How Not To Be A Dick To An Introvert

For an introvert, the only thing worse than the anxiety of dealing with people when we don't want to is the anxiety of wondering if our friends are going to get all butthurt about it.

Aug 1, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I love my friends. I love them so much that I want them to understand that, when I don't want to hang out, it's not because I hate them. It's because I'm an introvert. Please don't be a dick about it.
 
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An introvert in her natural habitat.

Introversion is not a mental illness. I know, that may come as a huge surprise to a lot of you extroverts out there, because it certainly gets treated like one. The media loves to talk about how quiet mass-murderers were before they went off the deep end and killed a bunch of people, how they kept to themselves and played a lot of computer games. Of course they do! The media by its nature is run by extroverts, and to them that's totally weird and worth talking about! But it's not totally weird, it's actually perfectly normal.
 
For me, being an introvert is merely one of the colors of my rainbow of eccentricities. It's the one that seems to confuse my friends the most, though. Why don't you want to hang out ALL THE TIME? Why do you sit in the corner playing on your laptop when everyone else is chatting? Why do you need to get away sometimes when we're having a big exciting outing in a loud, busy place? Do you just not like us? That's it, isn't it? You hate us all.
 
We introverts are misunderstood, and we kind of make it worse because we'd rather stay at home and read a book than take the time to explain ourselves to you. But some of us are actually super-interesting people and really good friends! You just have to understand that we're not always speaking the same language as you. Here are some helpful translations.
 
Remember: It's Not You, It's Her.
 
Yes, I know you think it'd be awesome to go out clubbing and maybe hit some bars and have a crazy party night. I don't. I don't think that'd be awesome AT ALL. I, like most introverts, find large social gatherings tiring, and there's got to be a huge payoff (like seeing a favorite band) to make it worthwhile. But it's not because I don't like you! It's not that I don't want to hang out with you! It's just that I don't agree with your idea of “fun” here.
 
For an introvert, the only thing worse than the anxiety of dealing with people when we don't want to is the anxiety of wondering if our friends are going to get all butthurt about it. It's a cruel decision and we hate being forced to decide between our feelings and yours, because we tend to be very picky about our friends and probably wouldn't be talking to you in the first place if we didn't like you and value your friendship. Don't be offended when your introvert friend doesn't want to hang out. Just don't. It's a million times easier for us to say no when we know you understand.
 
So She Doesn't Want To Hang Out Tonight. That Doesn't Mean She Doesn't Want To Hang Out Tomorrow. Or Ever Again.
 
I have had way too many friends who just stopped inviting me places because I said no too many times. It hurts. A LOT. There are some situations introverts are better in than others, and just because I didn't want to go clubbing last weekend absolutely doesn't mean I don't want to go see the opening of the big new superhero movie with you and all our other friends this weekend. It certainly doesn't mean I never want to go see the openings of any big new superhero movies with any of you ever again.
 
Our reasons for not want to go clubbing had nothing to do with you, but if we see you tweeting about all the awesome things you're doing with everyone but us the next week when we really would have liked to come along but you didn't invite us, that problem WILL be with you.
 
Don't Call Her. Text or IM Her.
 
Introverts LOVE the Internet. We can deal with people there on our own terms. I'm far more open and less awkward on the Internet than I am in person because I can take the time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. I'm far more likely to babble incoherently and saying something weird and stupid when pressed into real-time conversation. I'm also far more likely to end up being good friends with someone I've met or at least primarily spoken to online because they're less likely to think I'm a gibbering idiot. It's not that we need a buffer from face-to-face conversation, it's a matter of allowing us time to think. And it's much less rude of us to get up and get a fresh cup of coffee in the middle of an online conversation than in a face-to-face one.
 
Text messages are good for the same reason: They give us time to think about what we want to say before we say it.
 
Understand That She's Not Good With Last-Minute Plans
 
Introverts, even those of us who hardly ever plan anything, are much more likely to decline an invitation if it's a last-minute thing. See, even if we don't have plans, they're still our not-plans, and they probably didn't involve much in the way of interpersonal interactions away from the buffer of the Internet.
 
As I said before, for an introvert large social gatherings are tiring, so we need to be able to prepare. If plans are sprung on us at the last minute we aren't prepared and we'll either know we should decline or we'll go and be miserable the whole time.
 
Don't Assume She's Depressed
 
I hung out with a lady who was a licensed social worker who'd get all concerned when I'd step outside alone during parties, like, “Oh no, something's terribly wrong, she wants to be ALONE!” You'd think she'd have known better, but maybe you can get licensed without learning that being an introvert is actually totally normal.
 
Yes, introverts are less likely to describe themselves as “happy,” but that's not because we're all a bunch of mopers who just want to stay home crying and writing bad emo poetry while we listen to The Smiths. (We only do that sometimes.) Nor is it a sign that we're genuinely clinically depressed.
 
By nature, introverts are more introspective, so rather than greeting the world with a knee-jerk cheer that everything is rainbows and unicorns, we like to think for a bit about whether everything truly is rainbows and unicorns. And, you know, once you think about it, there's still social injustice and climate change and gross insects, and we're kind of ashamed of how long we've been putting off cleaning our apartment, so maybe we're not really “happy” per se.
 
 
Don't Assume She's Becoming Lady Unabomber –- And Is Being A Crazy Cat Lady Really So Bad?
 
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None of these are about how to make bombs.

Because we're a misunderstood lot, and because the people who make things like movies and 24 news channels are extroverts, there are a lot of introvert stereotypes and they're usually kind of scary. But I promise you that, while I love to tweet about how great socialism is, I'm not building a bomb.
 
Yes, I own a couple low-powered rifles that are part of the legacy of my rural Southern upbringing, but I've never shot them at anything bigger than a Coke can, I'm not planning to get any others, and I'm certainly not stockpiling an arsenal.
 
We're quiet people who like to think things through, but that doesn't mean we're thinking of ways to poison you during awkward pauses in our conversations. Most of us aren't plotting to blow up any buildings, shoot up any schools, or any of the other terrifying things our introversion is seen as a sign of.
 
Also, cats are great in moderation.
 
Remember, introverts are people too, and if you have a friend who is one she'll be loyal and relatively drama-free if you can just avoid being a dick to her.