Understanding Introverts in a Noisy World
I remember when I was seven years old, I was waiting for my Dad to pick me up from school. I was sitting on the stairs. Watching some of my classmates play below. And also, for the life of me, brooding about what I wanted to be when I grow up. I could not imagine what my future was going to be like and it worried me. At seven years old!
Then I thought to myself I wish I could be like my classmates. They looked so carefree. It was so easy for them to just get up and socialize and play. I didn’t know back then the concept of introversion. I just felt like something was wrong with me.
Growing up, I struggled to fit in class especially when there was schoolwork that involved groups. I wasn’t a snob or anything of that sort but I felt more comfortable doing things on my own. So when the teachers would ask us to group ourselves, I would usually just stand there and expect that no one would want to pair up with me. And it was fine. At times, I had to force myself to approach others for fear of being bullied and labeled as a weirdo. I had to push myself hard to fit in.
In an interesting TED Talk by Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she explained the bias Western society has to introverts. According to her, schools and workplaces are often designed for extroverts. This gear towards extroversion has its roots in cultural history. In the Western world, particularly the US, people have often favored the “man of action” over the “man of contemplation”. You can watch her whole talk here.
You probably know someone who is an introvert. It could be anyone. A partner, a sibling, a workmate. While introverts are sometimes misunderstood for the way they are, I have listed here the communication struggles that they have.
1. Introverts rarely verbalize their thoughts and opinions. – They hold their tongue, even when they have something to say because they fear it won’t be insightful enough. Or it might come out all wrong to their listeners.
2. They are more comfortable communicating in texts or emails. – They prefer texts and emails than phone calls so they can skip the small talk and edit what they want to say. They can’t do that in phone calls where everything is impromptu and spontaneous.
Sometimes they put off making or returning important phone calls. It’s a struggle for them to feel energized enough to sound enthusiastic in conversations.
3. Brainstorming in groups is difficult for them. – It’s hard for them to join a conversation where ideas and opinions are everywhere because of their need to have silence while they think. They have the need to think first and weigh things in their head before they speak. When they are in groups, they feel like they can’t organize their thoughts well enough.
4. Big groups tire them out. – Being in big groups involves a lot of small talks, which is exhausting for introverts. Small talks drain them out. They prefer working either alone or with a small group. Because of this, they are labeled as anti-social and sometimes even bullied.
5. They feel lonely surrounded by people. – They feel left out in a fast-moving conversation, whether it’s at a party or at work. This happens because by the time they are ready to spill out what they want to say, the group has already moved on to the next topic.
Introverts are sometimes misjudged. Perhaps some of their struggles listed above could shed a light or two about them.