When I was in elementary school (and let’s not talk about how long ago that’s been), my teachers were required to grade us on how “socialized” we were – in other words, how often and how well we interacted with others. While my other grades were mostly good (math was always a challenge), I never was one to receive great marks in that particular area. Not because I was a mean kid. I never started fights, I rarely outright argued with anyone, but I also rarely spoke with people. I was, more often than not, the quiet girl at her desk reading a book, drawing a picture, or writing things down while the other girls formed their cliques. I had friends, don’t get me wrong, but I just never felt the need to have large groups of them. I was very close to the friends I did have and while I was (mostly) polite to everyone else, I wasn’t one to open up to people, to seek out new people, or, really, to let new people in. It just wasn’t my way.
My mother is an extremely sociable lady (my father not as much). She had a hard time understanding why I didn’t want to “join” clubs, why group piano lessons mortified me, why I did not particularly like the church youth group outings, and why I, in general, was not much for small talk – and given my preference, would rather sit in the car while she worked the room after church.
As I got older, I got better with it. I’ve gotten good at small talk, I’ve gotten better at working rooms when I need to be, and I don’t have mild panic attacks every time I get ready to do a webinar at work (that’s a joke – I was never that extreme). But the truth is, I am and have always been an introvert. In a world full of extroverts – and where extroverts are the ones who truly succeed (politicians, businessmen, salespeople, etc – all of those are extroverts), though, introversion can be a bit of a problem. Because extroverts, for all that they claim otherwise, do not understand introverts.
Extroverts spend most of their lives craving social interaction – they are energized by parties, by clubs, by the large group outings. They don’t understand me when I decline solely on the basis that I simply want to go home, put on a pair of sweatpants, and write awhile. 3.0, probably the most extroverted person I have ever dated, didn’t really GET why I needed a hotel room of my own to crash in if we were going to be spending the entire weekend we were in Tennessee interacting with large groups of people (people I did not really know). He didn’t GET why being alone sometimes was such a big deal to me. It was simply unfathomable to him that I might want to go to a movie alone with him instead of with large groups of people, or that I might want to spend some time alone with him in the condo instead of inviting massive amounts of his friends over at the same time. Sadly, this is something I run into a lot – not just in my relationships, but also at work, and even, sometimes, with family stuff.
But here’s the thing… being an introvert is not so bad. And being WITH an introvert, in a relationship, isn’t so bad either.
- Introverts are quiet. We aren’t going to talk your leg off all the time. We do talk. When we like you, we do talk. But we spend most of our time thinking about things before we say them. And we are careful about our delivery methods. When we have something to say, we say it. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree with us, but we’ll be sure to say it (as best we can) in a way that will not push your buttons and that will best meet the needs of both parties involved (when possible).
- Introverts need alone time. Some of us need more than others. Which means that you get alone time too. This does not mean that we want to have an affair. It means that we want to watch a movie, or read a book, or do our laundry. We do not always require, nor desire, nights out on the town. And although sometimes that alone time really means we want to be alone, if you’re lucky enough to be in our “circle”, then that means that we’re also happy to be alone with you, too.
- Introverts are really good at being close to people we care about. Let’s face it. We suck at small talk. Day to day interactions can be difficult, because we just don’t know what to DO when we have to “schmooze” with people we barely know… talking about the weather and traffic and mundane things simply doesn’t interest us – we like deeper, more involved conversations. But once you’re in, you’re “in”. We like to listen, and we want to listen, to what you have to say if you’re being real with us. We ask questions when we don’t understand something, and we take the stuff you’re saying and we really THINK about it. Sometimes to the point of distraction (which, Botboy, is why I nearly ran off the damn road on the way back to Tampa the night we went out before you left). We are, sometimes, also guilty of overthinking. But… at least you know we’re never looking at things from a one-layered perspective.
- Most of us are extremely loyal. I’m not saying there aren’t introverts out there that cheat. Because there are. I’ve known a few. But most of us really value our relationships (friendships and otherwise). Our social time uses valuable amounts of our energy. We are selective about who we spend our time with. If someone doesn’t suit us, we don’t hesitate about cutting ties when we need to. But when we find someone deserving of that energy, we don’t go looking elsewhere. And if you’re that designated person? You should feel flattered… it takes a lot to get to where you are.
- Introverts are generally never bored. We are exceptionally good at entertaining ourselves. You want to watch the game on TV? No problem. You want time to work on a project of your own? That’s not a big deal either. Because introverts thrive on “quiet time,” we’ve developed skills that extroverts haven’t… we know how to be alone without desperately needing external stimulation for entertainment. Most of us are creative in one way or another. We write. We paint. We build things. We read. We go in the other room and watch TV. (I do all of these things, and also learn languages in my spare time.) In other words… we don’t need you, or someone else, to amuse us all day, every day. We’re very good at entertaining ourselves when we need to be.
Some of the best relationships I’ve ever had in my life were with people who were like this. Not couch potatoes, per se (I do not like couch potatoes), but people who, like me, just preferred to be quiet and low key. Who didn’t need to be in the “thick” of things all the time. Who took things slowly, with intent, and, particularly, who understood that this was just the way that I was (usually because they were, to some degree, that way also) and didn’t challenge me to change.
Because there is nothing worse in a relationship than someone who regularly attempts to turn you into something that you biologically cannot be.