This is the fifth in a weekly series debunking myths about introverts. (See last week’s post.) The basis of the 10 week series is the article written by Carl King. I will show his thinking, add mine and then encourage all of you to contribute your thoughts on the subject.
Don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert? Take Susan Cain’s quiz.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people
Carl: On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
Chris: For this topic, I have to quote from Shakespeare:
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade….
This above all: to thine ownself be true.
So are you done with your flashbacks of high school English class? Good, then let’s get on with things.
The truth is that all of us, intro- and extrovert, need the company of other human beings from time to time. None of us wants to be an island, alone and aloof, no matter how much your introvert head says it does. We need friends. We need partners in life. But what kind, and how do we manage the relationships?
I don’t have many friends, although I have a lot of people in my life who would want to be a friend. I appreciate all of them for that. But the truth is that introverts are reluctant and slow to share themselves. It makes us feel vulnerable, but more importantly it threatens our sense of well-being. It brings with it two scary things: the possible need to say no to an invitation (or scarier yet to have to say yes at the wrong time) and the need to reciprocate.
We hate being locked into social obligations because we never know what our energy level will be on any given day. If I say yes to you on Monday will I still feel like being with you on Friday? If I cancel too many times, will you give up on me?
If I say yes, then I have an obligation to invite you in return. Horrors! If you’re in my house and I start to hit bottom on the energy scale, how do I get rid of you without angering you? My safety net is gone.
But what about the fun factor in life? We all need a little fun, right? Don’t we all feel all stab of longing from time to time when we see a group of friends laughing with each other in the park or a restaurant? There must be something more to life than the book club at the local library. So what do we do for friends?
Time out for a quick poll:
So back to Shakespeare, who was obviously writing advice for introverts. Here are some tips to try:
- Limit the number of friends. Go for quality over quantity. Find a few good ones and then work on the relationships. That means being willing to divulge something of yourself. Do it prudently, but sincerely.
- Know your limits. Spend your energy wisely, but don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve hit your introvert limit and make a gracious departure. Get off the phone. Leave the restaurant. It’s ok.
- Don’t pretend to be an extrovert. A lot of us are good at faking it, but that takes your energy down twice as fast. Find a level of being extroverted that you can be comfortable with, and stick to that. To thine own self be true.
- Be honest about being an introvert. You might have to do a little educating about the difference between introverts and extroverts, once you identify someone you’re willing to let into your world. You never know, you might just find a closet introvert who will be overjoyed not to have to fake it with you.
- Learn that it’s OK to be out. When you are out with friends, remind yourself that you are gaining new experiences and relationships. There is a plus to this whole idea of being social. Learn to see the experience in a positive light. The world is an exciting place.
- Don’t let things build up until you explode. We tend to internalize things, don’t we? If you enjoy your friends except for the times they are pushing you to do karaoke, it’s better to let them know that instead of quietly going along with it until your resentment and annoyance makes you say something you will regret.
Introvert friend? Extrovert? Somewhere in between?
So who should you choose as a friend? That is entirely up to you. It will be trial and error, but start by identifying your needs. Yes, needs. Do you want to be part of a group that you can hang out with so you don’t feel so isolated? Do you want someone who will give you a listening ear or be a sounding board? Do you want someone with whom you can share a mutual interest like traveling, photography, writing or quilting?
How much of yourself are you willing to share in a relationship? You have to be willing to share, but also willing to set boundaries. So many of us are reluctant to set boundaries, aren’t we? We’re trying so hard to fit in, and often don’t understand “the rules of social engagement” (which were written by extroverts), that we’re afraid to say when we’re uncomfortable. Instead, we tend to shut down and put on the face the rest of the world associates with being moody or stuck up, standoffish.
Don’t be afraid to try out a relationship with an extrovert. Just learn to be honest. You need a friend who will respect you when you say that you’ve reached your limit for the day and need to go home and chill out. But at the same time be willing to push a little outside your comfort zone, maybe not all the time but every now and then. Relationships have to go both ways to be valuable.
What are your experiences with friendships? Painful or playful? Invigorating or intrusive? Hit the comments and share with us.
Have a quiet day!
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Hi. I’m Chris. I’m an introvert. Look for my ongoing series debunking the introvert myths (Sunday) and introvert cartoons (Wednesday), plus anything else interesting that I find in the meantime. Come and share with like-minded introverts. I also contribute to the new food blog Three’s Cooking, learning to cook from the heart, for the soul.