You know this whole “Introverts Rule!” thing that’s happening all over the Internet? (The Introvernet?) As much as I feel partly responsible for it—let’s take a breath. The message I’ve tried to get across here and in my book is that introversion is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, there’s lots that’s right about it. And I’m all about finding ways to own and honor our introversion, to make it work for us in the world outside our heads.
But a lot of what’s happening out there goes a step further, insisting that introversion is superior to extroversion, that extroverts are a bunch of noisy airheads compared to deep, thoughtful, creative introverts.
And what’s more, whatever we do is just fine and if you object in any way you just don’t get it! So what if I break dates at the last minute because I’m not in the mood? I’m an introvert! That’s what I do! So what if I’m surly at family gatherings? I’m an introvert! You can’t make me talk!
Maybe I’m just cranky because we’ve had a long hot spell here in Texas and my allergies are acting up and I’ve had to deal with expensive plumbing problems recently and I’m a little stressed about money and, frankly, I’ve been alone too much, but … stop it!
Believe it or not, introverts can be annoying too. I’ve gathered some thoughts via various sources and would like to share with you some really annoying things we do in our relationships:
- Taking no responsibility for our social lives. I’m guilty of this one. I put a lot of responsibility for our social life on my husband, then feel cranky because we're not doing the kinds of things I want to do. And, a member of my Board of Extroverts says, “I'm often unsure if she wants to meet people or not. If there is something I really want to do I'll plan on doing it myself, assuming that she'd rather stay home.” Can you see how that might be kind of a bummer? “I sometimes give up and go somewhere by myself if my introvert won’t come. Not as much fun but I need the stimulation from outside,” says my friend Scott, also a member of the board. (Who was OK being named. I gave the board the option on this one, so as not to cause any relationship trouble.) If you never, ever want to go anywhere with anyone, perhaps you shouldn’t be in a relationship with an extrovert. “Why would someone want to stay home when there are places to see and people to meet?” Scott asks, extrovertishly. But if you do like going out sometimes, then take responsibility sometimes.
- Dismissing the world. “Another frustrating thing involves what at times seems to be an indifference to relationships beyond a very narrow circle,” the board member complains. “If discuss some random acquaintances, for example, her reaction suggests to me that she wonders why I am wasting time with them.” That’s just not nice. Take an interest or at least fake an interest.
- The silent treatment. Also guilty. We need time to think things through during conflict. I get that. But to leave a friend or partner hanging and unsure if you’re nursing a grudge, building a case, or planning your escape, is harsh. At the very least, say that you need to think and perhaps set a time to resume the conversation. And then do that. Don't be like the woman with this confounding complaint in the advice forum on the Washington Post website: …something in a disagreement really surprises/shocks and upsets me—I don't want to jump in with some response, because I am thinking I must have misunderstood something, or I need to figure out a way to handle this nicely—so I am silent—then what gets me fuming is—my partner, who was part of the disagreement in the first place, cheerily ignores the whole thing... tries to "communicate" by talking about the weather or sports ("How 'bout them Mets?") or something else, while there is this mess hanging in the air.... and it is clear he is NOT going to initiate the resumption of the conversation. To their credit, readers pointed out the obvious: If you have something more to say, it’s your job to speak up. OK? OK. And, by the way, if you’re upset about something that has nothing to do with the other person, you might mention it. “My wife isn't the most verbal communicator, so if she's in a bad mood, I'm left to wonder why, and if it's something I did,” says a board member.
- Ignoring your honey’s “love language.” (As described in this classic pop psychology book.) OK, this isn’t specifically introvert-extrovert, it can happen in any relationship. But if you tend not to be verbal and your love interest is, then be nice and speak up sometimes. Be explicit. Say what you feel. Sure, you might demonstrate your love in a thousand ways, but sometimes it’s nice to hear it in one’s own language. (Or French. It always sounds really good in French.) Same with quality time. Yes, you need alone time. Of course. But if your partner needs to spend a whole weekend joined at the hip now and then, show your love by doing that.
- Never displaying enthusiasm. We're low-key, sure. But it's so deflating to bounce up to someone with good news and get "That's nice." Put some oomph into your attaboys (and attagirls). And in group activities, try to look like you're having fun if you are. You don't have to plaster on a grin, but at least think enthusiastic thoughts. They'll probably show in your demeanor.
Do any of these sound like you? Then you just might be annoying. Time for a little navel gazing (which we do so well). Or initiate a conversation with the extroverts in your life and see whether there are things you're doing that are harming your relationship. And if you think of other things, bring 'em on. I'm just cranky enough to be able to take it.
P.S. Has this post annoyed you? Before you scold, perhaps read this Message to All The Annoyed Introverts.
Hope you've bought my book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. And please join me (and a bunch of other introverts) on Facebook. And, disclaimer as required by law: Anything you purchase from Amazon by clicking through links here earns me a few cents.
Photo by Ben Newton via Flickr (Creative Commons).