Well, this isn't my usual advocacy post, unless of course you want to count it as advice for adopting introverted children, which you should totally do, by the way. No, this post is just a result of something I've been thinking about for a long time. Just before school ended for the semester, I got to hear a young man give a speech about his college experience. He talked about a time in his life when things weren't going well for him. At one point he said, "I became really introverted, and that's just not me."
I won't lie. I was a bit offended. Now, I did take a minute to look at the statement from his point of view. I did think, "Oh, he didn't mean it that way. He's not saying that introversion is a bad thing. He's just saying that it was weird for him because that's not his personality type." Even so, the statement rubbed me the wrong way, and after a few minutes of trying to figure out why, the answer hit me. If I went up on stage and talked about my life's challenges, would you consider it odd if I said that I became really extroverted? Would you consider my switch to extroversion a bad thing? The fact is that this culture values extroversion much more than introversion. Society considers introversion a problem that needs to be fixed, partly because not a lot of introverts want to spend the energy it takes to defend themselves.
To my dear extroverted friends and family members, please don't take this as an attack. I love you all. I love your personalities and wouldn't do a thing in the world to change the way that God made you. I'm writing this because I fully get that introverts are more difficult to understand from the extrovert perspective. There are fewer of us in existence, after all, and our brains are wired in a completely different way. That's why I've made this list of things your introvert friends wish you knew. Why didn't they tell you this themselves? Because they're introverted.
1) Introversion is not a problem, and it is not your job to "fix" it. Believe it or not, I actually like my personality, and I am not waiting for a good friend to "rescue" me from my "shell". I know that your heart is in the right place, and I appreciate that you care about me, but please allow me to be introverted and respect the fact that my personality is a different type than yours.
2) I get energy from different places than you. You gain energy from being in large, loud groups of people. I lose energy from being in large groups of people. It doesn't mean that I don't love those people or enjoy their company, but if we've been out together all day, I will be much more tired than you. I "recharge" by being alone or in small groups.
3) Just because I'm not in the middle of the dance floor doesn't mean that I'm upset or that I'm not having fun. I'm actually enjoying this one-on-one conversation I'm having.
4) I am not shy. I am quiet. There is a huge difference.
5) Please don't get offended if I don't join in on spontaneous plans. I have nothing against you. Sometimes I'm up for the "hey, let's all go get ice cream right now!" plans, but at other times, I've already spent all of my energy, and I'd prefer things that are already planned ahead.
6) I am just as fun-loving as you, but I might consider different things fun.
7) If I'm put on the spot, my brain will immediately erase all useful information, which is particularly annoying in language classes. It might take a minute for me to re-gather my thoughts and answer you. It's the only part of being introverted that gets on my nerves.
8) I'm sorry, but you're not helping me if you try to force me into the conversation (see #7). I need time to observe a situation before I jump in.
9) I don't like idle conversation. If I have something important to say, I'll say it.
10) The fastest way to get me to talk to you is to figure out what I'm passionate about. One extroverted friend of mine pointed out that I have quite a few subjects that I'll talk about endlessly. We called these subjects my "soap boxes". Introverts don't like to speak just for the sake of speaking, but when you get us to talk about something we're passionate about, we will not shut up. Ask me about Christianity and the arts. Ask me about the importance of live theatre. Ask me about Down Syndrome. Ask me about orphans. Ask me about introversion. I promise that I will talk so much that you might wish you hadn't asked. :)
11) Please don't say "you're really quiet!" to a person you've just met. Few things are more annoying, and there really is no way to respond to that. I don't understand why that phrase is socially acceptable to say to a complete stranger while saying "you're really loud!" is considered rude.
12) Don't ever, ever, ever tell an introvert to "try being more extroverted" or "try to be more outgoing". This goes back to #1. Introversion is a personality type, not an emotion, so it doesn't change. Think about it. You are literally asking me to change my personality, something I would never consider asking of you. Frankly, it's insulting. Imagine how you would feel if the situation were reversed. Most introverts will be polite and resist the urge to respond with sarcasm. Some introverts will not resist that urge. You have been warned.
13) Introverts can do and have done a lot of things that you might consider "extroverted". I, for example, am a theatre major. I act and sing on a stage in front of people all the time. I love public speaking. I'd much rather be in front of a crowd than in the middle of one, I guess. Don't assume things about your introverted friends.
14) I love my extroverted friends. I appreciate your personalities. All I ask is for the same in return.
I hope that this list has helped some of you understand where your introverted friends are coming from. :) Basically, just remember that God created all our different personalities with a purpose. Ultimately, the introverts and extroverts need each other and should celebrate each other's strengths.