How To Handle the Strange, Antisocial, Rude Behaviors of an Introvert
First of all, there needs to be a change in mindset. 90% of the time an introvert does something that seems rude or weird(e.g., saying they don’t want to hang out with you tonight), it’s not meant to be so. Rather, they’re doing what will bring them the most comfort/fun. Introverts work differently than extroverts (hence the different titles). They find energy in being alone, or with only a small amount of people that they are extremely close to (I can count the number of people like this on one hand, for example). While you might unwind after a tough week with some cocktails at your favorite bar, or dancing, or bowling, or playing a game of flag football, an introvert would unwind by sitting on the couch alone and reading or watching tv.
That’s not to say introverts don’t enjoy time with others. It’s the same way as extroverts enjoy some time to themselves. The difference is in what the people get out of it. An introvert who spends the evening with friends will surely enjoy herself, but it’s not something she would classify as relaxing. Balance is key, here.
Below are four steps to handle those lovely introverts in your life.
- Give an introverted person plenty of notice for upcoming plans.
Let them weigh their options and mentally prepare. I don’t mean they (we? should I just go ahead and say we?) sit in a dark room and meditate in order to prepare to see our friends. But waking up knowing you have plans later is a lot less stressful than having ten minutes to decide whether or not you want to give up a night solo for a bar with friends.
- Don’t make them feel lame for declining.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve thought about doing something, decided I’ll have more fun at home, said I’ll pass, and then been pressured into going anyway. That’s essentially taking away my right to choose. And yeah, sometimes I end up having fun, maybe even more fun than I would’ve at home (though sometimes not). But the fact is, I had to choose between something I was uncomfortable with over being what they thought of as lame. And don’t try and tell me I should just put my foot down because A) I shouldn’t have to and B) who wants to sound like a huge asshat when their friends go “Oh COME ON. It’ll be so much better than just sitting here by yourself,”?
- Understand that they honestly can enjoy time alone more than time out/with you.
I’ve already touched on this some, but it’s important enough to repeat. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. It’s just how the brain functions. Fundamentally, what is the purpose of socializing, going out, drinking, playing football, etc? To have fun. It is widely recognized that people have fun doing different things. One man’s tennis is another man’s beer pong tournament. And similarly, one man’s going out is another man’s staying in. As long as a person keeps their balance and is healthy there is absolutely NO reason they can’t be alone if they want. And they shouldn’t feel like they’re doing something wrong.
- Remember that new people or places can be really uncomfortable.
If your shy buddy decides to come with you, don’t abandon them. I’m sure you’re familiar with your comfort zone. Well, they are now outside of theirs. That’s okay, as long as they wanted to come. But don’t expect them to just naturally flourish in this new environment. Of course, you’re not their babysitter. But nothing screams regret to me like going somewhere new and potentially uncomfortable and having to fend for myself socially. This easily happens at weddings, clubs, and house parties in my experience. If you bring a friend there and they’re having trouble being social, it’s nice to take a few minutes and try to help the situation. Don’t mistake them not following you around as them enjoying themselves. I usually do this when I don’t want to seem annoying, and has nothing to do with my comfort level.
You may be thinking that I am taking this a little too far. Come on, how many people do I really know that are like this? The truth is, of course, that there’s a huge spectrum that goes from introvert to extrovert and most people tend to fall somewhere around the middle. But whether you naturally fall in one spot or another, there are a million different reasons why someone might become more or less introverted for periods of time.
While I feel the older I get the more introverted I become, I still maintain a fairly active social life. However, my time in Germany has changed me. While my time here has been overwhelmingly positive, my life has basically been one big step out of my comfort zone. Everything gives me some level of anxiety. That means I’ve learned to push myself harder, which is great. But I’ve also become remarkably more introverted, shy, and nervous. Anxiety is just as much a part of my day as happiness and sadness are. (Not to say my days are filled with sorrow, but you can’t have happiness without sadness; it’s always a balance.) I wrote this post in my notebook while on vacation at the beach with my host family. They were out doing fun vacation things and I just couldn’t do it. I had to stay home alone. I was giving myself a stomach ache when contemplating whether I should just suck it up and go with them or not. Let me repeat: they weren’t at the dentist. They were doing fun beach vacation things, things I enjoy!
The four tips I listed are not exaggerated. They’re four things that I encounter almost daily and wish I could tell people. I don’t because A) I’m too non-confrontational and B) I feel it comes off as rude which is sad because telling someone you’re uncomfortable shouldn’t be rude.
Accept that you are your own person and you fall somewhere on the spectrum. Don’t let labels stop you from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish and experience. But also accept yourself. Learn who you are and live happily with that knowledge. Don’t allow people to tell you you’re living your life wrong just because it’s different than their life.