There I said it. Unless you are one of us, it is a derogatory term, I know. When extroverts think of introverts, they probably think of shy, unapproachable, unfriendly a$$holes. You know, the type of person is won’t make eye contact with them in the line at the grocery store. What most extroverts don’t realize is that the reason we don’t make eye contact isn’t because we are just unfriendly jerks, it is because we are conserving our finite social energy and the type of conversation that would occur with a stranger at a grocery store would be enough to deplete it a lot of it.
When I was younger I always knew I was a bit different from most people. I was totally fine sitting in my room alone, playing my guitar and listening to music. Not to say I did not have friends because I did and I loved being with them, but I also loved being alone. For the better part of my teenage years I kind of figured most people were like me. Boy, was I wrong as hell. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my best friend when I figured out the truth.
At the time I thought my best friend and I were the same on so many levels, and we were, but when it came to socializing we were far apart. I mentioned that I hated meeting new people, he said he loved it. That bit of information was mind-blowing to me. How the hell could anyone actually LIKE meeting new people. Didn’t they find it draining and overwhelming? Nope. Most extroverts have no problem spilling their life story to a stranger, something that is so foreign to an introvert.
At the time of that conversation I was 17, it wasn’t until college when I took the official Myers-Briggs test that I realized what introversion even was (my type is INFP if you are curious). From that point on, I took an interest in learning about introversion, reading books and articles, joining online forums you name it. I have come to the point where I don’t really think about it too much anymore, but it is still something that affects every aspect of my life.
At work when my colleagues are huddled in a group talking and I walk by having no interest in joining, I often wonder what they think of me. Is he too busy? Does he just not like us? Is he in a bad mood? None of the above. I just really don’t like talking in groups. I am a one-on-one conversation kind of person. The dynamic of people talking over each other and constantly switching subjects in a group is exhausting to me.
Even socializing with family is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family to death, but there is a limit to how much time I want to spend with them. If you are an introvert and have ever been on a big family vacation you know exactly what I mean. The general perspective of society is that a healthy family spends a lot of time together. I prefer quality time over quantity of time. An example of quality time to me when I have the energy to have a two-hour dinner where there is no escape from the socialization and at the end I go home, not to someone else’s house for more socialization.
The problem with being an introvert, is how the hell can we convey to people that we want to spend limited time (or none) with them without coming off as jerks? It is hard unless you reveal that you are an introvert and how introversion works. Even then, it is not a given they will understand it completely. I struggle with this as I imagine others do and unfortunately I don’t have many answers.
So, if it is any consolation, there are A LOT of introverts in the world. Some of them you know already, as they are the family, friends and co-workers who either won’t show up to social activities, or will magically disappear without saying goodbye to anyone (I do that a lot). Perhaps your son who spends a lot of time in his room playing video games and being anti-social. Or maybe even a hero of yours like Jeffrey Snover (inventor of PowerShell). We are everywhere and doing many great things, we just prefer to spend a lot of time doing them alone.