The Care and Feeding of a Creative Introvert
An open letter to the extroverts we know and love
As introverts, we pretty much understand how extroverts feel and think, mostly because they are constantly telling us.
On the other hand, I know that introverts can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out, and being involved in a relationship with one of us isn’t always easy.
So here’s a helpful little guide to help you better understand the introvert in your life, or if you happen to be one, perhaps better understand yourself. Just remember that you’re not alone, and who knows, maybe you aren’t quite as weird as you think.
Here are a few things that you should know about us. We would tell you ourselves, but that’s not really our thing…
We only talk when we have something to say
As introverts, we don’t talk to work out our questions, problems, emotions—we do all of that in our frantic little brain. This isn’t our way of shutting you out; we just have to work through and overanalyze every little insignificant detail before we are willing to talk about it, so don’t take it personally.
We’re not going to answer your telephone call
We’re not going to pick up the phone when you call even if we want to talk to you. I know it sounds weird, but we have to be prepared for your conversation. Don’t call us, we’ll call you…. actually, who are we kidding, we won’t, but we might shoot you a thoughtful email. We prefer face to face communication. Telephone conversations are exhausting to us because we don’t have any context clues. Let’s face it, the reason that IT introverts created social media/texting/email in the first place was to avoid talking on the telephone.
We’ll get back to you (eventually)
We usually like to think carefully about our responses. As introverts, we specialize in writing stuff. Lengthy emails, blog posts and even tweets are written, edited, and then edited again. You know that email you received last week? It took us three hours to write and edit before sending it. Even then, we sent a copy to ourselves so we could obsessively re-read it and second-guess ourselves about whether or not it was worded correctly. Each blog post we write has been revised a minimum of 34 times before we hit the publish button and then, at least, a few more times afterward. We like to think that we’re simply perfectionists, but it’s far more serious than that.
We are not holding out on you or deliberately hiding what we are feeling.
We understand that some of your fellow extroverts may occasionally use silence as a weapon or as a method of deceit, but that’s not really our thing. Just because we are not speaking, that doesn’t mean that we are unhappy, angry, or trying to hide something from you. However, the more you dig and try to make us reveal something we would prefer to keep to ourselves, the more we will push you away.
We like to listen, but we also need some quiet downtime
Although it’s true that we usually prefer to listen rather than talk, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are available to listen anytime you may feel like talking. As introverts, we recharge our energy through our quiet downtime. This might include things such as reading, walking, watching television, meditating, listening to music, writing in a journal, or simply sitting alone with our thoughts. When we are engaged in these activities, please don’t interrupt us or think that we are bored and looking to be entertained by you. This type of downtime is necessary for us, and it will make us better friends and partners in the long run.
We’re not judging you, we’re thinking
We are constantly observing and over analyzing everything, just not you. We are not sitting there judging you as you tell us about your latest breakup or run in with your former best friend from high school. Honestly, we’re probably only half-listening to what you are saying in the first place because we are so busy editing our latest blog post in our head or wondering if we should look over that email sitting in our draft folder just one more time before we send it out. We’re not mad or think that we’re somehow better than you; we’re usually just obsessing about something else.
We don’t dislike people, we just find them exhausting
We like to socialize and hang out with close friends, but we find it exhausting. We need downtime to recharge. Not sleep — we’re not physically tired, just mentally. Please don’t be offended that we want to be alone after spending time with you. It’s not you, it’s us. We need to have time to replay the entire event in our head and obsessively analyze every nuance of every word that was said. Even if you are the love of our life, we will still need some time away to recharge and organize our thoughts. We enjoy spending time with you, just not all the time.
Just because we’re quiet, that doesn’t mean that we’re shy or insecure
Many of us would much rather give a presentation to hundreds of people as long as we don’t have to mingle and make small talk with them afterward. There are many singers, performers, actors, who perform in front of a camera or a large audience without flinching (okay, maybe a little flinching) but just don’t ask us to go out with your friends afterward.
We will tell you when we have something to say, but please don’t interrupt us.
