Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Answering More Extrovert Questions!

Back in May, I wrote a blog with my own answers to some questions I'd seen extroverts asking about of introverts. Recently I came across another whole post full of questions from an extrovert trying to figure out how we goofy introverts worked. So I figured I'd answer a few of their questions here, just like I've done before. As always, this is just from my own personal standpoint and generalizing a bit about some of the introverts I've spoken with, but here's my take on it. I'd always welcome other introverts' experiences and stories!

Q: Generally, do you want to be encouraged to come out / stay out / etc? I have some introverted friends and they're always going home super early, and I can never tell if I should be trying to get them to stay out. Or trying to get them to come dance with us, etc.

A: Awesome question. Remember that "encouraged" is not the same as "pushed." I like to be invited to spend time with our friends -- it's always good to know that you'll be missed if you're not somewhere -- but if I say no, I don't want any more pushing than, "Are you sure? We'd love to have you" or, "Aw, I'll miss you!" If I say no again, respect that "No," because then it's not encouraging, it's implying that I don't know what I want, which is often just not true.

Q: What could I do to make a party more fun for you? Let's say I'm the host. Have video games and a pet? A 'quiet room'? Should I start a conversation with someone who's by themselves, or is that putting them on the spot?

A: Having activities around for me to participate in is always great. I'm terrible with small talk and mingling and don't enjoy it at all, so having a game or a movie that I can plop myself in front of and interact with people during makes it much more likely that I'll enjoy myself.

But, yes, absolutely start a conversation with someone who's by themselves! As long as it's just you talking to them, it shouldn't be putting them on the spot, although if they freeze up for some reason you might want to make it a quick one. Once I get going in a conversation I'm good, but getting started can be a real pain.

Obviously if you're a host you can't just spend the whole night just talking to me, but extroverts sometimes excel at being "transitioners." Those are the people who can start up a conversation with someone, say, "Oh, man, you should talk to so-and-so over there, they love this kind of stuff," and then call so-and-so over, make introductions, and get the conversation rolling before taking off to do something else. That's the kind of thing I find especially unpleasant, forcing myself into other people's conversations and finding something to discuss, so if you have an opportunity to facilitate it for us as an extrovert, that takes a lot of pressure off us and can make for a much easier time.

Q: How can you tell if an introvert doesn't like you? If they do?

A: Well, some introverts will be pretty straightforward about it. Shyness is not intrinsic to introversion. But for people like me who are nonconfrontational, the #1 sign that an introvert likes you and is comfort around you is that they make space for you in their life. I go out of my way to spend time with those who do not drain me (typically those I like). I am polite to those I don't like but don't spend any more energy on them than is necessary, because I want to conserve my energy for those who are important to me.

Q: Is something like dancing / clubbing or going to see a show more appealing to you, since there's no talking?

A: That will for sure vary based on an individual's hobbies and interests. I'd be all over going to see a show but I'd give clubbing a hard pass. But, yeah, finding an activity to do together may be more fun for introverts since they can focus their attention on that activity and socialize along the way in a more natural manner.

Q: What part of interaction is tiring, exactly? Thinking of stuff to say? Wondering whether it's the right thing to say? Or what?

A: That can be a thing, but that's more social anxiety specific than anything else, and that's its own thing, though obviously introverts can have social anxiety. For me, it's having to keep up the energy of fake-enjoying the socializing. I frequently don't enjoy socializing until I get into a conversation that's interesting to me, but it's not really acceptable for me to be openly bored with it, so I have to put an unusual amount of energy into faking enthusiasm. And faking enthusiasm is VERY exhausting.

Less tiring social groups for me are ones where I feel comfortable with halfhearted interactions or tuning out entirely when I'm bored, knowing that the people I'm with aren't going to judge me if I check my phone while they talk sports with someone who cares.

Q: When there's something going on that you don't want to go to, what is unappealing about it? Just that you're tired and don't want to be even more tired, or something else?

A: Well, some of it is what I said up above, the effort of faking enthusiasm takes a lot out of me. But frankly, it's usually just that I'd rather do something else. I mean, if you go to a restaurant and you order the food you want, nobody asks you to explain what was unappealing about the other options. You simply chose the one you wanted. And that's what it's like for me most of the time. I love being alone. It's peaceful, I don't have to explain myself, I can do whatever I want without running it by the group. Sometimes it's not that going out is unappealing, it's just... not staying in, which is more fun.

Q: Is hanging out with a few good friends still draining, just less so, or is it a completely different dynamic?

A: Still draining but less so. Mostly because there's less feigned enthusiasm, both because they're comfortable with me zoning out AND because we already have things in common and are more likely to cycle around to things I can be genuinely enthusiastic about. I still need to refresh myself, but hanging out with a small group of close friends is MUCH less draining than a large gathering of mingling with acquaintances.

Q: "You're so quiet" / "How can I get you out of your shell" - these are annoying, right? Why?

A: Yes. Yes, they are. For a couple reasons. For one thing, it's not like we're not aware that we're quiet. Calling attention to it does nothing but make us needlessly self-conscious. I tend to get grumpy when called out on my quietness, because the alternative would be for me to be saying things I thought were boring or useless. If I have something to say, I'll say it.

It also carries a connotation of, "You're not contributing to the group," which is frustrating because, like I said, if I have something to say I'll say it. Contributing meaningless conversation is way worse to me than silence.

Oh, and gosh, "get you out of your shell." Generally the offered solution to that is making me do something that would make me incredibly uncomfortable, because I guess after I do that I'm supposed to be more comfortable with someone who I know at any moment might push me into a situation I don't want to be in? There's really only one good way to "get me out of my shell." Be patient, be consistent, and be friendly, but accept that I make friends slowly and I acclimate to groups slowly, and that's OK. Telling me to get out of my shell is the equivalent of saying, "YOU'RE NOT BEING MY FRIEND FAST ENOUGH," and almost nothing will shut me down faster.

All right, I'm done with my mini rant. On to the next question!

Q: You suggest that introverts generally would prefer silence and their own thoughts to having to discuss something they're not interested in. Do you mean that thing where somebody really really likes video games and won't shut up about video games and you're just sitting there nodding (everybody hates that) or something else? Because I think that very few people will hit upon something they both are passionate about on the first try, and if you give up trying, you'll never find it, right?

A: This is a good point. It's not that I'm opposed to trying. It's that I'm opposed to sticking around with a topic we're not interested in for a socially acceptable length of time. If it was my choice, I'd totally vote for rapidly tossing questions back and forth: "Do you like sports?" "No. Do you like music?" "Yes. I love classical." "Oh. I don't care about classical. But I like showtunes." "I hate showtunes. Where are you from?" "Miami." "Oh, hey, I love the beach!" "Me too!" Cue beach stories, I guess. I don't know, I don't love the beach.

For most people that sounds super bizarre, but for me, dancing around the unacceptable statement of, "Hey, one of us isn't really interested in this, can we move on?" is a frustrating and strange experience. As soon as I find that topic we're both passionate about -- or that topic one person is passionate about and the other is interested in enough to ask questions -- then I'm good, but, gosh, can it be a trial getting there. Not that it isn't necessary sometimes, but this is why I sometimes like to be a silent lurker in a group of three or four, because that lets me listen for topics others bring up voluntarily that I can hitch onto and get a conversation going without having to pretend that I'm super interested in how they fixed up their old car.

Q: Also, just to make sure: if I've invited the introvert out and they've decided to stay home, they're not sad, right? They're okay?

A: Well, probably. Sometimes introverts get sad and, yeah, they'll probably want to be alone then. But, as a rule, assume we're fine. We usually are.