“The introvert in me…”

I don’t try and hide my introversion tendencies. These days.

I used to. I was told at school, time and time again, that to be quiet or thoughtful or happy in my own company or distant or some other introversion trait was not good and would hold me back. I spent a great deal of effort and energy being ‘not me’, spending time with others when I needed to desperately to recharge. And it got really tiring, really quickly, meaning I needed even more ‘me’ time to recover my composure and energy before going back out and into the world again.

Fast forward many, many years and I now see myself for who I am – I’m an introvert. I am no longer ashamed of it. In avoiding this, knowingly or deliberately, all these years I’ve done myself a huge disservice. As did the person and people who previously insisted this was wrong. I continued for years feeling like an outsider in social or family or work situations, never understanding why.

I use the time to recharge after a period of exersion wisely; I plan my work or social life around the anticipation of the time I’ll need after it. Events and conferences just wipe me out and I’ll often grab a sandwich from the nearest corner shop and retreat to my room (if I’m staying over) to adjust to the day’s energy. Time with my family is amazing, but massively tiring and often leaves me with no room to recover as we’ll be likely staying with them.

I read. I walk. I listen to music. I watch TV (too much). I make Lego sets. I organise. And I plan. Lately, I’ve also been seen in the gym. Headphones on, leave me alone; I’m recharging (even when I’m working out).

What was/is worse is that those who know me best, who could see I was an introvert, can sometimes insist I carry on. It suited them and their needs, not mine. This is family, friends, and work colleagues. Who do you think is better at seeing this and being understanding?

You think I’m quiet? Well, maybe I am, but it might be because I’ve already thought of 7 different responses (some appropriate, one definitely not, and a few tangential but important conversations we should also have), 3 alternative scenarios that would actually work better than yours, at least 2 things I’ve forgotten to add to the shopping list, and a phone call to a friend I’ve been meaning to make but have been putting off for too long.

I’m not quiet, I’m just really mentally busy fixing the world which will make your own question easier to understand and answer. I’m working out how best to use my remaining 5% battery to work this out with you whilst still giving me 2% that will get me back to the car. Late afternoons can be more difficult when there have been meetings all-day, especially when the gaps I’ve so carefully left gaps to allow that small recharge, but someone always finds it and fills it with another meeting.

The introvert in me, though, values routine and thinking deeply about things. So when I try to function in a world that doesn’t cater to the introvert’s nature, I can find myself not so laid-back. Instead, I get swiftly irritated and thrown off guard, I’m not easy to be around, but moody, and, at times, just plain displeased. Being an introvert in an extrovert’s world can be challenging, especially since we tend to experience events like social gatherings quite differently than our extroverted opposites.

Whether it’s with my friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors, over the years, I’ve learned what’s going to set me off. Understanding myself better allows me to breathe through the irritation and remain relatively pleasant rather than subjecting others to my grumpiness or less-than-perky mood when I get overstimulated and overwhelmed.

So it might help the more extroverted among us to understand some of these behaviors that drive introverts like me crazy.

With all the above things that annoy me as an introvert, I think realizing that it’s the behaviors that are annoying, not the people doing them, is important for both parties. A little understanding can go a long way to forming deeper, happier, healthier relationships with those around us.

’10 Things That Annoy Me as an Introvert’ by Ashley Brown

That ‘quiet’ member of the team is not necessarily lacking in motivation, interest, or ability. They are not quiet in meetings because they have nothing to say or add to the discussion, neither are they quiet because they don’t want to be there. More often than not they are processing everything at lightning speed, waiting for the chance to drop in and say what they want to. Meetings can be a noisy and/or busy place, in-person or online (or worse when there’s a mix) and that noise can often be the blocker to this person speaking up – how many pauses are filled because there’s at least one person on the call that can’t leave a pause to let others speak? We know them, but do they know this about themselves?

  • This is where the Thinking Environment comes in to help balance meetings and interactions to ensure everyone feels they have the right to speak, and the right to ask others to let them speak.

So, I recommend the article by Ashely to everyone, in whatever state you find yourself, at whichever part of the introversion/extroversion scale you may think you’re on. The 10 behaviours Ashley talks about are relevant to everyone, and a valuable source of self-reflection on yourself and those you interact with.

Note – Let’s also acknowledge that in the above quote “…realizing that it’s the behaviors that are annoying, not the people doing them, is important for both parties” is not quite true. Sometimes it is the people who refuse to acknowledge a different viewpoint.

Introverts are wonderful collaborators: reflective, deeply observant and great at listening. They may well spot things that others miss. And when they have something to say, it will be a considered contribution to add value. However, because introverts are unlikely to be the loudest voice in the room, they are often talked over or ignored.

Sophie Morris

Leaders. Managers. This is even more important for us. It is our responsibility to know who in our teams needs encouragement to speak up, and who needs to be reminded to be quiet and give others space and time to join in. No one said this would be easy, but it can be if we try.

Photo by Bryson Hammer on Unsplash