Sunday, September 17, 2017

Five Things Not to Say to an Introvert

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.


  1. They're probably describing me to an extent. I remember being brought to classes to learn how to "mix" (at the Mater actually) when starting school. It never worked. Looking back,I actually think it would have been better just to teach children (and adults) that they don't really need to mix if they don't want to. It's more torturous trying to try. Beating an introverted child,I think, would make him want to stay in his corner even more.
    It can be difficult phoning somebody, but it depends. Sometimes ringing back isn't so hard, because you've made the first step already. Other times it can be more difficult than the first call,when you realise what you've started.
    I won't usually attend a coffee morning or reception anyway. It's strange when someone unrelated tells me they've been to my nephew's wedding or grandniece's baptism. But IF I do go to anything: There's NOTHING as annoying as someone that you feel comfortable with bringing you somewhere and leaving you on your own when you really don't feel comfortable with anyone else.
    Asking a person if they're going in holidays when you know they're probably not is rather stupid at any time, even if there other, more practical or material, reasons for this.
    A #6 that I would add is - never say ' you look tired'-it used to give me insomnia and I began to really hate people that said it.

    1. Commiserations! Most of the people I like are introverts so obviously I'm being humorous here. Or trying to be.

      When I wrote "phone me back" I was actually thinking of someone saying this on a voicemail. I can remember once feeling very happy with myself because I responded to such a request with an email saying that I didn't like using the telephone and would rather stick to email. On that occasion, though, I was doing a favour for somebody and I could set the terms. If I was rich I would refuse to use the telephone completely...

      I agree with you so much about coffee mornings etc. (and I do everything I can to avoid them) that I will often ask someone else attending not to leave me. I don't care how needy it sounds, I hate them so much. However, it never seems to work. God, I hate them. I've actually told people that I'm not going to attend a social event unless everybody is sitting down. To which I am told a seat can be provided for me, which is missing the whole point...

      Well, even if you have gone on holidays, it's such a dull and unimaginative opening. I hate any question that's digging for personal information. That might be oversensitive, but what the heck. I generally steer away from any personal question or personal observation, although I do try to compliment people where possible-- on the logic that I like it when people compliment me.

  2. It's not all as bleak as I obviously made it sound

  3. The 2nd one is especially true - I didn't realize I also do this! (My goodness....the suffering I've caused...)