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Dear Extravert

September 22, 2012

My recent introversion posts seem to be appealing to moocers from #oped12, #cck12, #change11, #fslt12 and #ds106.  Thanks for making time to have a look and/or contribute your perspectives.  It’s so nice to feel a growing sense of camaraderie about this topic.

As I commented to a follower earlier today, I feel like a minority voice compelled to speak out against an injustice.  I do not equate this with the magnitude of destruction caused by racism, homophobia, religious extremism or other pervasive forms of discrimination.  I just think that being judged for my natural temperament as being ‘less than’ feels wrong and I’m ready to challenge it.

This is part one of two…Dear Introvert will follow, I promise, because I am thinking of each group in tandem.  I’m also going to leave this more raw and exposed than I normally would to allow for push-back and dialogue to shape it into greater understanding.

Dear Extravert:

This is a long letter so please honour the time and effort I put into it by hanging in there and reading every word to the end, even if it feels a bit awkward.

I would be so pleased if you did not come rushing into my office first thing in the morning, talking a mile a minute, asking how my weekend was and then not really sticking with the topic for too long before telling me about how your weekend was.  I’m sure your interest in sharing comes from a kind-hearted place but I’m not awake yet and the last thing I need is someone barging into my quiet little cubicle in this open office while I’m trying to gather my thoughts and get organized to start my day.  I don’t bounce out of bed all joyful about the world and its potential.  I’m cautious, reserved and I’m saving my limited time and energy for my handful of priorities, which I have spent considerable time sorting out before I even walked in here today.

I don’t like spewing my personal stuff at work, anyway.  I’m very private and very mindful of others who may be listening, for whom my life is none of their business.  I wish you would notice and respect that about me.  Your need to interact and share everything is *not* more important than my need for quiet and privacy.  Being on is as life-affirming for you as being off is for me.

Please percolate on that.

Slow down, digest it, figure out what it means *for me* and for the other introverts in your personal and professional life.  Otherwise, don’t be surprised when I (we) come off as dismissive, cold, uninterested or whatever other negative attributions you want to assign to my (our) reactions.

I don’t want to be rude to you.  I don’t want to debate or explain or validate what you need when you come running in here.  This is about what I need and, with increasing velocity and determination lately, I am taking charge of my needs and not accepting any less.

I’m a really good listener, I know that.  You probably know that, too, and that’s why you seem eager to see me and tell me everything that’s going on in your fast-paced life that can appear overly dramatic to me.  You know I’m patient.  You know I’m analytical and excellent at synthesizing so I may offer some insights that you haven’t been able to figure out yet.  Please, just step back for a sec and realize that you’re coming at me full of *your* needs: your need to ‘get high’ on connecting, your need to crank yourself up for the day, your need to be heard, your stories, your boundless energy.

What about my need for space, for time to reflect, for being asked questions that have depth and meaning?  Oh wait, I forgot to explain that upfront: I don’t enjoy casual chit-chat.   It’s a waste of my time.  It doesn’t offer me anything I haven’t heard a thousand times already on the bus, in the street, on the news or on the web.

I’m bored by repetition and superficiality.  Give me something golden to run with, a problem to solve or some dots to connect, something that respects the value of my time and my unique contribution. See if you could come to me for me, not for you.

I’m private.  I’m a tough nut to crack.  You have to earn the keys to the safe.

Could you please come to me and stick with what *I* was talking about, not shifting back to you mid-sentence, and maybe we’ll both get what we need more often?  I see you making this enormous effort to try and ask me more about me sometimes and the fact that you have to try so very hard and then can’t stick with it makes the whole interaction distasteful and tiring.  I don’t know what to do about that.  I’ve tried to talk to you about it, when I could get a word in edgewise, but it doesn’t seem to change anything so I withdraw a little further.

I now know, from reading up on the power of introverts, that it’s not natural for you to be aware of these intricacies of human interaction and quality conversation, to pick up on all the non-verbal cues and read between the lines.  You weren’t born that way and you may not have been given the constructive feedback needed to develop these skills as you matured because you could always find like-minded extraverts to play with or other introverts who would listen more patiently, whether they genuinely wanted to or not.

You like shiny things, fun things, and all this meta-analytical awareness and attention to detail bores you to tears and makes you tired.  I get that.  I’m the one who picks up on this stuff, remember?  What’s changed is that I’m tired of indulging what you need.  This ain’t about you anymore and you’re not going to like that.  We may part ways over this and I’m okay with that now.  I know what I need and I’m getting it elsewhere, in person and online, often asynchronously and with much greater understanding and authenticity, which feels effortless and liberating.

These are exciting times for me and, consequently, I’m not as available to you as I once was.  You know where to reach me, if and when you discover how to offer what I need and how I need it.

I know this is a lot to take in.  Thank you for making the time.


From → Smarter worker

  1. rochelle permalink

    Oh how i love this post. You’ve captured my workday perfectly. I feel less alone now. Thank you! 🙂

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