Don’t ask this introvert to repeat herself

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I had to learn the hard way that having to repeat myself is one of the things I detest the most. For a couple of decades since then I had thought the loathing of repeating myself was just an “ornery” trait of mine, but I’ve become more aware that it is a trait shared by many introverts.

When I was in my 20s, I had to leave a job and a city I loved in order to move with my new husband to this city where he had found a job. Since I have a good science background, and since there is an optometry school here, I decided to pursue a career as an optometrist. All I knew was, I was smart and wanted to have a good career related to science. It never occurred to me to think about anything as “fluffy” as personality. The first year of optometry school was hard but awesome. I excelled in optics and biochemistry. But then came the second year. My classmates were all so thrilled to wear their white coats and practice the lengthy eye exams on each other! I hated it all. What was wrong with them? Were they like kids playing in their parents’ high heels or shirts and ties? For the first few months of my second year I dragged myself in there each day and would force the words from my mouth, multiple times a day. “Hello Mrs. Jones. And what seems to be the problem today?…Anyone in your family have heart disease?….Put your chin right here and your forehead against the bar..” But somehow during Christmas break I became so full of dread at going back that I had a heart to heart with my husband. I did not think I could stand to go through that exam eight or more times a day for the rest of my life. I longed to get back into the laboratory, where I could work with my mouth closed, sometimes saying something cheerful to a nearby coworker, of course, but mainly just working and not repeating myself. I withdrew from optometry school, to the great surprise of the dean, and I went back to lab work. Later I started working out of the lab and more toward programming and databases, so these days I’m in IT.

My hatred of repeating myself is really pronounced when I’m tired. When I have my mother over to stay with me a few days, I always give her my bedroom, which is the master bedroom. She is quite elderly and has fragile bones, so I want her to have a really easy trip to and from the bathroom during the night. I have a sofa bed in the den which I sleep on when she’s here. But each time she visits, she feels obliged to object to the arrangement and say that she hates to take my bedroom and that she can sleep in the den. And the first couple of times, I went through all the, “No, I sleep just fine, really. No, I want you to be safe..” All that. But by the third night of the third visit, I was bone weary from all of the activities and change in my routine and I just managed to say in a low and exhausted voice, “It’s fine. Please don’t make me repeat myself.” I’m sure she did not understand what the hell is wrong with me ๐Ÿ™‚ but she said, “OK,” and she has refrained from making me go through that routine any more.

I’m fortunate that I’m rarely called upon to repeat myself at work or at home, but there’s one group of people who still do it, and they always earn my utter contempt. It’s the people who are trying to sell me something. The typical phone call or walk up is them making their pitch, then me saying politely no thank you. I might even offer a reasonable reason so as not to sound so rejecting! It’s when they start to argue that I suddenly feel as if my very intelligence has been insulted, and I am extremely annoyed. “But ma’am!…” they’ll say. All I can do at that point is hang up if it’s a phone solicitor, or walk away if it’s in person. Whatever I said, that was my final answer!

Don’t make me repeat myself!

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

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24 Comments

  1. You’re so lucky to work for an IT company! I’m sure you make great contributions.
    This blog is definitely relatable because not only do I hate repeating myself, I hate having to do it due to interruptions. Sometimes, it takes time for me to form my thoughts due to “word-hunting”. Just that alone takes energy, but uttering those same thoughts steals more.

    Thank you!

    • IntrovertZone on

      Hi Miyuki, That is a great point! Maybe that is the true root of why we hate repeating ourselves. We’ve gone to all the effort to say something, something we thought about before we said it (unlike SOME people) ๐Ÿ™‚ and then they go and make us say it again! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I can really relate to this too. I hate repeating myself. And as you say, it’s probably because we put great thought into what we say, we probably get a bit offended if it seems no one is listening.

    It depends on the situation, but I sometimes guilt-trip people when they ask me to repeat myself when I know I was very clear spoken. It’s down right rude not to pay attention to people when they speak to you; and of course, these same people tend to get all up in arms when you seem to not be listening to them.

  3. Wow. I had no idea this particular personality trait was linked to introverts. I hate repeating myself too. People are blind to others’ reactions and emotions in a lot of cases. You or I would probably notice if someone was irritated that we asked them repeat themself. But then again, we probably wouldn’t ask because we listen! :]

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ Very true! There’s no way we’d argue and make someone say something more than once, or ignore what they said and make them repeat themselves, because we NOTICE the effects we’re producing in others!

      I’m so glad to know why we hate repeating ourselves now, and we all have each other to talk and laugh about it with.

    • I wish I’d realized it before I went through all that with optometry school. I despise repeating myself so much and it even makes me a little angry – like why weren’t you listening in the first place?!

  4. Telling an introvert to repeat themselves after they used a lot of energy to think up a sentence, is like asking someone who just chugged a beer keg to do it again simply because “I wasn’t looking.”

