After the emotional rollercoaster of last week, the weekend was relaxing and I came into work today ready to tackle what promises to be another crazy, busy, emotional week… until I had The First Grade Class from Hell and all my resolve and hope was sent plummeting down to earth faster than my kids run out of the classroom when the bell rings for lunch (and let me tell you, that is FAST).
But this post is not about the Class from Hell.
(Although I will say that A) it’s a shockingly bad class, B) it was always bad but this week was particularly nightmarish due to the fact that finals are now over, and C) I know with 99% certainty that two of the biggest troublemaker boys should be medicated or otherwise treated for ADHD, and that they probably come from really bad homes because in every effort to make trouble I see a cry for attention and help and structure and love. But in the meantime, holy crap they are awful and they make class miserable for the two or three kids who actually want to learn.)
This post is spurred by the fact that my consequent bad mood sent me spiraling back into thoughts of last week and how a couple of my co-teachers dislike the fact that I’m quieter than the previous NETs.
And this time, rather than sad, I felt angrier and angrier about being dismissed because of my quietness/reservedness.
Hence the following rant.
I’m not one to jump on the -ism bandwagon. I think a lot of people are too quick to cry “racism/sexism/ageism/classism/fatism/-you-name-it-ism.” In fact, I get rather irritated when the slightest suggestion of a stereotype elicits these -ism accusations. (I guess that makes me an ismist. I discriminate against those who use too many -isms. And by placing that label upon myself I am officially being hypocritical right now. And I will continue to be hypocritical in this post by discussing a new -ism.)
That being said, I think there is another type of -ism that nobody talks about: personalityism.
Personalityism (n). Discrimination against a person with an introverted or quiet personality. Those with introverted personalities are viewed negatively, as if they are socially, emotionally, or mentally inferior to those who are more extroverted, outgoing, and talkative.
(Yes, I made this definition up.)
And why does nobody talk about this issue?
Because the thoughts and feelings of the people under attack in this instance are drowned out by the following questions and exclamations being hurled at us constantly:
“So, do you ever talk?”
“Wow, you are just so loud I can’t even hear myself think. Quiet down over there!” (/sarcasm)
“You’re really quiet.” / “Why are you so quiet?”
“Stop being shy.”
“Why don’t you say something?” / “Hey, you haven’t said anything.”
(to another person in the group) “(Name) never talks.”
“Whoa, you can SPEAK?!” (/sarcasm)
Let me show all you extroverts out there the progression of thoughts that occur in the introvert’s mind when you say these things to us.
And this is what you see on the outside…
I know. Harsh. But in case you were wondering, condescending and sarcastic comments like “You sure are quiet” or “Oh my God you actually talk?!” are never, ever gonna make an introvert feel comfortable enough to open up to you. What intelligent response do you expect to receive after saying something inane like that?
Not that that’s what you were going for anyway; you just wanted to fill the silence that makes you squirm with unnecessary noise. See, introverts don’t actually mind that silence. It’s actually pretty enjoyable for us.
(These biting words brought to you by the 10-ish years of my life during which I was subjected to comments such as these on a regular basis from well-meaning but rather thoughtless extroverts around me. I have since learned to play the extrovert game a little better and now receive these comments less frequently, although they do still occur and they do still annoy me to no end.)
But hey, if you’re an extrovert and you’ve said one or more of these comments to the introvert in your life without knowing the damage you were inflicting, it’s okay. Live and learn. However, now that I have educated you on what not to do, please refrain from making the same mistake again.
You might be wondering what alternative questions or comments you could use. To be honest, there is no magic phrase; just be natural. Ask normal conversational questions that have nothing to do with the talkativeness, or lack thereof, of the other person… but try to stay away from small talk for the sake of small talk.
Or just enjoy some silence for a little while; delve into your own thoughts without speaking them out loud. After awhile, you might be surprised to find that the introvert is the one starting a conversation – because she has had a chance to collect her thoughts during that few minutes of silence.
If you really want to make an introvert happy:
1) Do not ever call them. Ever. Just send a text and then wait patiently.
2) Cancel plans. It will make our day.
*Disclaimer: close friends and family, you’re probably exempt from these rules. We’re talking semi-friends and acquaintances here. Or plans for big exhausting events like parties.
Also, I personally really enjoy talking to the people I feel comfortable with. I’m not antisocial, I don’t hate people, and I’m not a hermit. On the contrary, I really love people. I enjoy being with those I care about and those who make me feel comfortable whether I’m quiet or talkative. The best and most rewarding part about all the jobs I’ve ever worked in my life thus far has been interacting with people. While it’s true that I can feel drained after social events like parties and absolutely need that alone time to recharge, it’s also true that I feel drained if I spend a weekend completely alone, and in that case I absolutely need to get back to work and talk to my coworkers and interact with my kids
So, it’s not an all-or-nothing deal. Some introverts need more alone time than others. Some introverts are shy and some are not. Some introverts would be content to basically never talk to anyone ever again, while others prefer and enjoy a limited amount of social interaction every day. Some introverts don’t mind small talk and some loathe it. This means that, just like with anything else, you really should just get to know people on an individual basis and not write them off as ‘introverted,’ ‘shy,’ ‘weird,’ ‘antisocial,’ or any other label.
But just remember, the next time you make one of those comments to an introvert, they may look like this:
But on the inside, they’re actually like this:
P.S. Hermione is my spirit animal. The end.