Many introverts hate being the center of attention. We don’t want to have the speaker suddenly call on us in a seminar, and we certainly don’t want someone telling funny stories about us to a group. We may like to observe activities for just a bit instead of jumping straight in. So please don’t be the one who makes us feel ridiculous by calling everyone’s attention to us. “I knew Sally wouldn’t play! She’s probably just going to watch!” When someone does that to us, we often hate so much to be the ridiculous figure who is not participating that we decide we now won’t even attempt to join in because now all eyes are on us. If you can imagine an animal that is cornered in a barn or cage and has someone hitting or poking him with a stick, you can imagine how many introverts feel when you turn the unmerciful glare of group attention on them.
As bad as these momentary annoyances are, there is one thing that truly sets me apart from extroverts, and it is how much I despise having someone put me under a microscope so that they can “watch” me or “observe” me. If you know an introvert, then as much as you may want to know him better or get more communication out of him, do not make him avoid you entirely by concentrating what is to him an energy-draining focus on him. Sometimes when I keep a distance from an extrovert who really annoys me, then I can tell they are observing me and trying to analyze me. After all, the reason I don’t talk to them much couldn’t be anything to do with them, could it? In this comment about dorm life, JW told us the same sort of story about being observed and how it made her feel.
I have seen the worst of this behavior most from consultants who have come to talk to my work group about personality types or customer service at our special staff meetings. Without fail, these guys know all of our names instantly, and when they address me by my name then they also have a way of making eye contact and holding it a bit too long. I know they are trying to fit me into one of their categories, and I make it really easy for them by avoiding them in a very obvious way!
If you have an introvert in your life and you find it frustrating that they always seem to be on the edges of activities, always hesitating before jumping in, please let them observe for a minute while you mind your own business. We will be there beside you soon enough, but only if you don’t chase us away.
Photo credit: a2gemma