Are you an introvert who feels pressured by an extraverted world?
September 19, 2013 18 Comments
I’m an introvert with a strong preference for thinking, which, in short, means I’m a fan of action and not a great deal of talking. This sometimes irritates people in my life who desire unceasing conversation and can’t understand my need for silence and reflecting. My attention span for people who talk incessantly is as short as a gnat’s life; unless I’m enthralled in the conversation.
I recently read an article called The Extroverted Introvert (note I’ll spell it “extravert”) in which the author talks about the introvert’s need to adapt to our society’s preference for extraverts. In other words we become actors to satisfy people who prefer conversation over action.
“Many of us don’t like social mingling. It’s a labor to us, a chore, and frequently a curse. We look at it with dread and we feel drained already by the looming prospect. But in order to do what we want and get places in life, we must form connections with others. This is where the extroverted introvert contradiction comes into play,” the author writes.
For introverts enduring incessant talking or being “forced” into conversing, this can be a demand on their patience. Someone like me in this situation will try to find the exit (figuratively and literally) as quickly as possible. There’s no disputing that introverts are different than extraverts when it comes to communicating.
How to recognize an introvert
Introverts value their solitude and will go out of their way to get it. I think of the times I leave work to get a coffee and traverse the sidewalk that leads to my favorite coffee house, blinders on and walking at a cheetah’s pace. Eddie, my favorite server, is always ready to engage in conversation; I’m not. My answers are short. I don’t stand around to talk. I’m alone in my privates space, even though I’m among other consumers. There are times when I feel like talking, but usually I’ve determined that before I enter the building.
Whereas extraverts prefer to communicate through talking, introverts would rather communicate through writing. Writing allows introverts the freedom to gather their thoughts before sharing them with the world. I often tell my MBTI workshop attendees that I think I’m a better writer than speaker because of the aforementioned reason.
The ideal conversation for introverts
Introverts totally dig discussions with people with whom they want to talk. Doesn’t everyone, you might think? Yes, even extraverts prefer to talk with people of interest, but they tend to be more inclined to talk to more people than introverts would. They like talking and enjoy being with people. When introverts are presented with a situation where talking for the sake of talking is in order, it’s annoying and they’re looking for that exit.
Introverts sometimes feel trapped
I suppose everyone feels trapped at times, but introverts feel this sensation more often, especially when they have work to do and are being intruded upon by someone who won’t stop talking. If there’s a diplomatic way to say, “Leave my space immediately,” introverts would use it quite often. I haven’t mastered the exit phrases that don’t offend intrusive people, which might be due to my fear of seeming rude.
One of my extraverted colleagues often stands in the entrance of my cube when I am working intently on assignments. He shows no intentions of leaving my space as he talks about topics that are interesting only to him. He doesn’t take the hints I clearly give, such as turning my attention to my computer screen, or responding with “um,” “right,” “sure”–he continued to talk.
Introverts sometimes come across as aloof
What’s mistaken for aloofness is introverts taking advantage of their alone time or, what’s known as recharging their batteries. Introverts’ method of recharging their battery might confuse, or even offend, extraverts who recharge their battery by being with people. My colleague, Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, wrote an article, The Introvert’s Guide to Networking and Relationships, in which she aptly puts the importance of introvert’s relating to extraverts this way:
“Even though you may get impatient with conversations that don’t seem to have a purpose, you need to understand that for others, talking out loud is part of the process of thinking, validating and relating. You do this mostly internally. You need to develop patience and consider participating, because to the extrovert this is relating and developing relationships.”
Introverts often feel like they’re on stage
Unfortunately, the extraverted world is not yet willing to value introverted differences; rather extraverts expects introverts to fall in line and communicate like them. Introverts just don’t know how to make the extraverts see communication the way they prefer it. People who are proficient at listening and intuition, introverts and extraverts alike, are those who feel no need to make others conform to their way of dialog.
It seems unfair that introverts are made to feel different, if not odd. But this goes to show us how powerful the spoken word is. When I was in college, my roommate asked me what I thought was more important for success, written or verbal communication. I quickly answered the former, and he argued the latter. I should have taken this as a warning that I was in for a lifetime of being on stage.