I’ve been rather hard on extroverts on this blog in the past. Perhaps a bit too hard, blinded by my need to vent out all the frustrations of growing up shy and introverted in a pre-Susan Cain world. Without meaning to, maybe I’ve even sounded smug and superior, as many introverts might tend to do when we defiantly proclaim our love of solitude.
But then I happened upon this article from the New York Times today: “Am I introverted, or just rude?” (Full article here.) (As implied in the title, the writer is an introvert herself.)
“I’m shy, yes. But am I also rude? In a contest between my manners and my preferences, am I allowing my preferences to win? […]
“A minority of introverts suffer from clinical social anxiety. That’s not true of me. I find parties uncomfortable: I have trouble making small talk, and after I’ve been surrounded by people for too long, I need time alone. But I can set aside my inclinations […]
“Good manners are mere mannerisms, the argument goes, which serve only to put barriers in the way of deeper connections. […] Life is largely lived among acquaintances and strangers. So many fall into problematic categories: some appear different or unapproachable, some we actively dislike, some we’ve failed to connect with in the past. What do we have to gain from even trying?
“A lot, as it turns out. When I skip big gatherings of strangers, I’m not just being a little rude to the individual people around me, I’m being uncivil in a larger sense. The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. […] We can respect our own introversion, and embrace the ‘quiet’ people among us, without abandoning every challenging interaction.
“I may be naturally reserved, and more comfortable alone than I will ever be in a crowd, but I am not at the mercy of my nature. There are many excuses for failing to conduct ourselves with courtesy, for avoiding gatherings and conversations we don’t think we will enjoy, or for just putting on our pajamas and staying home. Too many of them boil down to just that one thing: We care more about ourselves than about the needs of others.
That’s not about introversion. It’s just an ordinary version of selfishness.”
I’m willing to bet some extroverts, upon reading the many many MANY articles and memes that have come out of the woodwork in recent years (since introversion became “a thing”), have concluded exactly that – that introverts are using it as an excuse to be rude/antisocial/selfish.
And honestly, if I were an extrovert I’d probably be annoyed at some of the more self-righteous social media posts out there. In a total role reversal, introverts are the ones being obnoxiously loud on the internet and extroverts are kind of just chilling and letting us have our time in the spotlight. In fact, when you type “extrovert meme” into Google Images, the majority of them will actually be introvert memes! And I don’t see extroverts touting around demands like this:
(Pardon the spelling mistakes; I couldn’t find one like this without them.)
Like, okay introvert friends, we are neither special snowflakes nor God’s gift to the world. Chill. We’re just people, and so are extroverts. I’m pretty sure extroverts don’t want to be embarrassed in public either, and sometimes introverts are being a little antisocial when we avoid certain interactions/outings just for the sake of preserving our own energy. (I could pick apart more from that particular meme but I think you get the idea.)
Again, back to the ideas from the NY Times article, introversion is no excuse for being rude or selfish. Because being introverted has become more mainstream, maybe people (including myself) feel justified in blowing off plans or avoiding meeting people because “I’m an introvert.” I’ve even posted about embracing shyness and realizing, for example, that it’s okay not to be good at small talk.
But the article was a good reminder not to indulge my introversion every single time, because it’s not all about me. I think introversion easily lends itself to selfishness (and laziness), much more so than extroversion, so we have to be vigilant against that. What’s comfortable isn’t always what’s best or what’s right.
Also, remember that to enjoy staying home in your pajamas and watching movies is not an indication of being introverted. Neither is being a book lover. I’m sure plenty of extroverts love doing that as well – just as many introverts have a genuinely good time hanging out with friends or socializing (once you give us a good kick in the pants to get our butts out the door, that is).
Anyway, the article was my food for thought today because I do think introverts have overcorrected a little bit, and although I find it super fun to “categorize” people’s personalities (both introversion/extroversion and the MBTI), it’s best not to be so polarizing and to just be people and try to be kind to each other. /soapbox
P.S. In spite of everything I said above, and without detracting from it, I found this chart while googling “introvert/extrovert memes” and it is the truest thing I’ve ever seen. Reading it is a visceral experience as I relive all the extended socializing I’ve ever done in my life. Consider this a guide to being out with an introvert.
We really do hit that peak around 1 hour, get a 2nd wind when there’s just “one more” [drink/activity/conversation] to be had, and then a slight 3rd wind when we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s all downhill from there until we can get the hell out.
If you engage an introvert after that 3rd wind stage, their mental processes are slowly shutting down, so please be kind if you notice their responses becoming more and more curt and their eyes glazing over or shiftily darting around as if looking for an escape. The need for alone time becomes a desperate one akin to the need to release a full bladder. You reach a certain point where there is literally nothing else you can think about until you get relief.