Don’t analyze an introvert or make him the center of attention

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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

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24 Comments

  1. Hi cb, I am glad that you did this entry about introverts not wanting to be the center of attention. I am much the same. I hate being the center of attention, absolutely hate it. I never liked being called on in class to answer a question, especially in college when many of the classes I attended, had circle style or semi-circle style seating, so that people could see each other. I had bad experiences in college when my English Literature professor would randomly call on students to participate. It was always nerve racking for me because he always seemed to pick me out as someone to answer a question or critique a passage of a novel or something like that.
    I also disliked working with an extremely extroverted coworker who seemed to like picking on/tormenting me. One time, I’ll never forget, she stood behind me and started laughing at the way I had my work station organized. She laughed so much that one of the managers, who was near by, turned toward us to see what she was laughing about. She was a real pain in the neck, because she got into things that were none of her business and made other people look foolish because of her big mouth and attention seeking ways. One day I got fed up with her behavior and decided that I was going to ignore her, but it ended up backfiring on me because even though I had planned on ignoring her, she interrupted a conversation I was having with a manager. She started laughing about something that I had said to the manager, well off course I felt embarrased because I felt like unwanted attention was being focused on me. So in my anger, I whirled around on her and started mocking her laugh. Yeah, it was immature on my part, but by that point I was so sick of dealing with her that I wanted to make her look ridiculous for a change. She didn’t like that, so she yelled at me in front of the manager and then ignored me from that point on. She never saw anything wrong with the way she behaved, but held it against me for getting frustrated with her one time. On one hand, I was happy with not having to deal with her anymore, but on the other hand, it made the working experience uncomfortable. I guess, because she liked attention, she somehow figured that her coworkers liked attention, as well.

    • I would guess she was ignoring you because you actually stood up against her, and she actually got scared. I’ve experienced that a few times myself. I’m very quiet, but when I put my foot down people tend to get shocked. šŸ˜‰

    • Hi JW, I think most extroverts love being the center of attention and could not possibly imagine how awful it feels for us. With some of them, if we just let them have their little moment then they’ll move on to something else, but this woman in your office sounds too awful to tolerate for long. I’m glad you found out she was capable of shutting up šŸ™‚

      • Yeah, I just felt like I could no longer respect this individual because of what seemed like her need to torment me and not take me seriously. So when I mocked her, it was based on built up frustration over time, and that action on my part was sort of the end result of being ridiculed by her on more than one occasion.

        cb, I totally understand, and I was very accomodating to her personality and the fact that she loved attention, but when I finally came to the conclusion that she was trying to torment me because of my own personality, that’s when I stopped being as tolerant with her. I’m usually very tolerant and respectful of other people’s personalities, quirks, habits, because I realize that everybody is different, but my tolerance level wore very thin with this individual.

  2. I always dreaded to be asked in class or especially at a new job. The get-to-know-circle is just awful. I tend to more easily stuff up my words if I have 20+ pairs of eyes looking at me, waiting for an answer.

    I’m always known as the quiet one at work, but I’ve been lucky enough to not have the same experience JW mentioned. I think one of the reasons are that I’m very honest when I do speak up and that I’m not afraid to answer back. It’s also, as I mentioned, probably because as I’m so quiet, when I do speak up I kind of shock people. šŸ™‚

    I can kind of be like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. I just say thing with all honesty, and that sometimes throws people off and makes them confused. I don’t (always) mean to offend with my honesty, but it has its positive effect on people. Well, positive for me. šŸ˜‰

    • Hi Xen, Oh I’m with you. Coming up with the words when you’ve had no time to think about it takes a second or two anyway, but with 20+ pairs of eyes it’s almost like my brain has a short circuit sometimes. It’s good that you’re able to be straightforward and honest – I love that (almost) in there. šŸ˜‰ Definitely has a positive effect for you. Just because we’re introverts shouldn’t mean that people run all over us.

      • xen, that’s great that you feel comfortable speaking up for yourself. That’s one thing that I have always had trouble doing. I usually just let my feelings build up over time, which definitely isn’t good. But I have learned a lot over the past year on how to be more assertive, so that I can better handle situations that may arise.

  3. Personally I don’t mind being the center of attention, in moderation. Of course the more people I don’t know the less attention I like, unless I have a good joke or a perfect smart ass remark.

    • Hi Nick, I will somes initiate being the center of attention when I do have a good smart ass remark. We introverts can have a really sharp wit but often don’t speak up because others are interrupting. But I still hate for someone to suddenly turn a group’s attention to me when I don’t expect it. Approximately half of that dread is that they’ve probably caught me daydreaming. šŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Too much of a good thing: The exhausted introvert ā€” Introvert Zone

  5. I have an answer for you. I used to be an intovert perhaps I still in that I am not an outgoing person. However should I become the center of attention I’m anything it simply no longer bothers me. I do not care. Looking back there are many reasons I did not like to be noticed and most of them stemed from this idea I did not want people to figure out who the reals was. One because I felt I did not understand anyone else so how could they understand me It may not be true for all intoverts but a large step in living normally is accepting who you are and bieng yourself. If some people seem to not like you who cares? You can not please everyone on this planet. In fact you may find there are simply people you do not like. It’s a two way street. Just be yourself. Talk if you want do not talk if you do not want. You will be rejected by some people in your life no matter what you do no matter who you are

    • Very good points that we should be true to our natural personalities without feeling bad about it!

