At least once a week, I come across the newest post on How To Love Your Introvert. Each article touches a little bit on the psychology of needing to be alone, offers something about the physiology of an overwhelmed brain, and then gives practical tips for how someone might love the person in her circle who seems to be an antisocial recluse.
I love these articles.
I spent the first thirty years of my life as a hypersocial extrovert — we’re talking off-the-charts, people. You simply couldn’t put me away. I was out there to live and laugh and love with abundance. But then, in the span of three minutes or one night or a year, depending on how you measure the duration of Robb’s death, I became an introvert. The blinds closed, the porch light flipped off, and I just wanted to be a l o n e.
If I may speak for the general population of introverts, the reason we love these articles is because they speak for us. And let’s be honest: we are a people who would rather not speak. If someone’s going to write an article explaining what makes us tired, setting boundaries for us, and asking others to be nice and give us a little space, then it’s just heaps of easier to post that on your wall or on the bulletin board in the break room.
We read it and we think, “Yes. Yes. Yes! This is it. This is me. Like. Share. What she said.”
I think the percentages have gotten a little heavy in our favor. We’re quiet people in a noisy world, and we’re asking them to please, please, please accommodate and love us well. But are we challenging ourselves to love them back? Or better yet, love them first?
My tendency is to withdraw my extremities and slap a Post-it Note on my turtle shell that says, “Don’t Call Me; I’ll Call You.” But maybe I can leave a grace note instead.
So, here are my suggestions: Five Ways Introverts Can Choose to Love Someone When They Really Just Want to Disappear.
1. Smile. There’s a whole lot of friendship in eye contact and a smile. I hear you — I know what you’re thinking: “But if I make eye contact and smile, they might want to talk to me and then I’ll feel trapped and I can already sense my blood pressure going up and I might need to shrivel up and die.” Hello, cart? Meet the horse. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The truth is a smile costs you nothing, there’s more where that came from, and it’s good for everyone involved.
2. Be honest about your own boundaries. Speak for yourself as confidently as you would for someone else. I don’t mean speaking in third person weirdness, like, “Tricia needs a break right now.” But if you were tasked to care for someone in need, if it were your job to advocate and represent their well being, then you would watch out for them, keep an eye for oncoming traffic and obstacles, and know when to clear a path for them to exit the scene. This might be a newsflash, but you are tasked with the role to represent and advocate for yourself. If you know what you need, say it with grace and honesty. Take care of you.
3. Set a time to be outgoing. Some people choose one day a week, or an hour each day, or just Sunday morning, but it’s a good idea to push yourself to open the windows of your soul now and then.
Decide: This is the time when I will return the week’s phone calls, and then I will go for a bike ride. Or, I will be approachable and engaging for all of this dinner party, and then I will come home and be quiet for three days. Or, I will talk to my children over breakfast and on the way to school, and then I will drop them off and refuel so I can have energy when they come home. Set a time frame for when you will let the world in, and also set margins for how you will regain your equilibrium. I have a time frame when I am outgoing, but I’m not going to tell you when it is just in case I have to cancel it at the last minute. Just being honest here.
4. Look for ways to communicate without expending your energy. Text messages, emails, and notes in the mail are great ways to show people you care about them.
5. I don’t know what number five is, but I’m including it on the list. It’s the placeholder to remind me that there’s always one more thing, something great or small, that I can do within my emotional capacity to show other people I love them.
The world is full of people. Learn how to love them.
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