Over the last seven weeks, we have had a secret pal gift exchange at my work. Every Friday, I got a special little something under $5 for my secret pal that I would leave in their work mailbox. Every Friday, I’d collect a little present from my own secret pal.
Today is to be the special reveal. Everyone that could was going to meet at a local pub and present their final gift, in person, to their special pal, thus revealing their secret identity.
The e-mail with details was sent, along with next steps if someone was not able to attend the gathering:
The flurry of replies started:
Everyone had good excuses. Really good. They had trips planned and professional development and children activities.
What could be my excuse? I wondered.
Absolutely nothing. My children will be with their father. My husband and I have no plans.
But I just didn’t want to go.
Because I’m an introvert.
What would the best sort of group plans for me involve? Silent smiling. Silent walking. Silent eating. Just a group of fellow humans enjoying each other’s company. Silently.
I could have made up some kind of excuse for why I wasn’t going to be attending, but I just decided to be honest:
Introverts are special. We just are. Here are 9 truths to help you get to know us a little bit better:
1. We are often misunderstood.
When I sent my co-workers the above e-mail, one told me:
Non-introverts just don’t get it. They ask us why we aren’t smiling. They try to coach us on how to be different or get mad at us for not showing enthusiasm over collaborative initiatives. They may assume we’re indifferent or uninterested.
They just don’t realize that there are things we’re not really comfortable doing and that it may take time for us to get there.
2. We never love attending office parties or team-building activities.
We will do these things if they’re mandatory. Optional? Meh.
Going out for drinks? Doing an open forum? Small talk? Pass.
We will likely go for as little time as possible and then slip away.
3. We practice what we’re about to say or how we’re going to approach someone.
Before we talk to someone we’re not deeply familiar with (a customer, client, patient, boss, parent of a student), we literally imagine how we’re going to do it beforehand.
We calculate everything first, and sometimes we still may just try to dodge the bullet by sending an e-mail or text instead.
4. We stammer simply because we hesitate to speak.
Like #3, we can sometimes trip over ourselves when we’re speaking. It’s not necessarily that we’re shy or uncomfortable. It could be that we have so many thoughts in our head that we can’t sort them out before we start wagging our tongues.
5. We always look for a solitary corner.
We need space to breathe and de-stress from all the commotion that overwhelms us.
6. We carry a heavier burden of stress when we get home.
I’m an introvert who has an EXTREMELY extroverted job. I have to be “on” all damn day, and it’s exhausting.
We listen more often than we talk, and we tend to absorb negativity, so we tend to be overburdened when colleagues share their stresses with us.
This can be compounded if we don’t have our own outlets at work, a select few that we’re comfortable sharing with on a regular basis.
7. We wince at collaborative tasks.
Yes, we know we don’t have a choice. We signed up for this so we need to be cooperative. But we really wish people would understand that we maximize our skills by doing a task alone.
We thrive in solitude and become more productive in remoteness. It’s just our nature is to work best alone.
Whatever your current understandings are about introverts, we’re our own special kind of normal. We’re not unfriendly, snobby, or anti-social. Our strengths are just maximized when we’re on our own island.
(All comics were created by the author with Pixton.)