I just went shopping. I am wiped out. Walking six blocks and buying three T-shirts and some power gels left me exhausted as a three hour running and body weight exercise routine. And I am irritated- wiped out, not refreshed-wiped out, like you get from hours of hard training. Why? Because shopping has become a real piece of work for an introvert. I go to stores to buy things, not to provide marketing information. I realize how strange it is to go into a store and just want to buy something without answering demographic questions so you can be profiled, categorized, assessed for your economic viability, selected for targeted advertising, and put in who knows how many different databases, but that is my preference.

My shopping habits are my own business; what I buy and where I buy it, as well as where I live is not information I will indiscriminately share. Introverts value privacy, which is becoming an increasingly precious commodity in our information obsessed society. It is not that we are doing anything illegal, suspicious, or sneaky. We just prefer to be left alone. We prefer not to share every detail of our lives with the rest of the world. Glen Greenwald (Ted.com, 2014) presented a compelling argument about the value of privacy, citing how human behavior changes when we know we are being observed.

In order to get some new clothes, I was subjected to:

  1. Can I have your zip code?

a ) Can I get your email? No.
b) Can I get your name?
c) Are you a member of our rewards program?
d)) Would you like to join our rewards program? No

  1. Are you sure? Yes.

When you don’t give out this information, and are showing signs of fatigue/annoyance/exasperation, then you get the worst question:

  1. Are you OK? I was until I came in here.

Oh my goodness. All I want are the items I have placed on the counter. Subtotal them please, add the tax, give me the total, and I will give you cash or a card. Put them in a bag. I will leave your store. This should not be so complicated.

Businesses are strip- mining for information these days. Think before you give out any information about yourself. This applies to extraverts, who tend to be much more open, as well as introverts. When you give out your zip code, your home address and phone can be determined. You will receive unsolicited mail, and your information can be sold off to other mass marketers, leaving you inundated with unsolicited mail, which is the politically correct term for Junk mail. I guess we don’t want to insult the mail by calling it junk, so unsolicited sounds so much kinder. Same with your email, your phone, from which your home address can be determined, and the plethora of information you will have to give up to get a Rewards Card. Most people give up this information reflexively; they don’t stop to think about who is going to see it and what it will be used for. How many databases do you want to wind up in? Try this: Google yourself. You will find a map to your home, a satellite view of your house and neighborhood, step by step directions to your home, the names of your family, your previous addresses, and with a little more digging, or paying about $30 to an on-line service such as Intellius or People Finder, even more info can be discovered such as your credit history, and employment history. BTW, look carefully at their sites; there are ways to opt out and have your information omitted. The good news is that once you scrub yourself off of the major search services, you will be removed from many of the others, as most of them ironically gather information from the other services.

How carefully do you safeguard your personal information? My concerns about this go beyond introversion: I have worked alongside the criminal justice system for 19 years, and I have a stalker, who has emerged several times over the past 14 years (can you say having a hard time not getting the message and letting go?) I have real concerns about personal safety and security as well as the everyday right to privacy. Think before you give out information to the salesclerk the next time you make a purchase.

  • Are you sure?

One of the worst questions for an introvert. Yes, I am sure I don’t want to join your rewards program. Yes, I am sure I will take my apple tart cold, and my coffee with ice. These are not life changing decisions. I do not need to consult with a higher authority to confirm my decision, or form a committee to exam the issue and render a decision. It is not just shopping, but ordering coffee and a pastry have become an arduous task. These are simple transactions, stop complicating them so much. Be assertive. When someone asks you Are you Sure ? Repeat your request as needed.

  • Are you OK?

The absolute worst question for an Introvert. I was on the phone to a treatment facility, making a patient referral. I couldn’t locate a pen, and then I dropped my steno pad. I said “shit” in frustration. The woman on the phone pedantically asked are you upset, you sound like you are getting upset.

I am not upset.

You sound upset.

Can I get the phone number please?

First I want to make sure you are not upset.

I am going to get upset if you don’t give me the information I need.

Sit, are you threatening me?

No I just need a phone number please

I just want to make sure you are not upset. You sound upset.

…and wait for it:

Are you OK?

Introverts are quiet, and focused, sometimes intense. That does not mean there is something wrong with us. We don’t need to be asked if we are OK, if I am not OK, I will say so.

It can be difficult for an Introvert in an Extroverted culture. We are frequently misunderstood by others. Be patient, but be assertive, and communicate clearly.


Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice clinician
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology
Freelance Behavioral Science writer