You’re so quiet.
You’re too shy.
You’re the quietest person in our entire graduating class.
I have never heard you talk before.
Whoa! You do talk!
You’re the most boring person I have ever met.
Do you talk at all?
If there is a comment to be made to an introvert, I’ve probably heard it. Everything from well-intentioned compliments to snide insults have come my way, some stinging a bit more than others. Often I wish I could be the sort of person who slides effortlessly into a social situation, who flits from person to person at a big gathering, who loves nothing more than to be surrounded by people and chatting to anyone and everyone.
But, that is not me. It just isn’t.
Chatting with a few friends over coffee, a dinner get together with close buddies, an outing with a few people, those are all do-able, all completely comfortable. I love nothing more than a coffee date with a good friend. Big parties, on the other hand, are a different story. Such situations overwhelm me. They dry up the reservoir of words in my body, whitewash the colorfulness of my personality and settle me into the background as much as possible. I become a chameleon wallflower, surviving by hiding in the crowd until I can crawl home and sleep, utterly drained.
Unfortunately (and fortunately), large social settings are unavoidable in life. So I’ve created a manifesto of strategy to get by in social situations and what to do about the fly-away comments aimed to shame me for my silence.
Manifesto of an introvert
- Remember, while staying inside your nest and comfort zone are easy, it is important to put yourself out there sometimes. You never know who you will meet, what interesting things you will learn or what will happen. Even if the outing feels like a complete disaster, you will have learned something, picked up a fabulous tid-bit for a story or grown in some manner.
- When in uncomfortable settings, remember to smile and laugh. Go through the motions of enjoying yourself and it may stop being forced.
- Try to join in on a conversation. Listening is all well and good, but you’ll have more fun if your actively engage with others, even if you don’t know them.
- It is ok to share something about yourself. It doesn’t have to be important, just something to add to the conversation.
- In the event that these things aren’t happening and you have resumed your chameleon wallflower status, just hang in there and try to relax. Should someone call you out and put you on the spot, do not freak out. Smile, laugh, let yourself be the butt of the joke if necessary. Do not take any comment or insult personally. Do not cry. Just breathe and keep acting normal.
- Afterward, go home and recharge. Sleep, read, shower, drink a cup of tea. Do what you need to do to feel whole and safe again.
- Thank the fraction of yourself that is courageous and outgoing for making you be social. It is always worth it.
Manifesto from an introvert
Dear extrovert, social butterfly and outgoing individual,
I am writing to you because I would very much like to meet you, hang out with you or even just have a conversation with you. However, such things are not easy for me and so I would like to share a few things to keep in mind when you encounter individuals such as me.
- I am not simply shy or stupid or boring. I am a cautious individual, often overwhelmed by large groups and drained emotionally by being in such settings.
- Everyone is different and just because we happen to be in the same social setting does not mean that we are feeling the same way about being there.
- Even if it looks like I am only being a wallflower, I actually am paying attention to what you are saying and am interested in the conversation. I am simply trying to feel comfortable enough to join in.
- I envy and admire your personality, your ability to feel at ease in the situations that cause me some anxiety. Before marking me off as unfriendable, give me a chance.
- Telling me that I am boring or too quiet is the least helpful way for me to feel comfortable around you and will likely make me avoid you.
- Sharing deeply personal things about myself (including my hopes, goals, childhood memories and sex life) likely will not happen in a large group. One on one after getting to know you and you’ll never get me to stop talking, but it takes time to get there. So, just because you have openly shared those things does not mean that I will likely do the same.
- I am happy to meet you and an thankful for the chance to get to know you.
All the best,
Your introverted acquaintance