No, You Don’t Have To Tell Others You’re An Introvert
But there are some small things to remember to ensure you’re not missing stuff that would benefit you, your family, and especially your kids.
You know how you are at public events. You show up, take it all in, stay quiet, go home. In other words, you’re an introvert.
You have no problem with it. You don’t crave small talk, but you question if you’re missing out on making connections, and you also wonder if you should explain yourself so people, especially the other parents you meet, don’t get the wrong impression.
Well, should you?
No. Being introverted isn’t a disease and there’s no reason to bring attention to something that was never a problem.
“You’re almost apologizing for it, like it’s a detriment,” says Richard Sackett, a New York City licensed psychologist.
And it’s not. The implicit message is that what you should be is an extrovert, because that’s the most awesome. Those people are charming and full of energy. But …
“You don’t need to be,” says Robyn Landow, a New York City licensed psychologist.
Along with getting a bad rap, introversion is easy to write off as being shy and awkward. But more accurately, it’s being introspective and listening, and that definition sounds like a pretty good thing. The reality is that most people have a range of behaviors. Sometimes they love to talk. Sometimes they want to be alone. And sometimes it’s a mix.
In truth, introverts can be shy, but shyness is connected to anxiety and a desire to be more engaged, Landow says. Introverts are usually driven by internal stimuli rather than outside forces. But that nuance isn’t usually understood.
“We assume others are shy or anxious,” she says. “We don’t see introversion in a benign way.”
But it’s also not enough to say, “This is how I am. No need to change,” because while you’re being present, you still might not be engaging with the people in your immediate world and that means you could be missing stuff that would benefit you, your family and especially your kids.
It doesn’t mean a total reinvention as much as pushing the edges of your comfort zone when the moment calls for it. It starts with knowing the moment and then what to do to make it palatable. Here are a few things that can help.
1. Before the Event …
Let’s say it’s a birthday party or a soccer game. Think about what makes you uncomfortable about being there. This kind of inventory prepares you and allows you to take steps. Maybe you worry about not knowing someone, but there could be someone going, and there’s nothing wrong with texting beforehand to meet up, ride together or just know they’ll be there. Maybe there’s a job to do at the event, which gives you a role and a reason to interact in a limited way.
Introverts don’t usually love unstructured environments and doing the above cuts down the scope and keeps you from retreating to the corner. Then follow that by thinking about what you’re like at your best. It might be great observations or funny questions. It’s a reminder of what you can bring to where you’re going.
“It puts you into an encouraging state of mind,” Sackett says.
2. Find the Bigger Purpose
It’s hard to be more extroverted, so realize that you don’t have to do it in every scenario. The room could be too big or too loud or just doesn’t call for milling about. But opportunities will eventually appear.
“You gotta read the room and move out of your comfort zone,” Landow says.
What can help is to be extroverted for others, namely your kids. Your life might be fine, but they need help making plans and developing friendships. You need to know what’s going on and who could be in their social circles.
That information doesn’t mystically present itself. It comes from watching but also meeting other parents in order to know them and be known. It can lead to playdates, finding out what people do for the summer, and how to sign up for the basketball leagues that seemingly have no website. Your spouse might take the lead on these things, but that’s not your out.
“You still need to know how,” she says.
3. Remember: It’s Not About What You Need
The challenge for introverts is they don’t necessarily need the same feedback from compliments and small talk that extroverts might. But people respond to that, and a little outreach goes a long way. When you enter a place, be smiling and look around. Say “hi” or at least wave to people you recognize. If you know that last week’s playdate went well, say that to the other parent, Landow says.
As you watch whatever is going on, that observation you have in your head? Occasionally let it out with, “Nice pass” or “I wasn’t expecting that” or “That play just reminded me of …” It doesn’t have to be huge or constant. It just has to be.
“Share something from your inside with someone else,” Sackett says.
4. Treat It Like an Experiment
There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Your goal is not to be Mayor of the Sideline. It’s just to go home with a feeling that you expanded your world slightly.
“It’s an opportunity to do some growing,” Sackett says.
Your kids also see that, and over time, they emulate it. And here’s another possibility. You’re most likely not the only introvert in town, and putting yourself out there allows you all to meet and future events become that much easier all around.
And maybe you feel the need to explain yourself. If so, a little humor doesn’t hurt, with, “I wish I was better at parties” or “My introverted ways are kicking up.” It’s not an apology but an invitation for other to share what’s in their head and a chance to get to know each other.
“You don’t need to explain it like it’s a fault,” Landow says. “You’re just telling something about you.”