Introverts just want to be understood. (And mostly left alone, lol.) Even though that somehow keeps eluding us, I’m still determined to do my part to help normalize introversion, and build bridges between us and our more extroverted friends. To that end, I’ve written The 12 Commandments of Introverts: a cheat sheet, if you will, to help you discover what makes introverts tick, what makes us shut down, and how to relate to the introverts in your circle.
1. Thou shalt text, not call.
Random phone calls are a violation of the highest order. And unannounced video calls/facetimes are even worse. Word to the wise: in either case, most introverts will 100% let the call go to voicemail. Then we’ll text you back. This rule also applies in the new “let’s hop on a Zoom call” culture. Everything does not need to be communicated via an energy-draining, cameras-on call.
If it’s textable, message-able, or email-able, please don’t call.
2. Thou shalt leave us in our shell.
Please stop asking us to come out of our shell. First: the implication is that introverts are deficient or incomplete just by dint of how we show up in the world. Second: Our shells are comfy. We like it there. Third: Introverts are not constantly trying to get extroverts to be less loud and ubiquitous, so please show us the same courtesy, and let us exist in peace.
3. Thou shalt not engage in small talk.
Two introverts walk into a crowded bar…and probably walk right back out. Who wants to deal with awkward conversations with strangers who are standing way too close? Introverts tend to prefer deep, meaningful exchanges with small groups of people rather than superficial convos with large gatherings. So no: we don’t want to discuss the weather, but for topics like the meaning of life, or dismantling the patriarchy, we’ll be fully engaged.
4. Thou shalt honor our personal boundaries.
This has always been the case, but is even more so now that we’re in a panorama:
- Don’t touch us.
- Don’t touch our stuff.
- Don’t stand so close.
- Don’t facetime/video-call without warning. (Yes, it needs to be repeated.)
- And don’t just show up at our house unannounced. The door will likely stay closed. Please show some respect and consideration.
5. Thou shalt let us enjoy our alone time.
For introverts, alone time is like oxygen. While extroverts tend to gain energy from being around people, introverts usually find it draining. It’s partly a matter of sensory overstimulation. So after being around too many people (e.g. after being in the office or attending a party) we need to be alone to decompress and regain our internal equilibrium.
6. Thou shalt give us time and space to think.
Introverts are deep thinkers, and often have great ideas—but we might need a moment to process our thoughts. Most introverts also tend to express themselves better in writing, rather than verbally. This means that in group settings and brainstorming sessions, we might not be as easily able to ideate and respond on the fly. So, in the spirit of being inclusive, give us a second to process our thoughts, and if possible, let us communicate them in writing. Also, a concept: the loudest person does not necessarily have the best idea. So on that note:
7. Thou shalt celebrate our quietness.
(Quietly) hype us up, and love us as we are!! Everybody cannot and should not be the same. Introverts provide some much-needed balance in this extroverted world. So stop trying to change us.
8. Thou shalt not confuse introversion with shyness.
They are not the same. Introversion is a personality trait that relates to sensory processing. Introverts tend to become easily over-stimulated. They therefore need less sensory input, and recharge by spending time alone. Extroverts tend to require high levels of stimulation and interpersonal interaction. They recharge by being around people, and time alone drains them. Shyness is not a personality trait, but instead relates to a fear of being judged, and a tendency to exhibit avoidant behaviors as a result. So it’s possible to be (as I occasionally am) an outgoing introvert, or a shy extrovert.
9. Thou shalt not ask us why we are so quiet.
This is so rude. Imagine if you were constantly being asked why you are so loud. See how ridiculous and impolite that sounds? Ok, good. Do better.
10. Thou shalt not involve us in unplanned events.
It’s not that we don’t want to attend, it’s that we need some time to prepare. Most introverts are not fans of spontaneous activities. We need to mentally adjust to leaving our shell. Once we have our prep time, we’re good to go.
11. Thou shalt normalize RBF.
This. Is. Just. Our. Face. Please stop asking us to smile. Please stop asking us if we’re upset. We’re fine. We just choose to not walk around grinning all the time. This is simply our neutral facial expression. And that’s perfectly normal.
12. Thou shalt not try to make us into extroverts.
Self-explanatory, right? Normalize accepting, and better yet celebrating, a range of personality types. Introverts are awesome!!
Unless otherwise stated, text and images ⒸLisa Hurley/@happyhappyphoenix