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Dear Introverts, (An Honest Letter from an Extrovert)

Posted by on April 12, 2012

Dear Introverts*,

I was brushing my teeth the other night (this is when I do some of my best thinking), when I realized: almost everyone I’m close to is an introvert. Mouth full of foamy paste, I looked at Varun in surprise, “Varun! Almost all of my close friends are introverts. What are the odds? How does this happen? Oh my poor friends!” I then began listing close friends who are introverts: my husband (ish), my lovely friend Beth, my three hilarious university roommates, my high school friends, even some of my siblings.

(How typically extrovert of me: a whole paragraph about myself and so little written to you, my beloved introverts).

Let me start by saying, I’m sorry. I think I spent about 22 years of my life thinking the whole world was full of Extroverts and Quiet People. In my mind, Quiet People were either shy and needed to be drawn out through my talking at them, or snobby and too cool to be friends with me. Soo, I pretty much operated under the assumption that Quiet People should be treated like extroverts, and they’d eventually come around. You know all of those times that I told a “funny story” about you in public and couldn’t figure out why you were hurt? Remember when I’d ask you a question, wait 5 seconds for you to process and start babbling again? And all the friends I brought home without giving you prior notice?…I really had no clue.

I didn’t mean to embarrass or belittle you, to stress you out, to make you feel rushed or overwhelmed. In my extroversion, I am energized by social interactions, I crave conversation, I think quickly and need very little Amelia time (if any…). I just figured you felt the same way about things.

And so God brought a crowd of introverts into my life, to bear with me patiently, to tell me to shut up (when necessary), to get me to sit still and to show me how to listen, empathize and wait. I’m not gonna lie, there are moments when I look at you and wonder what the heck you could be thinking, how you don’t feel the urge to talk. There are moments when I’m jealous of the way you can spend a day alone, reflecting and processing while I count the seconds until I get to be social again.

‘Cause really, the world is made for extroverts. You must find conferences and student retreats, parties and group meetings as uncomfortable as I found afternoons of silence.

I would like to publicly pledge my support for my Introverted friends. Somehow, someday, I will find a way to filter my words before they come out, and you’ll find me much easier to deal with. But for now, what say we make a truce? You tell me when I’m talking too much, interrupting, getting all up in your space, rushing you…and I’ll try to stop thinking your silence means you hate me and/or are quietly plotting to take over the world. If all else fails, I’ll get this tattooed on my arm.

I’d be lying if I said you don’t perplex me. I’ve sometimes sat and tried to act like an introvert, watching a conversation, weighing my words carefully and yearning for time alone. It doesn’t work. I’m not sure how or why you do it, but I obviously like you: I surround myself with introverts. You guys keep me on my toes. So, dear introverts, thank you.

Thank you for your friendship and patience. Thank you for listening, for speaking thoughtfully and for laughing at my inane jokes. If my enthusiasm and energy ever get too much for you, just remember: you can leave the conversation or put in earplugs, but I live with me. (And so does Varun. HA! Poor guy, send him some earplugs if you think of it.)

Your dear, foolish friend,

Amelia

*Despite the 600 words above to the contrary, I believe that extroversion and introversion are two ends of a spectrum, not two categories. Many of my friends fall somewhere between these extremes, and it’s not my intention to put people in boxes. But sometimes for the sake of entertainment and/or understanding my friends, I do anyway.

21 Responses to Dear Introverts, (An Honest Letter from an Extrovert)

  1. Beth (@bethaf)

    For the record, I love extroverts. I particularly love YOUR extroversion, and am glad it’s a part of my life! I need people who are excited and talkative to get me talking and excited, people to help draw me out and with whom I feel safe to expose the extroverted-side of me. So thank you for that. πŸ™‚

  2. jen

    ditto and I LOVE your candidness in your blog, most recently in this post! Love you, Amelia!

  3. Lindsay

    Hahahaha. Wow. What a great post.
    I especially love that list: How to Care for Introverts. All of it – so good!
    Thanks for writing this!

