12 January 2018

Things People Say: Introvert Edition

Despite all that's been written on the subject, introverts remain a pretty misunderstood bunch. What follows are some of the questions and comments we are often on the receiving end of, and what we're most likely thinking, but too polite (or too indifferent to bother) to say out loud:

1. "Why are you so quiet?" Gee, I don't know. Why are you such a chatterbox?

Alternatively, I will also say it's because the Bible tells us that someday humans will give an account to God for every careless word they've spoken (Matthew 12:36). Some of us don't want to have a lot of explaining to do!

2. "You're so quiet. Are you OK?" I'm not sure how we arrived at the conclusion that quiet = not ok. Loud and outgoing are hardly sure signs that all is well: Take, for example, Marilyn Monroe, Robin Williams, and countless other gregarious, talented, popular people, all of whom ultimately decided their lives were not worth continuing, despite what they had going for them.

This is one way (perhaps the only way) in which I found myself to be a better fit for Japanese culture than my own. During my short stay with them, the group of Japanese in whose company I spent my time all seemed to prefer silence themselves. They saw Americans as much too brash and brazen for everyday social interactions. My own natural lack of noisiness suited them just fine. No one asked me if something was wrong, or told me that silence was awkward, or that I needed to "cut loose" more. (It was wonderful.)

3. "We need to get you out of your shell." I'm not in a shell; therefore, you can't get me out of something I'm not inside of, can you?

In my opinion, there's really no comparison between having a quiet personality and being "in a shell." This is because a shell is, of course, hard. It's purpose is to form a protective barrier between its inhabitant and the rest of the world. Introverts have no such barrier -- they're not afraid of the world around them, and they don't necessarily harbor feelings of ill will toward it. They simply may not feel like interacting with it at any given point.

4. "You're just shy, aren't you." Not at all. Here's the difference between a shy person and an introvert: A shy person wants to talk to you, but can't because they're nervous. An introvert, on the other hand, just doesn't want to talk to you. Rest assured, it's nothing personal. They probably just don't feel the need to talk to anyone else because they find their own company sufficiently entertaining.

5. "Speak up/talk louder." The world has gotten much too comfortable with drowning out anything and anyone that doesn't clamor for attention at top volume. Who says the rest of us are responsible to cater to that? Hey noisy people, how about leaning in and actually listening? It won't hurt you at all, I promise!

6. "Stop being antisocial." "Antisocial" shouldn't be confused with "unsociable", which is what most people actually mean when they say this. Unsociable simply means "not inclined to socialize." On the other hand, antisocial literally means "against society", and connotes destructive, criminal behavior, such as vandalism. Not exactly an accusation that deserves to be leveled at that quiet girl who sticks to the sides of a room rather than the middle at parties.

7. "You think too much." Yes, it's true; I do quite a bit of thinking. You should give it a try sometime!

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