Be nice to your introverted family members – they’ll be there when you need them

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I’m not trying to insult extroverts here. The reason I’m writing this post is because it seems that all we do sometimes is to talk about introversion as if it’s a problem to be overcome. “How to…. if you’re an introvert.” “How introverts can manage….” Although we introverts often don’t think about it this way, introverts have some truly valuable qualities which are part of our natural personalities. Today I want to highlight one of those qualities using two examples of real people whose situations I know very well. I’ll bet you know people like these too.

Joe is a super nice guy. Any time his name is mentioned, someone blurts out what a great guy he is! He’s always offering to help friends and neighbors, and his door is always open. Joe never gets enough of being around his buddies, and he’s also happy to stop and talk to anyone and everyone. There came a time when Joe’s sister needed his help, and he assured her he’d help her the next weekened. The sister, being a reliable person who never made a promise unless she meant to fulfill it, thought that was wonderful! What a super great guy Joe was! Well, Saturday came and one of Joe’s friends called with a huge project he was getting into. Could Joe lend a hand? Sure! Joe spent the whole weekend helping his friend. The next weekend the same thing happened. Finally his sister turned to other people for help, and the next time he saw her Joe asked her, “Why did you do that?! I told you I’d be happy to help you!” Was Joe having a case of early dementia? Or was he just totally unreliable?

Jenny has always been a really sweet woman. She’ll do anything for anyone, and if someone drops by when she really needs to be working, she still entertains them with a smile, although she knows she’ll be working late into the night after they leave. She has a large circle of friends going all the way back to childhood, and she makes lots of commitments to help them as well as to serve the church she attends regularly. Jenny’s elderly parents are really sweet too, and she loves them dearly. When she goes to visit them, she has a wonderful time talking to them, telling them all about her job and her life. The funny thing is, when their health got bad, she didn’t notice. She’d even mention, “Oh I wish I could come next week, but I signed up to head up a committee at church..” or “I’ve been meaning to visit, but I told Chelsea I’d help her shop for an interview suit today.” It would never occur to her to disappoint her friends or other church members. Did she have no real feelings at all? Why was she just trying to please strangers all the time instead of her own family?

At the time these things happened, I tended to judge both Joe and Jenny very harshly inside my own head. I wondered, but never asked aloud, if both of these people just trying to “win a popularity contest!” Did they really only care about having other people say how great they were, and to hell with their own family and loved ones?

No, actually they are both really loving people who mean well and think they are taking care of everyone! You see, Joe and Jenny are extroverts. They’re both extremely nice people, and it just happens that their attention is directed at the external world. Friends and others have the same access to them that family members do, and they truly think they are doing the right thing when they say yes to the world.

As an introvert, my focus is much narrower. I have some great friends, but I never make a commitment to outside activities that would keep me from being available to an aging relative or my own children. I do notice, with great sadness, when a family member starts to decline. When one of my parents or children got sick, I have always continued to put in a normal work day unless the situation was severe, but I definitely considered social time with friends or coworkers to be unnecessary distractions until the situation was resolved. In short, I put family first no matter what, and I know a lot of introverts do.

We may not be the fun person who works the room at parties, and we may try our best to get out of going to weddings or Uncle Dave’s 60th birthday party, but when someone close to us really needs us, we introverts are often the dependable person who cares deeply and will be there. Some of us feel very dutiful, while others are full of overwhelming feelings of wanting to take care of our families. Either way, we’re right where we are needed.

I know there are plenty of extroverts who are caring for loved ones in all sorts of situations right now, but once again, this post was intended to highlight a wonderful quality that comes as part of the package with most introverts. If you have an introvert in your family, maybe this will help you to look at him in a different, appreciative light. Sure he may be grumpy when it’s time to go out or have friends in, but if you ever really need him, I’ll bet he won’t leave your side for a minute until the storm passes.

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

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19 Comments

  1. It seems that I’m constantly showing articles like this to extroverts I know, and the next day they have forgotten it.

