while others prefer things a bit different. And that’s ok.
So, I wanted to take a moment to say that it’s ok to be who you are. Sure, we say that all the time, and most of the time we mean it, but when it comes to this sort of thing, there is still disagreement. But, personally, I think introverts are misunderstood and have more to offer than you realize. The next time you are in a meeting and throw out a question, instead of calling on the first person who shouts out or raises their hand, consider taking another second to scan the room, looking for the person who may be a bit timid but longs to be engaged, and call on them, instead. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens!