A grave misunderstanding of introverts persists, and you know it’s a misunderstanding because introversion as a subject tends to come up in the form of little pictorial notecards or listicles that defend or explain our way of being.
Which is odd, since a fairly recent Forbes article claims introverts compose one third to one half of the population and a defense or explanation is usually reserved for that which is unusual or uncommon.
Introverts don’t need a defense. What we could use, if anything, is a lack of pity or “Snrk?” from extroverts. We’re perfectly happy. Different from you does not mean “weird,” or “Snrk?”-worthy. Nor does it mean “pitiable.”
Do I feel sorry for you for requiring social interaction if you’re alone for more than three days?
So, and I say this kindly as an introvert, please don’t squish your eyebrows when I say I don’t have a lot of friends unless I’m crying when I say it. My lack of many friends is by design. That is, I don’t have many friends because I don’t want or need many friends. The only reason I mentioned it in the first place, the only reason it ended up out there so you could make that pained face, was that it somehow came up in conversation. I put it out there as fact; you perceived it as a lament. It is not a lament. If anything, it’s a point of pride. A celebration. Freedom from too many obligations, potential unnecessary drama, compromised alone-time.
If at a party I don’t bounce around to the many guests and make lively conversation, please don’t think it means I’m uninterested or – worse – uninteresting (though, who knows? I may well be!). As an introvert, I may not be practiced at such things because I don’t go to many big parties because, well, I’m an introvert. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself; it just means I’m probably not skilled at (ok, hate) making small talk. But it’s fine. It’s okay. We are all different. Maybe you talk a lot about many things to many people, in my observation, but I don’t worry about you or judge you. You’re just different, is all, and you bring your qualities to the gathering just like I bring mine, even if my strongest contribution is my silence while I drink wine until I’ve had enough of it to willingly launch myself into one of the larger group’s off-shoots to tell my own story about the time something happened that was so funny.
As much fun as I had at that party and as much as I enjoyed the company of other people—once in a while can truly be a blast—it will feel wonderful to go home to a quiet house where there is no one but my husband to talk to. I may stay there for three days and never open the front door, never pick up the phone, never touch the computer.
When something like that goes on longer than three days, please don’t worry that I’m spending too much time alone or that a lack of social interaction will negatively impact my psyche. That’s like worrying about a star-sprawled cat having, tsk, just too much room in that St. Bernard’s dog bed. Granted, many people can begin to feel a little isolated after too much time without others, but the world is always out there, and I know where to find it when and if I want it.
But let’s say a certain segment of the world isn’t available to me at all times. Let’s say the people in my sphere are gone, traveling, or living far away some winter. When you learn I’ll be alone during the holidays and ask me to come to your house, please know I’m not being polite when I say, “No, thank you.” When I say I would be more comfortable and happier at home, I’m not saying it to make you feel better. I’m saying it because second to being with the people I love, nothing rates on a happy holiday quite like being in my own house with my choice of movies and a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine, my own couch and blanket, and my pets. If I were to come to your house for a holiday dinner, it might make you feel better, but I would be miserable. And no one wants anyone to be miserable on a holiday, right?
When I tell you this, come Thanksgiving or Christmas, and you give me that look that says, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay alone? Really?” I can think of nothing to say but this, because it’s true, and you must believe it: “Yes. I’m fine. Really.”
We all are. (All things being equal.)