      When it comes to stopping the show and pointing at us though, I still think it’s rude and annoying. Introverts love to observe situations before jumping in, and I wanted to tell the world that that preference is valid and should not be ridiculed or discouraged. Some adults can be particularly bad about putting the spotlight on a child who is actually just about to join a group, and I’m hoping they can learn to restrain their natural tendency to think before talking. šŸ˜‰

  6. Heyo! I feel the same exact way. I even have one particular friend who tells me he likes to analyze me (if that didn’t make me feel any weirder). Me personally I’m somewhat of a walking contradiction. Being the center of attention can really go either way for me. 95% of the time though I will usually have anxiety as soon as that social spotlight is thrown on me, but I’m trying to work on it. As a career I would lllloovvvee to be an actor. This has it’s pros and cons. One of the pros is I love to act. I believe being able to express emotion via the body and through story while making it all entertaining is great. My dream would be to make people laugh and feel good as my job. The con though is that center of attention feel though. When in a small group of friends sometimes they all will stare at me as if I know what to do next. Out of fear/anxiety of what to say I usually just blurt out subconsciously “Okay” or “Alright then.” But for a short time after the situation I feel the need to breathe a little deeper and attempt to calm down. Going back to acting though I think it’s half of me that says “Hey if this is what you truely want to do and how you truely feel then get up there!” that being said as soon as I get that little bit of confidence the proceeding thought rushes in “Yeah but then it’s a tough competition out there. It’s a job where all eyes are on you. What you show is what you are paid for.” Over the span on my life I think I’ve been slowly introducing myself to my fantasy career though. I was in a couple school plays (both times walking on stage felt my heart lodged in my throat and butterflies in my stomach.) Also just other small instances of performances where I wasn’t particularly the spotlight but was on stage. I love drama in fact I feel less weird on stage than I do off of it. But what I find just perplexing is how badly I want to do it and the irrational fear of any success bringing attention to myself.

  7. I’m the introvert who loves to analyze people. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I don’t mind being analyzed, either. But I’m not going to be nosy, snoop in people’s things, and analyze them so I can make them feel uncomfortable. My analytical abilities have come in handy in a situation or two, but, in true introvert style, I try not to make them obtrusive.
    I also don’t mind being the center of attention under certain circumstances. I dress in a way that makes me stand out quite often, I like to act, and I have no problem being called upon or speaking up in classes or meetings where I’m interested in the subject matter. But I do like to more or less be in control of the times when I’m going to have eyes on me.

  8. I do have to say that the picture you put at the top of this entry made me extremely agitated. I had to cover it up with my hand while I was reading the article. Quite fascinating.

    • Hmmmm…you have a point! I might have to agree with you there. And extroverts are more like dogs… friendly, ‘man’s best friend’? I like your observation.

  9. I can relate. I love the fact that the feelings have finally been put into words and I just hope that everyone would get a chance to read this to be able to understand each other better. I really hate being forced to participate in something that I don’t enjoy. But very well written. Perhaps being an introvert may have something to do with inferiority complex when one tries to compare himself with an extrovert? Either way, I’ve learned to participate when forced from time to time but I never fail to assess the situation beforehand.

  10. I have always found peace of mind, when made to feel uncomfortable, by thinking “tend your own garden”. Somehow that takes the edge off an uncomfortable moment for me.

  11. When someone tries to extract whatever it is they want out of me, be it words, or more commonly, a circus act, I end up feeling completely judged and ashamed for trying to make what I say/do suffice for them. This is typically with family and people I know pretty well (like classmates), because they’ve already analyzed me, summed me up by their judgments, and put me in a ‘weirdo’ box. Every family reunion, get together, or class session is another chance for an opportunist to assassinate my personality. I’m almost thinking that instead of contorting myself anymore, that maybe I should be completely honest with them using as few words as possible, and telling them what’s up. “I’m an introvert and a very deep thinker, if we have this conversation that you want to have, you will end up deciding I’m a weirdo, and I will leave this party feeling like I’m the jackass for not partaking in one of the three responses you were expecting from me.” This sounds like a total joke, but I’m serious. I’m tired of feeling inadequate around people I know. I’m a 1%’r in Mensa, but I don’t go around telling my family members and classmates about it because it might make them feel inadequate around me. Maybe I should not even risk the humiliation of being around family. I’m thinking about switching my major to Art, instead of the flamboyant FCS major as well.

  12. Does anyone here have a problem with being stared at? I find it absoluetly harrowing and know my extroverts who actually enjoy being stared at my strangers…i have always been an introvert and i hate absoluetly hate strangers staring at me or observing me…even on the street or while travelling people looking at me is absoluetly nerve wrecking..i do my best to not stand out

  13. Does anyone here have a problem with being stared at? I find it absoluetly harrowing and know extroverts who actually enjoy being stared at by strangers…i have always been an introvert and i hate absoluetly hate strangers staring at me or observing me..have learned to kind of be ok if it happens once in a while…even on the street or while travelling people looking at me is absoluetly nerve wrecking..i do my best to not stand out

    • I totally hate being stared at. I mean am I really all that different from someone else, to spark so much curiosity, to be stared at? What I don’t like equally as much is when you’re having a conversation with a (predominantly intense) person and he/she NEVER blinks. Like they’re taking it all in and trying to figure out my very soul. People who purposely stare are either children or narcissists.

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