There are many things that extroverts have a difficult time understanding about introverts. But there is one aspect of our personality that they find especially perplexing.
The thing about introverts that a lot of extroverts will never understand is that our personality has multiple layers. When they first meet us, many extroverts assume that we are the same around strangers and acquaintances as we are with close friends.
If we are reserved and quiet, they assume that we are always reserved and quiet . If we are sociable and engaging, they think we are always sociable and engaging.
When I am with strangers, I generally behave in one of two ways:
- If I have the energy, I am friendly, animated and engaging.
- If I am feeling overwhelmed, drained or out of my element, I am more quiet and reserved.
The people who meet me in scenario #1 assume that I am an extrovert, and don’t know how to react when my introverted tendencies emerge.
Those who meet me in scenario #2 believe that I am shy or “have no personality”. They can’t imagine that I am confident, silly, and quite bold with the people I hold dearest.
The bottom line is that most extroverts simply don’t understand that introverts behave differently in public than they do with the people they love and trust the most.
Why we hide our “best stuff”
According to Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, “introverts keep their best stuff inside.”
This is a stark contrast to many extroverts who put it all out there for the world to see. This isn’t to say that extroverts don’t have multiple layers of depth, too. It’s just that it takes more time to unravel the layers of an introvert’s personality.
Introverts want to know if someone is true friend material before we begin disrobing our personality. In other words, we want some sort of indication that the relationship is worth investing in.
The thing about introverts is that popularity contests aren’t our gig. We would rather have a few real friends (VIPs, as I like to call them) who will accept us for who we are, than hoards of acquaintances, who only see what they want to see.
Which brings me to my next point:
Some people don’t want to see beyond the surface
There are a lot of shallow swimmer out there. These people prefer to keep things light and superficial. They are content to gossip, chitchat and make endless amounts of small talk without ever going beyond the surface. Truly getting to know us isn’t on their agenda.
Why would we bother trying to reveal the truth of who we are to such people? It would be a waste of our precious energy.
The time delay in introvert relationships
Even with the people that we trust and care about, it takes time for introverts to open up. It can take a lifetime to reveal the depth of who we are. The right people will understand that slowly peeling back the layers of our personality is a privilege.
And it can be oh so delicious.
The poem “Mon Semblable” by Stephen Dunn beautifully expresses the merits of “holding some back”:
Anonymous among strangers
I look for those
with hidden wings,
and for scars
that those who once had wings
Though I know it’s unfair,
I reveal myself
one mask at a time.
Does this appeal to you,
such slow disclosures,
a lifetime perhaps
of almost knowing one another?
I would hope you, too,
would hold something back
Does anyone else share my sentiments about any of the above? Do you also prefer a “slow disclosure” approach to relationships?
Do you find that some extroverts have a difficult time believing that your personality has multiple layers?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
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