Do you have a friend, relative, spouse, and/or companion that you suspect of being an introvert? Are you a self-described extrovert that desires guidance in navigating the inner workings of your more reflective mates (we humans are such funny and complex creatures, aren’t we)? Please, take a moment – preferably a quiet moment, I know you can do it – to sample this first part of a comprehensive field guide to the introvert, compiled entirely from the author’s own enlightened, first-hand experience with this most subdued of sub-species*.
1. Alone time ≠ social reject in 9 out of 10 cases of introverts. Did your introvert excuse himself from going with you to a raucous party? Do not worry. He is not being a flake (most likely). Gently remind him that he would probably have fun, because after all, people like him and he likes people. If he still politely deflects your social aspirations, fret not – he simply needs to recharge his battery in peace. In no time at all he’ll be ready to fist pump and white-boy dance with the best of them.
Note: If you decide to go to the party without your introvert, do not be too upset when he texts you later explaining that he made a mistake in staying in and that you were right, he wants to rage. He is only human after all. Permit yourself a sigh and then continue with your life – tension’s no fun.
2. Do try to censor yourself a bit – in this way, you’ll be extending the same courtesy to your introvert that she is likely showing to you. Are you trying to bounce a thought off your introvert? If she isn’t saying much, it’s not necessarily because she’s bored or mute or finds you to be moronic (although, to be safe, don’t always rule these options out). Rather, it is highly likely that she’s been internally weighing the value of her thoughts and opinions, and is very precisely sifting through all of her possible comments to present you with the best imaginable response. Value the effort that goes into such internal processing, even if you cannot fathom it.
Note: Understand, extroverted partner, that most often she finds your extraordinary external communication abilities to be endearing and will concede that you often help her to think outside the box. Sometimes, however, you must realize that she genuinely believes that 95% of the words spewing volcanically from your mouth are complete crap and should have remained as mere thoughts in your head.
3. Be thoughtful when pulling your introvert unwillingly into a social situation if he has not placed himself there of his own accord. For example, are you a college professor that subscribes to the Socratic method of conversational learning and requires each of your students to speak at least once a class period, or risk a lower grade? If so, your introverted students do not think you are brilliant and in fact do not care much for you at all. Just so you know.
Note: The author of this field guide has a very large amount of respect for college professors and their mammoth, unenviable task of teaching all students regardless of learning style.
Updated note: The author of this field guide admittedly would have preferred not to have spent money learning from one or two of her college professors. There – that’s my one contribution to today’s discussion. Enjoy.
4. Exercise control over your facial expressions when reacting to your introvert. Yes, it is very likely that she will interact with her world in ways that you don’t understand, but there is no need for ridiculous displays of guffawing or eyebrow-raising. Suppose you are telling your introvert about a movie that you’d like to see with a group of friends, and she mentions that she’s seen that movie and enjoyed it immensely. You were not aware that she’d been to the theater lately, so you ask who she went to see the film with. When she responds, “I didn’t go with anyone. It’s fun to go to the movies on your own, you know,” do not stare blankly at her in confusion. She will not appreciate your judgment. Just smile and nod, even though you could think of about a zillion other things that would be more fun than going to the movies by yourself.
Note: In the name of science, the author of this field guide recommends that you try going to the theater alone at least once in your life. You may even become addicted to the freedom you gain when you realize you don’t have to share your popcorn with anyone.
5. Remove your introvert to a quieter environment when he becomes cranky and no longer finds your off-color Apples to Apples word pairings even remotely amusing. It is likely that he is feeling fatigued by being “on” in a given social setting for a long period of time, and would appreciate a moment in a less stimulating atmosphere (SEE point 1, above). On the other hand, it is recommended that you likewise allow your introvert to help you relax a bit – it’s not always essential for the extrovert to set his or her life meter to Kenyan Runner Warp Speed. Your introvert is a thoughtful, reflective, intuitive and empathetic being; just as you help them to find quiet when they become insufferably bitchy, so too must they aid you in becoming less of a preachy loudmouth.
Note: If your introvert is in need of some alone time but is stubbornly refusing to leave the party, drop the issue and go back to your Apples to Apples witticisms. Being an ass is not a hallmark of the introverted soul – it is simply an indication that your introvert is also (albeit temporarily) an ass. Take heed and proceed with caution. And remember, extrovert, sometimes you can be an ass too.
*The author of this field guide would like to concede that, as a social scientist, she is fully aware that not all introverts uniformly act in the above stated manner, nor that all extroverts exhibit egregiously insane social tendencies. The author of this field guide would also like the reader of this field guide to approach all commentary with a sense of humor. Thank you.