Four Things Introverts Really Hope You Understand

Michael Schiller


Saturday, August 01, 2015
1. It's the party we're rejecting, not you.
The party is going to be a blast.  You're psyched for it and you don't want us to miss out on a great time.  That's really cool of you, and we really appreciate your desire to include us.  So when we reject the invitation without even entertaining the possibility of attending, please don't take it personally.  Our firm rejection of an invitation is in no way an indicator of how we feel about you, though it should give you a clear idea of where we stand on parties.  With some exceptions, introverts in general are not fans.  And it's not because we don't like people.  Most of us love people: individual ones.  That's why we prefer a quieter setting where we can connect with a select group or individual.  Parties are not conducive to connecting, at least not on the direct, personal level that we find satisfying.  The noise and activity only serve to overstimulate our senses and mental faculties, without permitting the rich depthful intimacies that mean so much to us.  So we have to leave and be alone for awhile, hopefully early enough to make quieter plans.  But hey, you're awesome for inviting us.  Thank you.  And now that you understand us a little better, please think of us when you have something more intimate in mind.
2. It's the phone we're avoiding, not you.
Most introverts don't like talking on the phone either.  We're always busy with something that it's very difficult and uncomfortable to tear ourselves away from.  And that's still a legitimate excuse even when that thing is in our heads.  I'm not claiming that we're all profound thinkers, always on the verge of solving the world's problems and the universe's mysteries.  Sometimes we're just replaying episodes of Firefly in our heads.  But man, we're so into it, and it's really hard to force ourselves to shift focus to something unexpected and obtrusive.  And talking on the phone feels somewhat unnatural. It's abstract and contradictory, in the sense that the thing we're focusing on is physically absent and in conflict with what we're perceiving locally.  So we speak briefly,  and while we wait for you to be satisfied with the content of the call,  the silent pauses creep over us like ghosts.  So if you're having trouble getting a hold of us, it's not because we're screening calls and choosing to ignore yours.  It's because we're ignoring our phones entirely.  We have the ringer off and we might even have it on Do Not Disturb.  But send us a text!  We'd love to hear from you.  Texts make sense to us, because we can convey all the needed info in a few messages and think about something else in between.
3. We can love solitude and people at the same time.
We love our time alone. Oh man; we love it so much.  It's not because we're bitter or depressive.  And most of us are not shy or socially anxious either.  We love our time alone because having nothing and no one demanding our focus or interaction, while we think about, read, watch, play, create anything we want, without interruptions, is the ultimate comfort.  It's the ultimate freedom.  We're never more at ease or more ourselves than when we're alone.  But the choice to be alone does not equate to a rejection of humanity.  Chances are good there is someone in our lives whom we love to spend time with, whose very presence fills us with joy and rich memories.  Many of us long to meet someone new with whom we can form such a bond.  But no matter how much we love you, we will still love solitude, too.  We need it sometimes.  We need to unload the collected clutter of the day and separate it into neat categories to be put away.  And then when we're whole and peaceful again,  we eventually long for companionship. And we hope you'll be available then.
4. We don't think we're better than you, but we like ourselves better than we used to.
I distinctly remember sitting in the back of the bus at the end of a school day in junior high when a student, whom I'll call Todd (his name was Todd), boarded and suddenly accosted me: "You just think you're so hot, don't you?" In reality, I was extremely self-conscious. I didn't think much of myself at all.  So he couldn't have had me more wrong. While that was the most aggressive accusation of that kind I've intercepted,  it wasn't the first or the last.  All of this because sometimes I keep to myself, even when there are other people around. Todd  wasn't entirely to blame for his misconception. In a reality where what is natural is to embrace and engage everyone, and where ideas are external things that make a welcome noise, a person who is so often quiet and engrossed entirely in his own company must have a reason peculiar to himself for rejecting the company of others. That's the reality extraverts have lived in.  And it's a very different reality from ours.
There has been a huge upsurge in introvert pride in the past few years, with the increased availability of information about what introversion really is, that it's natural and has previously untold value.  An inevitable response to our pridefulness is the occasional attempt to take us down a peg.  Some people are just sick of hearing about us.  But what we hope you will come to understand is that introverts need to claim our pride now, because many of us have spent our lives without it.  Some of us have spent much of our time on earth believing that we were broken, and hating ourselves by mistake.  We spent years desperately trying to analyze our flaws and track them to their origin.  I know I have.  There were times when I paced the living room in tears demanding answers from the walls.  But all of that inward aggression ended the day I found out what introversion is, that it's natural for me and not a kind of damage that never heals.  That was a revelation that changed me forever.  And that is what so many other introverts are expressing when they announce their social preferences, for the first time without shame or apology.  So please understand that we need our pride.  Let introverts have their day.  We've put in our time and we've earned it.  
We all need to be educated about our natural differences before we have any hope of respecting them. History teaches us that this understanding is hard-won. But it also gives us reason to try.