Introverts have been speaking up lately, educating the rest of us non-introverts about how our perceptions of normal have been skewed toward an "extrovert ideal." Today, acknowledging you're an extrovert can feel like confessing that you've been an insensitive jerk for ignoring the obvious fact that not everyone is wired like you. After reading a HuffPost blog by Kali Rogers titled "An Open Letter From Introverts to Everyone Else," I decided to come out publicly in this blog post as an extrovert. And as an extrovert, I want to say on behalf of others like me: to all the introverts, we're sorry.
I replenish my energy stores by interacting socially with other people. Talking to strangers is fun. Chatting with friends after a long day of work is a boost, not a drain. Meanwhile my professional friends in medicine and mental health and almost everyone I know in the writing world are all introverts. As are my spouse, many of my closest friends, and almost everyone I love most in the world. I think it's wonderful that the growing discussion about introversion and extroversion helps expand our understanding of one another. And I will try to do better. We all will.
Here's my open letter in response to Kali Rogers:
1. We appreciate the reminder that weekdays are "me" days for our introverted friends. Thank you for reminding us. After a long day of work, you need some alone time to re-charge. We extroverts don't mean to sap all your energies when you're trying to recharge. We really don't. We are honestly just full of social vigor. We enjoy talking to you, and seeing you. Doing so helps us replenish our energies at the end of a long, tiring workday. But we can get those needs met on workdays by hanging out with the other extroverts who need the same thing. So feel free to decline our aggressive invitations. Just tell us you're in need of a bit of quiet time, and we'll respect your decision to head home for some rest.
2. We will try to "have a reason" when we call you one the phone, instead of just dialing you up to talk about nothing. Whoa, boy! This one can be hard to remember! We pick up our phones and just dial people we like. If we call you up for no reason, most of us extroverts can take any feedback you want to give us. We can be thick skinned, and in this case it's a good thing. You can ask us to get to the point, or remind us you don't enjoy chitchat, and we'll apologize (for the ump-teenth time) and let you get off the phone. It's okay to screen your calls when you don't feel like talking. Just text us later and check in so we know you still love us.
3. We will attempt to remember how important it is for you that social events happen with people you know, not just a room full of strangers. You may have to remind us of this one, too. Hanging out with strangers is stressful for you, not loads of fun like it is for us. Again, we're really sorry. It can be kind of hard to imagine how an activity we get so much pleasure from can be such a nightmare for you. Don't let us be insensitive about this. Confront us if we're oblivious, and remind us that we are different from each other, and that's fine!
4. We understand you have just a few friends, not a "bajillion" like us.
We know this about you, introverts, and honestly, it's one of the biggest reasons we enjoy your friendships so much. Our extroverted friends are fun to hang out with, but sometimes they aren't very invested in us on a personal level. You introverts are often our most loyal friends, and we love you for it.
5. We have seen how intense and passionate you get about the topics you find important. We know, introverts. We know. Politics, religion, money, complicated relationships -- these are the topics you want to discuss. You would rather have substance in your conversations than fluff. Us extroverts, on the other hand, we like fluff. Our conversations are sport. We volley the discussion back and forth just to see if another person can keep up, and that's entertaining. Forgive us if we feel uncomfortable with the deep content. It slows down the fun and makes us think. But we want you to contribute to the discussion, so chime in! Make us think. Bring the discussion around the more important matters. We can adjust.
6. We won't make you reach out. We will do it for you.
It's okay, introverts. We extroverts reach out constantly. We are often in perpetual contact with someone, and if you don't call us, we'll probably call you anyway. As long as we know you still love us.
7. We appreciate the reassurance that you like us.
We like you, too! You introverts are our most trusted friends. You know how to keep a secret. You're there for us when it counts. You're real and genuine. We love everything about you. Just remind us to be sensitive to your needs. We aren't trying to steamroll over you. But sometimes you'll have to give us a gentle reminder that you and we are different, and that's a beautiful thing!
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