When you think of introverts vs. extroverts, what do you picture? The quiet, socially awkward nerd vs. the cheery, charismatic jock? The guy at the party sitting in the corner nervously sipping his drink vs. the life of the party? The reclusive cat vs. the excitable dog?
Speaking as an introvert myself, from the moment I could talk (and chose to stay quiet), there’s some truth and some exaggeration to how we picture introverts and extroverts. Growing up, I’d much prefer the company of books and video games over hanging out with people, which *surprise surprise* made me socially awkward. But, as I soon found out, introversion doesn’t condemn you to a lifetime of being asocial. Like anything else, social skills can be learned.
Now that I’m 22 and semi-grown, I can talk to people confidently and enjoy myself in social situations, even when my inner self is begging to be left alone. But there are still some things I wish other people knew about me as an introvert. Here are seven of them. Can you relate?
What I Wish Others Knew About Me as an Introvert
1. Yes, I will have my earbuds in almost all the time.
When I began working in a cubicle environment, the first thing I noticed was that A LOT of people had their earbuds in most of the time. Coming from a basic customer service job where managers would write people up for listening to music instead of listening to the customer, I was immediately in love.
So when I walk around the office, I’ll have my AirPods in, bumping Jay-Z’s entire catalog with not a care in the world.
Sometimes I’ll jump when someone’s trying to get my attention and I’ll feel bad, like I’m being rude to shut out the office. But then, once I take those Pods out to charge, and I hear keyboards clacking, the air conditioner buzzing, and mindless small talk, I’m reminded of how comforting it is to be in your own zone.
Speaking of mindless small talk…
2. I HATE small talk.
You know that journey to the water cooler, when you walk past someone you know, give them a polite nod, then go about the rest of your day?
As an introvert, that’s the perfect interaction to me right there. No useless statement about the weather or how the day’s going. I know I don’t care about the traffic on your commute, and I doubt you care about mine.
I possess an entire word bank in my head of generic statements like, “Oh wow, that’s cool,” or “Dang really?” or my favorite phrase, “That’s crazy.” And I know they’re generic because I hear them from everybody! Why waste time for both of us having a meaningless conversation when we could just politely acknowledge each other and move on?
Now I know that small talk isn’t completely useless. Sometimes you want to actually get to know somebody, either for networking purposes or just to make a new acquaintance. But as an introvert, I like being social only if there’s a reason to be. If you’re gonna talk to me, actually talk to me about something, not just some canned greeting that I have to pause my music for.
Susan, you don’t have to pretend you care about my dog, I promise.
3. I don’t want to hang out all the time.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean that I’m asocial or against having any friends or fun. It just means that being social can wear me out. I love my friends, and I love spending time with them (even introverts can get lonely!) — just not all day or every day.
If we hung out yesterday, why do we need to hang out today? We already caught up on each other’s lives and had a good time, so what else new is there to discuss?
And another thing. Maybe I’m just socially awkward, but I always find it hard to end a hang-out. Like, how long until I can say, “Okay guys, it’s time to go,” without feeling rude? It’s even harder when everybody’s chilling at my house, because now I feel like a bad host for kicking everyone out, even though I’m tired of being social and ready to chill solo for the rest of the day.
Still, it’s gotta be said sometime.
4. Just because we’re both introverts doesn’t automatically mean I’ll get along with you.
There are a lot of introverts out there. Maybe it’s due to the cultural moment we’re in, maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I run into self-proclaimed introverts all the time.
“I love being alone.”
“I’d MUCH rather stay at home and read than go clubbing.”
And that’s perfectly fine. I love spending time alone, too. It’s how I recharge. But, just because we’re both introverts, doesn’t mean we’ll automatically click.
For example, one night I somehow found myself at a house party with a few friends (who, of course, were having way more fun than I was). Using the classic move of finding a lonely corner until my friends were drunk enough to leave, I met another fellow who had the same mindset. Same shuffle, same awkward shift of the eyes, even the same barely-sipped cup of hooch.
I was a bit psyched because now it seemed I’d found someone interesting to hang with while waiting for the others to tire themselves out. We headed outside and started talking about TV, the go-to conversation for small talk. It only took about five minutes for me to realize that my new friend and I had almost nothing in common besides a Netflix subscription. He’s into sports and religion, I’m into video games and dogs. Once he started a political monologue, I faked a bathroom break and found another corner to slowly sip my hooch.
We still have to be compatible to be friends. Just being an introvert isn’t gonna cut it.
5. Just because you’re an extrovert doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.
I love my extroverted friends. Sure, they can be exhausting at times. But without them, I’d never have a good reason to leave the house. They taught me how to be less socially awkward and more comfortable around people in general. And, they REALLY know how to have fun.
You know the people: they walk in the room and become the center. They can take charge whenever everyone’s arguing about where to eat or speak up when someone is uncomfortable. They’re just so comfortable speaking to and generally being around people that you can’t help but admire them a bit.
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I think every introvert needs an extroverted friend; not just because we need someone to get us outside and around people, but because we can learn from them, too. We just need to know when to say “enough’s enough,” and to be comfortable being honest with them when we really do need to stay home.
What’s that old adage? Opposites attract. Speaking of…
6. I love my extroverted girlfriend, but sometimes I just need to zone out in peace.
Your significant other wants to go out tonight, and you want to stay in. Classic argument between an introvert and extrovert, right?
When dating someone with a different energy level, communication and compromise are key. But just like with friends, being different can actually help the bond. My extroverted girlfriend teaches me how to have fun at a crowded rave with drinks and noise, and I teach her how to enjoy a Saturday marathoning all the Marvel movies.
Life’s all about learning and growing, right? And who better to learn from than your loved one?
One thing I’d like to emphasize is that alone time for us introverts is crucial. I love my girl to death, but sometimes I just need to zone out and sort through my iTunes library in peace and solitude. Of course, no couple can stay around each other 24/7, but that alone time can be the difference between peace and stress to an introvert.
7. I get really nervous when I meet new people.
I got super nervous when I met my new girlfriend’s friends for the first time. There’s just so much pressure. It’s almost as bad as meeting her parents, or maybe even worse.
As an introvert, I already would rather not meet any new people. Now, I have to pop out of my social shell just so her friends don’t think I’m some weird quiet recluse. God help me if her friends and I have nothing in common other than our mutual friend. Being an introvert, I suck at small talk (see above) and I literally will have nothing else to talk about.
Sometimes we strike gold with our significant other’s friends, and we can just slide right in the clique like we’ve known them forever. But, that’s only sometimes.
It’s not easy being an introvert in an extroverted world. But, at the end of the day, we’re all just people on the same blue rock, looking for connections the best way we know how. Whether people drive us or exhaust us, the more we learn about each other, the better it will be for everyone.