    Seems like they have some kind of short term memory for this type of information, to say it in a diplomatic way.

    • :) Very tactful there, Xen! And you’re right. When I try to broach these subjects to some of the extroverts in my life I get brushed aside like I’m trying to split hairs on a really boring topic or something. I am the faithful family nurturer/counselor, yet what some see is the person who doesn’t socialize as much as they do, who doesn’t talk nonstop, who doesn’t encourage drop-in company, etc. So at best I’m boring, at worst mean or odd. ;)

      • I kind of have two main reactions when I try to explain and be diplomatic with extroverts. They either find me being the pushy and demanding one; or they show they truly understand, but forget their understanding the next day.

        Those who actually try, but forget can sometimes be the most annoying, as they give you some kind of false hope.

        • I know what you mean, I have found this to be true also. I think I have finally learned that as hard-core introverts we just can’t be close friends with most extroverts. There is a basic temperament and therefore basic difference in our values. Don’t know why I am typing in italics :-?

  2. Hi cb, I read the two examples that you gave and I really don’t know what to make of these people. I can’t judge them since I don’t know them and I can’t say whether or not extroversion is the reason for their behavior. But I will give an example of my own. I knew one person in particular who seemed to love to help other people and whenever I observed him (I sometimes do this in order to asses someone’s personality and patterns of behavior) it seemed like he was going out of his way to seem helpful. But the important word is “seem” because I truly believe that he is a selfish person who wants others to think that he is generous. He puts on an altruistic, helpful, caring mask but I believe that he exhibits those traits in order to gain favor with people in order to serve his own ego, because really I don’t think that he could care any less for other people. There were a couple of times that he went out of his way to help me (even though I hadn’t asked for help) and at first I thought that he was so kind and supportive, but after awhile, I began to see his helpfulness as a control tactic. He helped people in order to control his environment. I came to this conclusion because when I really needed help with something and I actually asked him for help, his response was to rudely brush me off, and I saw him do this to other people, as well. So that meant that yeah he could be helpful but it was something that was always on his terms. There were a few times when I purposely wouldn’t ask him for help because by that point I felt that he was trying to control situations, and the next thing I knew, he would say to me “You should have asked me to do that” and I’m thinking to myself “Uuuh, no thanks, wouldn’t want you to go out of your way”.

    I see people like this guy as a narcissistic type. This type of narcissist can seem very helpful but it’s an act that he or she uses to control other people and build their own ego. Also, they might go out of thier way to “help” strangers and friends but they might not necessarily help their own family members.

    Having given that example, I do realize that there are people who genuinely like to do things for other people and sometimes they take on to many requests and nothing gets priority. And for some reason, family concerns always end up being on the bottom of the list for these people.

    I like to help other people and my heart truly does go out to others whom I see in distress of some kind. That’s always been a genuine aspect of my personality. But I also realize that people need to have priorities. If I make a commitment to help one person or I promise someone that I am going to do something, I can’t then trample on that commitment by promising to help everyone else who comes along with a request to do something for the same time period that I am committed to another request. If I do that, then everyone involved ends up getting the short end of the stick.

    • I think cb’s examples are very mild. Your example is also very interesting too, but I those extroverts who aren’t narcissistic, they are so hooked on getting approval from others they constantly “help” people to show they are “helpful”. And they mainly “help” when they can get group recognition.

      • xen, that’s very true, too. Some of them aren’t narcissistic and I definitely don’t want to make it seem like all of them are highly narcissistic or anything like that. Some of them just seek a lot of approval and will go out of their way to take on many commitments, even if it means making promises that they know they won’t be able to carry out. As you stated, they are mainly doing it for recognition.