Yes, I realize that we sometimes pause awkwardly when we are gathering our thoughts, which annoys the bejeezus out of you, but that doesn’t mean that we are waiting for you to finish our sentences for us. Honestly, it’s pointless to try and guess what we are going to say because we usually don’t know ourselves until we say it. The more you interrupt us, however, the less likely it is that we’ll try to talk to you.
We’re not mad/upset/depressed/grumpy/moody just because we’re quiet
Please stop asking us “What’s wrong?” or “Are you okay?” just because we aren’t bubbly and enthusiastic. We’re not necessarily upset; we’re just quiet. I realize this can be confusing because the only time most extroverts stop talking is when they are either sad, asleep, or dead. Having said that, unless we are bleeding or lying unconscious on the ground, please don’t ask us if “we are okay?”. Sometimes silence is just silence.
We love a good party… as long as it’s a party of two
If you really want us to avoid you, just keep asking us to go to that overly crowded club, concert, or sporting event. They say that extroverts actually feed off the energy of a crowd. Well if that’s the case, they must be taking it from all of us poor introverts because after an hour or two, we are ready to go screaming (quietly) towards the exit. If you want to hang out with us, take us to a quiet restaurant, a museum, or to a local park. We love a good conversation, but only if it’s the two of us.
We are enjoying ourselves, it just doesn’t look like fun to you
I get it. Most of the things that we do for fun as introverts may seem incredibly boring to you if you are an extrovert, but this is how we recharge our mental batteries. I understand that things like reading a book, hiking in the woods, visiting a museum, or watching a movie, may seem boring as snot to you, but this is our idea of quality time.
We value our privacy (no snooping)
Please don’t ask to see the pictures on our cell phone or rummage through our CDs, DVDs, or bookshelves without asking. To introverts, these things are extensions of who we are. We choose them very carefully, and we often become overly attached to them. Sometimes, however, they may reveal more about us than we are comfortable sharing with others. Don’t worry. We are not trying to hide things, deceive you, or be weirdly secretive—we just need our personal space.
If you have a complaint, tell us in private
We are sensitive enough to criticism without having to absorb and respond to it in front of others. If you insist on criticizing us or making an example out of us in public, we will quietly plot our revenge and chances are, you’ll never see it coming.
We hate surprises
We pride ourselves on our ability to plan, evaluate and see things from every possible angle. This not only helps us to make better decisions, but it allows us to prepare ourselves mentally for what’s going to happen. This is the reason that we hate any type of surprise, even if it’s a good thing. By the way, under no circumstances should you have anyone sing “Happy Birthday” to us in a crowded restaurant….. ever
We don’t need dozens of friends to be happy
As introverts, we usually have a small handful of close friends. For whatever reason, extroverts see this as sad and will do whatever they can to get us “out there” to meet new people. The truth is that we have friends, and we like being with our friends, but we just can’t handle a lot of friends because it becomes overwhelming and exhausting trying to keep up with them all. We are not lonely, but we are often very choosy about who we will hang out with.
Don’t interrupt us when we are working (even if it looks like we’re not)
When we are busy working, even if it may look like we are daydreaming — please don’t interrupt our thought process. While you multi-task activities, we are busy juggling thoughts and ideas inside our head. They are precious and fleeting, delicate creatures that once scared away, are often difficult to find again. Just give us a heads up when we need to wrap things up and allow us the time to organize, record, all the random ideas swirling around inside our heads before we stop.
We may envy your social skills, but we don’t want to become like you
We live in a culture that seems to idolize people who are loud, aggressive, and surrounded by swarms of people–but that’s not who we are. As introverts, we have our own ways of doing things. That doesn’t make it wrong or a problem to be fixed. We are who we are, and quite honestly, we kind of like it that way.
What would you like to tell the extrovert in your life?
Please take a minute to share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comment section below…
[Note: This post is an excerpt from my new book “Quiet Impact” which is about successfully navigating life as a creative introvert]
About the Author
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.