  4. NMC

    I’m a introvert trying hard to be more extroverted because of just life. Not that my introverted ways were (or are) bad or wrong – but my husband is a minister, I have no choice sometimes! But I appreciated this. My life, I am surounded by extroverts and sometimes I thought it was just a way to show me that I need to be more like ‘them’–but just maybe we’re supposed to learn from each other and learn to respect differences! I just love your honesty in this.

  5. Team Oyeniyi

    Excellent thoughts, Amelia and I love the poster! From a fellow extrovert!

  6. Feindflug

    Without “God” this letter would be really great πŸ˜‰

  7. K

    As an introvert who works as a server (of all things!) dealing very, very frequently with many extroverts, I appreciate your post and your viewpoint πŸ™‚

  8. Hugo

    I have printed your poster for my (extrovert) wife; I’ll leave it somewhere for her to find!

    • Amelia

      Haha! I love this! I hope you print it on fluorescent paper—we extroverts have very high stimulation thresholds!

  9. MB

    I’m an introvert and I appreciate your point about using God, despite what was posted above. Thanks for sharing this. It isn’t often that people realize introverts were made this way, not that they have something wrong with them and they need to be changed. I have felt that way my whole life. Now in my 30’s, I am feeling more comfortable in my own skin — knowing I do not have to be an extrovert, no matter what people think I should be. The people that matter will continue to uphold me and love me while the ones that don’t will keep trying to change me. I think both worlds could learn from each other but we don’t have to be exact replicas of one another. Keep being extroverted and we will keep being introverted and find some ground in the middle where we can accept one another.

  10. Caitlin

    As a massive extrovert, I totally get this!

  11. Susan Nye Ferrell

    Good piece, thanks for sharing. I would say that there is one “inadvertent untruth” in it..you say you don’t need much if any “Amelia” time…but the truth is, when you are out and being the life of the party, holding forth in a conversation, etc, you ARE having Amelia time. That IS your time. And it’s over when you go back home to quiet and unsocial atmosphere. So for your introverted friends, they have their “name of” time when they go away from the social circle. And I’d venture that many of them enjoy the social time more than you enjoy your alone time, so don’t think of those two as interchangable. For some, yes the together time may be as miserable as your alone, but for most all of us, intro’s and extros’ we’ve moderated and coped ourselves somewhere into a happy medium.

  12. scthemis

    I thought this was wonderful. I’m going to print it for my husband and I, who are both extroverts, to remember about our oldest child, who is clearly an introvert. We both need to be reminded.

  13. IC

    Oh I am so jealous of you – I’ve been surrounded by extroverts my whole life! I’ve always thought they were here to torture me and test my patience. Only soon I realized that I would be lonely without my noisy hyperactive friends. And that torture and patience go both ways.
    So big thank you to all of you extroverts – without you we would probably be living like hermits and missing much fun!

  14. S. Williams

    Do your wife a big favor and have the guts to actually hand her the poster. Leaving stuff around for your spouse to stumble upon is like a parent leaving a “birds & the bees” manual deliberately lying in some contrived place, in the hopes that the child finds it and figures it all out on their own. Puts you in the comfortable (& selfish) position of not having to openly discuss a sensitive topic. Possibly easier for you, but hardly fair to the child or to your spouse in the situation discussed here. Avoidance behavior like this only frustrates those who are trying to love you. Seems like it is time to learn about the word courage and the art of open dialogue. From my experience, scaredy-cat tactics don’t foster love, trust, intimacy, respect or growth in personal relationships.

    • jj

      I think your list could be applied to everyone. Who wants to be reprimanded in public or interrupted when tslking? When you think K about it the list is for everyone

  15. JCK

    I’m glad you wrote this; however, unless you’re talking about interacting with an introverted child, we grown-up introverts really only need you to remember #12 on your list. It’s interesting that you say “the world is made for extroverts”. I would say “Extroverts think the world is made for extroverts.” Some food for thought: introverts typically interact with people in small groups or one-on-one. Where do your deep conversations and relationships form…at bars, parties, conferences? Or in close, quiet settings? Introverts of the world: don’t feel like you’re missing out. Thank you again for your insights in your post.

Thoughts? I love hearing from you!