I started to identify as an introvert in my mid-30s. Before that, I just assumed that I must be one of the many labels my family and friends had used to describe me over the years: Shy. Antisocial. Crotchety.
I struggled for years to keep up with my extroverted husband and our mostly extroverted friends. I have suffered through seemingly never-ending nights of salsa dancing at smoky and sweaty clubs. I have cried in my bathroom at 2 a.m. while my dinner guests refill their wine glasses again and again. Completely drained and at my wit’s end, I have fallen asleep in dark jazz clubs, dessert rooms, and once in the back of a limo, prisoner to an all-night, bar-hopping anniversary party.
What an affirmation it was to know that my feelings are linked to my innate personality traits and that I am not, in fact, a premeditated party pooper!
As an introvert, one of my main struggles is having to be “on” for extended periods of time. I have to mentally prepare myself for the event at hand. Once I familiarize myself with the “who, what, where, when and why” of the social gathering, I can relax and have a good time. Of course, decorum dictates that we must not ask certain questions, which makes being an introvert really, really hard sometimes.
Here are some questions introverts would ask if they could:
When can I leave? (Other acceptable variations are: What time is it over? How long do I have to stay? Can I drive my own car?)
Every introvert has that one friend (mine is my husband) who pours one last drink just as you are beginning to say your goodbyes. This friend then nurses said drink for upwards of an hour while you sit there shooting laser beams at him with your eyes. We also have that other friend who guilts us into staying a “few” minutes longer. I truly don’t enjoy most parties because I’m preoccupied by these scenarios. Give me an escape time in advance, promise me we can stick to it, and I won’t be so worried about when I can get going (I might even be the one to suggest we stay longer!). While I totally appreciate you offering me a bed after a late night, I would rather drive home at midnight, in the middle of a hurricane, on a motorcycle, while wearing a blindfold, than to sleep over at anyone’s house.
Who’s going to be there? (Also: Can it be just the two of us?)
An introvert’s biggest pet peeve is meeting a friend for lunch and seeing that she brought along someone you weren’t expecting. I once ended a budding friendship because every time we made plans to hang out it turned into a group event. Be specific with your invitation. If you ask me over for dinner, I am assuming it’s just us. If you are inviting other people, tell me it’s a dinner party. These two scenarios require completely different emotional preparation for an introvert.
Do you promise not to leave me standing by myself? (AKA: You won’t introduce me to your boss’s wife and walk away, right?)
Chitchat is the absolute worst for introverts! I have had fake phone conversations while taking out the trash, just so I don’t have to make awkward conversation with my neighbors. When I don’t know what to say, I start rambling and over-sharing. It’s weird and uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Can you text me instead? (Or: Why? Why? Why!?!)
Introverts have to be in the right state of mind before engaging in a long phone call—and people who call typically want to talk, and talk, and talk. If I don’t answer the phone, don’t text me, “Please call me.” Text me a summary of what you need to talk about so that I can determine if now is the right time to have this conversation. I internalize serious conversations and want to give good advice, so venting to me about a difficult situation as I am with a carload of kids or on a date with my husband isn’t good for either of us. I promise to call you back when I can give you my full attention and offer thoughtful advice. If you need something simple, remember that it takes the same amount of energy to text “Please call me” as it does to type “What’s Jen’s number?” and you will get a much quicker reply.
If you’re not introverted, these questions probably seem silly to you. But anyone who is or who loves an introvert knows exactly where I am coming from. Like the T-shirt I recently saw says: “Introverts Unite: We’re here, we’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.