Introverts aren't magical beings full of sagacious advice who think they're better than everyone else. They make up a pretty big part of the population — one third to half of the population identifies as introverts. Introversion simply refers to the need for time alone to recharge your batteries. Since introverts tend to be more sensitive, certain phrases or questions can catch them off guard and make them feel awkward or even a little rebuffed. Here are some things that you should never say to the solitude-lovers in your life.
1. "So, how's the weather?"
Introverts notoriously loathe small talk. It's not because they're too stuck-up to talk about the weather or your favourite brand of yoga pants. Since they need to expend energy to talk with people, they'd rather talk about things that truly interest them.
2. "Don't be shy."
Introversion and shyness are different beasts. Introversion refers to the need for spending time alone to recharge. Shyness refers to a feeling of tension and discomfort when socialising with others. Introverts can be shy but more often than not, they simply like to map out what they think before they speak.
3. "You need to get out of your head."
Extroverts feel energised when they talk to people. Talking makes them excited and inspired. Conversely, introverts need to retreat inside their heads to recentre themselves. Retreating to their thoughts allows them to deeply appreciate and process their experiences.
4. "You're so anti-social."
It's normal for an introvert not to want constant company. Alone time, after all, is key for an introvert to thrive in this hectic world! The introvert in your life probably has a few friends who are near and dear to them. More often than not, they prefer few long-lasting connections over many acquaintances.
5. "Don't be so uptight."
You don't have to be an extrovert to know how to relax and have a good time. In large, public places, introverts prefer quietly observing to directly participating. There are different outlets for relaxing. Some people enjoy the thrill of a large party while others like curling up in bed. As long as you're not hurting anyone, there's no wrong way of relaxing!
6. "Just say how you feel!"
Our culture runs on the mantra of "speak your mind." Don't worry, introverts appreciate their First Amendment rights, thank you very much. Rather than shooting things from the hip, though, they like to weigh their words carefully to avoid any miscommunication.
7. "You come off as a little cold."
Introverts aren't heartless monsters. Many of them just take a longer time to externalise their emotions even if they're really passionate about something or someone. Remember the lesson to be learned from Shrek. People, like onions, have layers. OK, he was talking about ogres, but you get the point.
8. "Are you OK?"
The answer is likely yes! While asking someone if they're OK usually comes from a good place, it can come off as condescending. To preserve their energy, introverts can go for long stretches of time without speaking, much to the consternation of extroverted family members, friends, and roommates. If you find that an introvert is being very quiet, they're probably just focused on their task at hand, not icing you out or hatching up evil plans to take over the world (probably).
9. "You're boring."
It's not in good taste to call anyone boring. But being called boring can be especially hurtful for an introvert, who might just need a bit of time to express themselves. Usually, an introvert will be keener to listen to you rather than prattle on about themselves.
10. "It's just a hug."
Introverts, like Olaf, can enjoy warm hugs, too! But it can feel weird to hug an acquaintance or someone they don't know well since they value personal space. So they might seem shocked or taken aback when you give them that surprise hug. If you have a lurking suspicion that the person you're about to wrap your arms around is an introvert, it doesn't hurt to ask if it's OK to hug them.
11. "You need to get out of your shell."
Telling someone to get out of their shell is kind of a spurious way of thinking. I mean, you can't take a turtle out of its shell! A shell isn't so much a thing that an introvert needs to overcome as much as it's part of who they are. Setting personal boundaries can help an introvert prevent over-exerting themselves.
12. "Are you mad at me?"
The introverts in your life might need to take some time before they reply to the hilarious GIF in your text. Don't worry, they're probably not purposefully giving you the cold shoulder. It's likely that they just need time to unplug. Even written forms of communication can be exhausting for an introvert. Just give them time to reply to you, and if they don't, send them a gentle reminder.
13. "Put yourself out there."
Since introverts crave authenticity, being told to put themselves out there for dating or advancing their career can feel weird to them. Let your interactions with an introvert be natural instead of forced.
14. "Why are you always on your phone?"
This tends to apply to that one person on your commute (or in some other public space) who makes a comment about how everyone is glued to their phones these days. Sure, it's rude to surf the web when you've made plans to be with your friends. But surfing your phone in public doesn't necessarily mean that you're rude, bored, or standoffish. For introverts, it tends to be a defense mechanism. If you're surrounded by people you don't know very well, reading funny tweets can prevent unwanted and draining small talk.
15. "You should be more collaborative."
Introverts tend to be great listeners, which makes them reliable and thoughtful. However, many do need to work alone first before they can articulate their ideas. The introvert in your office or classroom is probably more collaborative than you might think. They likely just need a little bit of alone time before they can be an effective collaborator.
These remarks might ruffle some feathers, but they probably won't demolish your relationship with your favourite introvert. If you're an extrovert or ambivert, it helps to be mindful of the ways that an introvert communicates their thoughts and feelings. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be decompressing in my corner of solitude with a good book and lots of scented candles.