        • Extroverts will do anything they can to feed their constant need for stimulation from others. If that means being the super helpful one that’s there for everyone, the life of the party, or the fashion plate, whatever it is that will garner them the most attention and admiration from others they will do it. They have to. As much as introverts need their alone time, extroverts need to be social or out and about in the outside world most of the time. I see this in my husband who insists on some sort of social or out and about activity with others every single weekend. He is almost incapable of spending a quiet evening at home. He is constantly talking either to me or on the phone with someone. He is relaxed in the company of others and tense when alone for too long. He always has to be the last to leave a party because he feels he’s going to miss out on something. I’m glad I’m not an extrovert because it seems terrible to be so reliant on strokes from others. I need company as well, but many extroverts well seek company for company’s sake even among those they don’t like as much.

  3. Hi cb, yeah I do think that many people who are always committing themselves to help others are definitely seeking the adulation that they think will come along with behaving that way. The guy that I used in my example in my other post was definitely seeking the adulation. I heard him say a few times that people relied on him to get things done (talk about someone stroking his own ego) He acted like some kind of martyr, when really,from what I gathered, no one really wanted him to go out of his way. There were a couple of times when he would agree to do something for someone and then after he had fulfilled the request, he would complain to me about having done it. And I’m thinking to myself, “Well why did you do it then”. But that’s the thing, his narcissistic NEED for adulation was more important than actually saying no to a request. He’d put on a fake smile and take on a task and then afterward, he would complain about being overworked and never having time for himself. So any stress he felt was of his own doing. One time I had a talk with him and told him that he needed to stop running himself ragged and he looked at me like I was speaking an alien tongue instead of English. If a person acts like he’s always ready to take on task, then that’s how others will view that person. Then that person wonders why they he or she always gets taken advantage of, when really it’s of his or her own doing.

  4. This post sounds like you’re talking about me and my brother. I’m the introvert while he’s the extrovert. I hardly go out while he’s got a large circle of friends and practically knows everyone. But when it comes to reliability and getting things done, it’s me that my family turns to. My brother just spreads himself too thin among all his commitments that it takes him forever to get around to doing things. Thanks for pointing out this introvert trait.
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  5. i’m not that familiar with these terms “introvert” and “extrovert” so i’ve found this article (and the comments that follow) really interesting. now i better understand the difference, i would say i am kind of unique in being both kinds of “verts”.. depending on the time, season, mood and place…. is that possible? strange? i don’t know. it’s just me.

  6. I honestly don’t think responsibility/maintaining commitments is an introvert-extravert issue but a judging-perceiving issue, as described in the Myers-Briggs analysis. Some people have a greater capacity to let life flow around them and to take whatever comes in this moment (perceivers), and others have a greater capacity to structure life and follow up on things they’ve agreed to. Perceiving introverts can be just as irresponsible as perceiving extraverts, and judging extraverts can be just as inflexible as judging introverts.
    That said, your first situation would drive me absolutely bonkers.

    • This is true, I can see some of these unreliable characteristics in some introverts I’ve known too. Sometimes they say they’ll do something, then decide they’d rather not get involved in anything interacting with anyone, and just leave me hanging without a word of explanation or apology. They can be just as inconsiderate, their addiction to their privacy and alone time could be compared to extroverts’ addiction to accolades and being viewed as helpful and generous.

  7. –> This has something to do with human characteristics in psychology.
    introvert means a person is usually shy, timid, keeping things to himself. he talks but reserved while extrovert is someone who likes to talk to people, friendly, speaks his mind, outgoing, likes meeting new people.

  8. More often than not, it is the introverts who are more insightful and are more likely to be there to listen to a friend’s problems. Introverts may be horrible at speaking in public and other stuffs that require good communication skills, but they are excellent listeners and shoulders to cry on.

    Communication Skills

  9. Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort to make a great article… but what can I say… I put things off
    a whole lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.
    Rebbeca@Since´s last post ..Since

  10. When there’s someone introverter in your famillies, it becomes really hard for you to cope with situations, especially times when you need to socialize. But yes, I have found introverted family members to be very caring and are always there when we need them anytime, anywhere.

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