Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t understand us introverts. For many extroverts, the introverted personality makes about as much sense as Snapchat does to my grandma. Even fellow introverts might be confused about what it means to be introverted.
With all the ignorance out there about introversion, the thought of explaining our personality is daunting, to say the least. Still, we introverts want and need to be understood on a deeper level, especially by those we care about.
Sure, showing the people we love an article like this one will do the trick sometimes. But I have to be honest, there comes a time when we all have to speak up about our introverted personality in real life, with real words (no emojis). And it isn’t always easy.
It’s tough explaining our introverted personality to people who’ve been conditioned to think of introversion as an inferior personality type, or even a dysfunction. Case in point:
This story will piss you off
A while ago I did a radio interview for The Candy Palmater Show. During our discussion, Candy shared an experience that had introverts (including myself) across the nation shaking their heads in disgust.
She recalled a workshop she attended in which the presenter talked about different personality types. The presenter wrote the words “introvert” and “extrovert” on the board, and then did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the absolutely unforgivable …
He drew a big huge X over “introvert” and circled “extrovert”. His message was loud and clear: introversion is the inferior personality type. All who want to succeed should strive for extroversion.
As infuriating as this story may be, it is not uncommon. Many introverts constantly come up against stereotypes, myths, and widespread ignorance about introversion.
All this negative feedback makes introverts reluctant to speak up about our true nature. Many of us barely have the courage to admit that we are introverted, let alone explain our inner workings to others.
You might be wondering why we should even bother explaining our introverted personality to others. The thing is that when people understand, they behave differently. As Oprah always says, “when you know better, you do better.”
The more people understand what it means to be an introvert, the less they’ll bully and badger us into jumping on the extrovert bandwagon. They’ll be far less inclined to ask us why we’re so quiet every 10 minutes, or give us a hard time about our need to be alone.
The question remains, how do we actually go about explaining our introverted personality? Here are 3 key steps to explain your introverted personality to others:
Know your subject
The #1 rule for teaching is to know your subject well. You can’t enlighten others when you yourself are in the dark. I saw this principle play out again and again as I coached my introverted clients and students. As long as I was continuously working on being more aware and intentional in my personal life, I always had exactly what my clients needed to have their own transformational ‘aha’ moments.
If you want those around you to understand you, read books on introversion, sensitivity, and Myers-Briggs personality types. Get curious about what makes you tick and why. This way, you’ll always have answers for those who are in the dark about introversion.
Choose a familiar frame of reference
Many people have no frame of reference for a topic like introversion. They’ve never experienced it, talked about it, or seen it accurately represented in the media. How do you get through to such people?
The best way to help others understand any concept that is foreign to them is to meet them where they are. You do this by placing the new foreign topic in a familiar frame, like sports, nature, or anything else the person knows well. This is exactly what good metaphors and analogies do.
Celebrity introvert Amy Schumer uses a hilariously effective metaphor to explain introversion in her bestselling book, The Girl With a Lower Back Tattoo:
“If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them – like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you and you will get that wrinkly Long Island cleavage I’ve always been afraid of getting and that I know I now have.”
You don’t have to be a comedian like Schumer to explain your introversion. Simple metaphors and comparisons will do the trick, as long as you paint a picture the other person can easily step into.
Practice stressless self-expression
As an introvert, I know how stressful it can be to express your true feelings and needs. Much of this has to do with the fact that others told you your innate needs are wrong. You also might have trouble with verbal communication, often struggling to find the right words at the right time. This is a common introvert problem, and nothing to be ashamed of.
To express yourself without the stress, practice sharing your thoughts in low-risk ways. What do I mean by this? A high-risk way of expressing yourself would be to announce the most painful aspects of having an introverted personality to a room full of acquaintances. A low-risk way of expressing yourself would be to tell one person you trust that you like being alone because it recharges you.
To put it quite plainly, start with the easiest and safest forms of self-expression, and work your way up. This will make the task of explaining your introversion, and whatever else you want to share about yourself, less daunting. This guide will help you express yourself naturally and make meaningful connections as an introvert.
One more thing …
Even though explaining ourselves is hard, it’s worth it. When people understand you, you feel understood. Before you say, “no duh, Michaela”, think about it for a second.
What would it mean to you if those around you really understood you in a deep and compassionate way? How would it feel if they could see and accept the real you – not the buttoned-up, socially acceptable you – but the true blue, beautifully flawed and amazingly awesome YOU?
Isn’t that what we all secretly want? The first step to feeling understood and accepted for who you are is to start explaining your introverted personality to those you care about.
Over to you
Can you relate to what I’ve shared here? What has been your experience with explaining your introverted personality? Please do share your insights in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
Lots of love,