I have a family of 6. I came from a big family of 8. When I was a child, if you didn’t talk much or stayed quiet, you weren’t asked why you were so quiet — it was just expected.
As more children filled the house, if we didn’t speak when we had a chance we didn’t have a say. It soon became a competition — if I didn’t interrupt someone in my house; I might not have gotten the chance to vote on dinner, pick chores to do or get dibs on the car.
So how did I become the only extrovert in my family of 6 now? I don’t know if it was interrupting everyone to the brink of sustained silence or bad consequences when thoughts are spoken aloud. Maybe it’s a combination of both those things. Maybe it’s a genetic thing and they’ll grow out of it? Maybe I’ll learn to embrace it? Until then I’ve often become frustrated with my family for being so shy. Over the years I’ve learned to balance coaxing, encouragement and not giving too much freedom to choose aka bribery or demanding if they can’t be convinced any other way. Before you paint me into a corner I’ll only say that I’m still learning. Over time I’ve notice these 8 things about introverts:
- They prefer to stay quiet instead of speaking out. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong and silence doesn’t mean “bad, boring or wrong.” I used to equate this with boring. I’ve learned that filling up silence with drivel can be worse.
- They like to be approached versus doing the approaching. That’s why they’re often well matched with extroverts. I dated a theater major many years ago who was always “on.” We didn’t last. I wasn’t as extroverted as he and I was not willing to compete. I said you have the stage…of life…by yourself.
- They prefer to listen. Yes, they’re analyzing the shit out of you and could possibly be judging you but they’re usually really good listeners. Many extros wait for their turn to talk but don’t really listen.
- Sometimes they are high scorers on everything else in life but they process information a little slower. This has nothing to do with intelligence. They’re not ignoring you when you think they’re not listening. They’re playing mental catch up and processing what you’ve said. If you wait for the answer you may be waiting a long time. Remember, they also want to make sure they don’t waste their words.
- Speaking of wasted words, sometimes they just don’t want to expend the energy to talk to you. They don’t want to go out, go meet new people or do new things that may push them to their comfort limits. Their first response to doing something new or meeting new people is usually “no thanks.” What they realize though, is making an effort can be fun and rewarding.
- Sometimes intros don’t realize what they’re missing, or they’re okay with missing it and are impenetrable by FOMO. I fall into this category myself as I carve out more time to write. I know when I write, I am never missing out. (Except for that time I stayed home with writer’s block and my friends made fried Oreos.) Same thing can apply to anything a shy person loves to do. Why try something daring or different or strike up conversation when they know their tried and true loves are failsafe? I get it. Boy do I get it.
- It’s okay to be quiet, be to one’s self or enjoy intimate numbers of people. Big parties are not for everyone. Introverts are good at tuning in and getting to know you one on one. They’re generally there for the long haul once they make the investment.
- It is an energy zapper for them to be social. It may come easily to me or you but to introverts sometimes it’s downright painful. Being alone or with their peeps is often a recharge for them. Give them space and time to recharge. They’ll seek out stimulation or new or exciting when the time comes. Invitations from extroverts help a lot.
What makes this an interesting world is that there are both types. I’d even feel safe to say that there’s a spectrum with extreme intro and extroversion. If we were all “theater” types 24/7 I think I’d go bonkers. I doubt seriously that any of us are one way or another all the time.
Lately it’s my friendships that have suffered due to this new normal. I’m probably going be all theater and jazz hands for a while when we come out of this and then at some point, I’ll need a recharge just like everyone else in my family. I call it “hermit mode”. What’s great about this is everyone here understands this mostly extro- occasionally-introverted person even though I didn’t understand them for a long time. That’s family.