  5. I not only hate repeating myself, I hate repitition as well. I’ve begun to find the music at church particularly grating. The music itself is fine, but they keep singing songs that repeat the same line as many as 20 times. Then they sing “Amen” with five syllables repeated eight times. That’s not worship, it’s Chinese water torture!!!

  6. Emily Roberts on

    Oh, I know exactly what you all mean! I have a very soft voice, and often deliberately keep my voice down because I’m highly sensitive to loud noises, that, and it’s a lot of effort to shout. Well, everyone in my extroverted family is forever saying “What?” “huh?” “I didn’t catch that, can you say it again?” What really grates my nerves, is when they interrupt part way through my sentence to tell me they can’t hear me! My dad does this a lot because he’s often trying to multitask when I talk to him, so he always interrupts me quite loudly, “I can’t hear you over the water/music/hair dryer” and it drives me absolutely crazy!

      • I hate to sound unsympathetic, but maybe people really just can’t hear you. I don’t like to repeat myself that much either, but if someone simply can’t hear me at the volume at which I am speaking, and if I can’t hear someone when they say something to me, even when I am really putting in an effort to listen, then I’m sorry, but I will have to ask that person to repeat what they said. And you said that you have a very soft voice and in addition to that, you deliberately keep your voice low, so I am sure that there are people who will definitely have a harder time hearing everything that you say, even if they are really making the effort to listen to you at your natural speaking volume. Even though I don’t like speaking a lot, when I do speak, I try to make sure to keep my voice at a level that will be heard by the person with whom I am conversing.

      • I will try that next time, lol. I hate to repeat myself when people know when they heard me the first time especially when there were no other distractions like being in a loud setting, etc. Some try to multitask and want me to talk to them at the same time but would ask to repeat parts of my original statement or question. Great! now I have to retrace what I just said. I would need to some undivided attention, is that too much to ask?

  7. Pingback: How introverted do I want my life to be? โ€” Introvert Zone

  8. Thanks for sharing this article.
    I am an introverted person, and I have been looking to find a suitable career for my future. On one website, optometry was a career suggested for introverted people. I was not sure wheather IT or Optometry was more introvert-friendly. After reading your experience, I am better informed.

    Thanks,

  9. Yes I totally agreed about your post. We are just afraid to make mistake or afraid to do other things aside from what are we doing recently.
    I truly believe also the saying: “one word is enough for a wise man”. no need to repeat what you had been talk or done. I really hate it.

  10. What if the person that asked you to repeat yourself really was listening, but they just couldn’t hear you. Then you don’t repeat yourself, because you say something like “oh it just wasn’t important”. Do you think that the person listening is now annoyed?

  11. I don’t usually mind repeating myself as long as I’m still having the first conversation about a topic with someone. What really drives me nuts is when I have to tell someone something 3 or 4 times and they still don’t get it. When it gets to that point watch out!

  12. OK, I do marketing for an optometrist’s office and this site came up on a search I was doing. I have to show this to my doctor. You would not believe how much the two of you have in common….but obviously he didn’t withdraw ๐Ÿ˜‰ but he is so more analytically minded and (even though he cares) he sometimes comes across as sullen when in fact, I think he’s just a bit introverted. Great post!

  13. So I ended up on this site not because I hate repeating myself but because my husband does. We have 2 kids and although I always had a bad memory problem I feel like its gotten worse after having 2 kids under the age of 3. How do you guys deal with having your significant other having to make you repeat yourself. I feel like I pay as much attention as I can but I often find myself asking him if he’s working the next day when I had already asked him according to him. I truly don’t remember if I did or not. The arguments get bad because he feels as if I’m not paying attention to him but I really am I just don’t remember for some reason. I’m probably the one with the problem since I haven’t exceed in school since my junior year in high school due to memory problems and short attention span. All my grandmother’s sisters and brothers have died from alzheimer’s so sometimes I worry that that has something to do with my having to make people repeat themselves. So yeah how do you cope with people like me that are really close to you and you can’t just get on a plane and leave a city to get away from them. Thanks in advance.

  14. I work with a woman who is a big time introvert. Her reticence had me so exasperated that I finally did some research on it. Now I know why she has been practically begging my supervisor for telecommute/telework. It has also explained other issues, like why she sends me one line emails when she could easily just speak it to me, or why she makes such borderline bitchy comments to me when I ask her mundane questions like How are you? I wish you introverts would try better to explain what you’re feeling or why. I can try to accomodate her, but her words can be downright bitchy and hateful. No apologies or explanations — she just retreats into her world as as I go away dejected. There are just times where we need to talk at work. But because she doesn’t try, I no longer try, and we go for days without speaking even though we sit next to each other and are supposed to work together.

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