Nell Goddard

musings of a clergy child

21 Nov

Dear Extroverts...

My dear extroverted friends,

Hi, I'm an introvert. I really like your energy, and the way that you throw yourself into every aspect of life. I love the fact that you think out loud, and that you're always willing to share how you're feeling about things. I love your spontaneity, and how you can strike up a conversation with anyone. I love that you can go from party to party, and never get tired. I love how you walk into a room, and people instantly know that you're there, and you're interesting, and you have wonderful and exciting things to say. Sometimes, I wish I could be like you. But, well, I'm not. Not all the time anyway. Sure, I can do people. Quite well sometimes, actually. But, you know how you feel all tired and lonely and drained when you've been stuck in a room on your own all day long? That's how I feel after a day of being around people. It's important for you to remember that, I think, because it's quite hard to understand. Just like I can't quite grasp the fact that you hate being on your own, because I love it just that much, I don't think you've quite grasped some of the finer points about being an introvert. So please, give me a chance to explain...

  • Silence is a compliment 'Hi, I'm an introvert and just because I'm not talking to you doesn't mean I hate you'. No, really. In fact, those moments when I will sit with you, not say anything, and just be, are speaking a thousand words. What you need to hear from my silence is 'I feel safe with you. I know that you're not going to ask about my innermost thoughts and feelings, and I feel comfortable being around you. I'm letting you into my silent world where I re-cooperate and become myself again. You're witnessing something very special and private so please, don't disturb it. But please stay close because I like having you around.'
  • Please don't interrupt me When you're having conversations between yourselves, dear extroverted friends, interrupting is how you get a word in edgeways. The only way you can actually say anything is by interrupting someone else's external processing flow. And, although it can be rude so you need to pick your timing - and words - carefully, it's not devastating. But when you interrupt me, the introvert, it can be destructive. As an internal processor, when I say things, I've thought about them, and how I want them to come across, and how I'm going to word them and when I'm going to say them and I'm often concentrating very hard on making them sound right. Because I don't share my thoughts very often and when I do, it's sometimes quite scary. And if you interrupt me, it throws everything into disarray. So please, if you're going to interrupt me, do it gently. But, if at all possible, wait until I've finished, acknowledge that you've heard me, and then externally process your thoughts in response.
  • Ask me questions 'Hi, I'm an extrovert and this is my life story' I know that often with you, this is how you relate to people. And that's amazing. Sometimes, I wish I could be as open as you. But I don't really know if people want to hear how I am, how my day was, or about my life story, until they ask me. And even when you do ask, I might not want to share anyway. But I appreciate you asking, I really do. So keep asking, and know that if I say no, I mean 'not now, but maybe another time.'
  • Give me time to process You know how I love you to ask me questions? Please don't expect to always get an answer straight away, especially if it's a big question. I need time to think it through. To get my thoughts in order so I can say what I actually mean. And if I ask for some time to think before giving my answer, please don't think it's because I'm stupid. I might not be able to think out loud the way you do, but my brain works just as fast - only quieter. So give me some time and space where I can think and not be distracted, and then I'll give you an honest answer. If you push me, you won't hear what I actually think because I'll panic and say whatever I can. So please, be gentle.
  • Understand that sometimes, I just need to be alone Imagine that you're locked in a room. Alone. No internet, no phone, just silence. All day. You go to try the door, to try and get out, but it's locked, and you're stuck. Imagine the panic, the dread. The feelings of loneliness, of tiredness, of crippling anxiety as you realise that you're trapped, alone, for a little while longer. Sometimes, that's how it feels to be an introvert in the world. Apologies if that's somewhat melodramatic, but when I'm tired and people-d out, panic genuinely can descend when I realise that I'm going to have to be sociable for a little while longer. So give me space, even in a group. I might not want to say anything, or explain anything, and I don't want you to try and fix anything - I know how to fix it, and it's not by talking about it! - just come alongside me and let me know that you love me even when I'm quiet.
I know, extroverts, that often you feel mis-understood by us introverts. And I'm sorry for that. Often, you get a lot of stick for being loud and insensitive and in-your-face, and we don't appreciate you for who you are, in all your extroverted glory. I'm so very sorry for that. So, here are a few promises to you:
  • I'll try to remember that you don't mean everything you say all the time You process differently to me. You can start by saying one thing and then, ten minutes of thinking (talking) later, you'll have a completely different conclusion. That's okay. It's sometimes just a bit difficult for me to get my head round because, well, when I say stuff, I actually mean it. And you, you just think it. Out loud. But I promise to try and remember that your final conclusion is the last point you make, not the first.
  • I'll try and tell you how I'm feeling It must be so frustrating to try and second-guess what I'm feeling all the time. Sorry about that. Thing is though, sometimes I don't know what I'm feeling, I just know that it's not quite right. But I'll try - when I can - to let you know if something's wrong. This means that you won't have to worry that whenever I'm silent, I'm sad. Because I know that this is often the case for extroverts. Oh, and I'll also try and notice when you're silent, and check that you're okay.
  • I'll love you by spending time with you, and listening to you I know you need to externally process in order to feel right about the world so, when you've had a rough day and need to work it through, I'll sit and listen. I'm good at that, see. I'll let you process externally, and then go away and process your processing internally. I love hearing how your mind works because, often, it's exactly the same as mine, just louder.
  • I'll work on saying 'no' I do realise that sometimes, I'm not very good company, and that's because I've said 'yes' to one too many people-things that day. And I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry you're not getting the best of me because all my people-juices have been used up for the day. I promise to work on saying 'no' to things I don't really want to do, so I can spend time with the people who I love the most.
I hope this helps, extroverts. I hope you don't mind it came in a letter form - you see, often I find it easier to communicate my thoughts by writing them down. But if you want me to read this letter aloud to you, then I will. I'm sorry if you think I've generalised too much - I do understand that you're all individuals, and I'm sorry if you feel that I've lumped you all into one category. Please do forgive me.

I think that I should end, though, with a thank you. Thank you for being extroverts. Thank you for encouraging me to come out of my quiet, inside world, to take risks, and be spontaneous. Thank you for being willing to just talk, unselfconsciously, about anything. Thank you for sharing your feelings, and letting me know that it's okay to voice mine. Thank you for understanding and embracing and loving me in a way that I might not fully comprehend, but that means a great deal to me nonetheless.

With love from,

An introvert x

Nell Goddard

Hi, I’m Alianore. I used to be known as 'Nell Goddard', but then I got married and changed my name. I’m an author, blogger, and speaker. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend. I tweet as @alianoree and you can find more of my writings in my first book, 'Musings of a Clergy Child'.