As introverts become better understood in the eyes of the general public, certain behaviors are tied to the temperament that give them a bad name. Here are seven that you may have encountered…or may even be guilty of yourself!

Be silent, be still.

Introvert brains are rarely quiet, they are constantly churning through thoughts and ideas, looking back and forward all at once. However, the same can rarely be said about their mouths or vocal cords. For extroverts who want to know what they’re thinking, how to help them, or need their opinion, this natural inclination to stay quiet until a thought is fully formed can be frustrating. But we promise: standing by until the thought comes together is often worth the wait.

Send you to voicemail.

This is one I’m often guilty of. Whether it’s a call from a number that I don’t recognize, or one that I recognize but am not prepared to talk with, I spend a lot of time not answering my phone. To be fair, this is a practice that many people (introverts and extroverts alike) employ; however, the reasoning is often different. Having a conversation that one is not ready to have can be difficult for introverts, who prefer to think out what they want to say before sharing. Real-time communication can be tough for them, especially when unexpected. But the end result can seem as though it discounts an extrovert’s needs to process thoughts in the moment; we promise, that’s not our intent!

Cancel plans.

Another one I worry about often, and have written about at length Sometimes our eyes, minds, and energy gauges might be bigger than our actual capacity; this can hinder our ability to be fully present when we’re tired. As such, our default alternative is to back away from plans made in a moment of greater energy. This leads to a reputation for introverts to be flaky and inconsiderate. Again, this is not the intent! However, there are ways to improve on this: by managing the rest of your schedule on days you have commitments, and being honest about what you can and can’t do, this reputation can be gradually reversed.

Play Devil’s Advocate.

When decisions are needed in a rush, we sometimes want to make the one that feels right, and run the risk of overlooking additional factors large and small. Introverts don’t like to see this happen. Their naturally contemplative minds ask questions, and sometimes this inquiry can slow down proceedings. Additionally, posing questions in this manner may be the most diplomatic way they can think to voice potential problems without seeming argumentative. If you are an introvert who senses you may be doing this, see if there are ways to express your concerns outside of meetings or in writing prior to decisions being made.

Avoid confrontation.

Closely related to the prior point, confrontation can be energy-consuming, so introverts generally seek to avoid it. Alternatively, those who recognize its necessity may want to alleviate it where they’re strong- in writing, or in other asynchronous fashions. This can be problematic because time delays create dangerous vacuums- people can assume they’re being ignored, or that passing time means anger is increasing. These misunderstandings make confrontations even worse!

The best way to deal with this is to de-escalate the terms of conflict. Fighting fair, ensuring that relationships aren’t at stake when disagreements arise, can make these situations less fraught for introverts, and therefore easier to undertake.

Delay decisions.

Longer neural brain pathways mean that fully formed thoughts come a little more slowly to introverts than to their extroverted counterparts. This means that decisions, particularly ones that are of major importance, will take longer. For extroverts, whose neural pathways are fueled by adrenaline (versus the more languid acetylcholine that fuels introverts), this pace may not match what they want to do.

To prevent against this, those seeking to move the decision making process should anticipate the questions that a proposal could evoke, and have answers. Present as much information as possible, and provide as much time as you can to let others ponder what’s presented. This will yield a more confident decision, faster than if these additional considerations were not made.

Use introversion as a crutch.

While I do understand many of the other things that have come up on this list, I am far less tolerant of this last one. Even as what I call a “capital I introvert,” I recognize that my natural tendencies can’t keep me from operating in the world, from being successful.

I say often, no activity or ability is out of bounds for either temperament. However, some things are easier for introverts to do. Similarly, there are things that are easier for extroverts to do; that doesn’t mean that they can’t take on the things that are easier for introverts. Get to know your energy gauge well, and honor it when you’re too drained to do something well. Further, challenge yourself to improve at the things that aren’t as easy. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it can make you more comfortable- and then you’ll use less energy in the process.

 

Introverts and extroverts can coexist, we promise. This coexistence can come with patience, understanding, and communication. Take the time to build these relationships, and educate others on how you work, to create the harmony that lessens the impact of these potential issues.

 

Written by Amma Marfo.