Since the internet is full of consciousness-raising lists, and tips on how NOT to speak to various demographics, I thought I'd get in on the act. Here are five things not to say to an introvert, by a lifelong introvert.
1) "Can you ring me back?"
Please remember that an introvert is seriously messed up. Simple things like making a telephone call become a big deal. I know-- it's pathetic. It really is pathetic! The simple act of picking up a receiver, dialling a number, and talking to a disembodied voice makes an introvert's heart pound. Yes, this is very lame. But you're better off emailing.
2) "I'd better mingle."
A normal person, at a coffee morning or a reception, tries to speak to as many people as possible, and not linger over any one person. An introvert, who dreads approaching other human beings, latches onto someone and won't let go.
Come to think of it, you should probably be brutal, or you'll never get rid of him.
3) "Just ask the bus driver for directions."
Uh oh! Here again is something that seems straighforward. Bus drivers are used to being asked for directions. Does that make any difference to the introvert? No! He doesn't care about logic or rationality. He'll do anything to avoid such interactions.
Let's delve a little deeper into the insane pseudo-logic of the introvert here. He has no problem, say, walking up to a bar and asking for a brandy, because he knows that this is the primary function of a bar. But giving directions isn't the primary function of a bus driver, so he feels weird about it. Does that make sense? Of course it doesn't! He's a basket case!
4) "Did you get away on holiday this year?"
Introverts have a thing about small-talk. They hate it! And you know, this time the introvert is right and you're the obnoxious one. "Did you get away on holidays this year?" Really, is that the best you can do? You may as well say: "I can't avoid not talking to you, but I'm going to be as unimaginative and impersonal as possible. You're really not worth any more effort, any more risk than that". There are a hundred million more original and interesting things you can say. Are you trying to save the batteries on your imagination? You make me sick!
5) "Let's get out of our comfort zones."
The introvert would spend all his time in his comfort zone if he could. He doesn't find anything bracing or exciting about getting out of it. What you are saying to him is tantamount to: "Let's get cold, uncomfortable, wet, and hungry, hurray!". Why is he like this? Because he's messed up! If you take pity on him, you should certainly drag him out of his stagnation, but don't use the term "comfort zone" or you'll freak him out.
All this is deeply, deeply tragic. If you have an introverted child, beating the introversion out of it from an early age is recommended. It may not work, but it will help you to deal with some of the frustrations you'll experience.
In the future, we may be able to block the gene which causes introversion, preventing untold misery (and a great deal of bad poetry) in the future. In the meantime, you should probably try to be patient with any introverts you encounter-- you have no idea of the effort they are making, the unseen ordeals they go through.
But once they start talking about their "rich interior life", shut them up as quick as you can. You'll never hear the end of it otherwise.