Extrovert trying to understand her introverted family members

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My ex hubby and my teenage daughter are both introverted and I am extroverted. I try to understand them but I struggle with it. I don’t think that they try to understand and accept me either. My ex tells me that he sees when I say something about the way he compiles his food, like onion burgers, waffles, syrup and ketchup, when i say that is gross or disgusting in front of others, that i am attacking him and saying he is those things.. I think he is being sensitive about something stupid and minor. It shouldn’t bother him like it does. Is this really part of being an introvert? Do I really have to watch the types of wording? I don’t want to hurt my daughter and drive her further away from me than she is currently….

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42 Comments

  1. I’m going to try to put this delicately, but *yes,* I’d be humiliated if my husband said something unflattering to me with other people present. Yes, you should watch your words even a little around your introverted family members. If nothing else, you should just for the sake of mutual respect and in the spirit of reciprocity, because your ex likely filtered his negative comments about you.

    Fundamentally, introverts don’t like being the center of attention, either positive or negative. Personally, I loathe public recognition just as much as I hate being redressed in public. Either way, it’s embarrassing and possibly humiliating. If you do have something to say, take your introvert aside and address your concerns privately. He or she will likely be grateful and be far more willing to understand and empathize with you when the time comes.

  2. Wish I could edit– “redress” wasn’t the correct word. “Dressed down” was what I was actually thinking of.

  3. As an introvert, I know that I don’t like to be put on the spot, so if someone points out, even in a joking way, that the way I do something is disgusting or whatever comment is made in regards to my way of doing something, I might just get irritated by that.

  4. Also, I try to refrain from pointing out something about someone else, unless whatever it is that person is doing is having a negative impact on me.

  5. Try not to make your hubby and daughter the center of attention, esp. when you’re with company. No one, introvert or not likes to be humiliated in public.
    and even when you think something they do is disgusting, just let it slide (provided that it’s not affecting their health or safety in a major way)
    There’s a great video on how to take care of introverts.. Maybe this could help you..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Pmf4T1J3rhk
    Glori´s last post ..Small Talk Your Way Out of Awkward Silences: 8 Practical Ways to Do It

  6. Wow. As an introvert, just reading this irritated me. It doesn’t matter if you think he’s being sensitive (or overly sensitive as you implied), his feelings deserve some respect. Ridiculing anyone, even in a joking manner, is just plain rude. I have to say that the “treat others as you want to be treated” saying doesn’t really apply to extroverts and introverts because if the situation were reversed here, I doubt it would bother you to be ridiculed like that in front of others (why else would you do it to someone else?).

    I highly recommend that you do some more reading on introverts. I don’t think that understanding an introvert is the problem here, it’s the acceptance and showing respect. I can’t speak for their point of views since I don’t know it. Maybe more education is needed for everyone involved. Good luck.

    • Kathie,
      I am the mother in the original posting. I wanted to apologize to you. I am sorry that you got so irritated by my posting. It wasn’t intended to be rude. His father was the only audience member. My ex and I have always joked with each other. I have always had a joking personality and my family and friends wouldn’t think twice if I said the same thing to them about anything like this in front of anyone. Everyone else, besides my ex and my child are extroverts and I truly believe it is in the way the words are viewed. He puts more power in the words than I did. They were just words to me. They were more powerful to him. He and I discussed that after I did the original posting. I understand NOW, how he and you perceived that as being rude. I wouldn’t have if the roles were reversed. I would have laughed it off. My problem is learning how to change my handling of their personality differences. I appreciate how honest you are with me. Thank you. Again, I apologize.

      • Sorry, I don’t mean “their personality differences” I meant the differences between mine and theirs….

  7. Introvert people needs more understanding and patience. You can’t force them to be like you. They are more reserve than extroverts. But giving them advice that they should communicate with others too is highly recommended.
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  8. I am the mother at the original posting. I grew up in an extremely blunt family and we always say what we think…yes, I have hurt people unintentionally and have tried to quell my mouth a LOT!!!. This was not meant in any mean or crude way, the audience was his father so I didn’t honestly think anything about it. If they were strangers, then yes the situation would have been different. I will say that I do not understand either of them very much at all or how to deal with introverts. I cannot name any other introverts in my life and believe me I have tried. I want to understand. My daughter is my life. I want to have a relationship with her. I want to be close to her. I consider my ex one of my dearest friends. I don’t want to lose either of them but mostly my child. She doesn’t talk to me about her life. She doesn’t trust me. She is so private and I tend to be an open book so it is hard for me not to brag about her. She is so intelligent, beautiful, amazing and I just want the world to know but I know that I can’t do that. Even though technically its on the internet now…crap.
    I appreciate any resources. I have to fix this. It is killing me not having a relationship. I know since she is 17 and the normal mother/daughter thing can happen now, but what happens later? Will this continue??? That can’t happen. I need your help…..if you can or are willing. Thank you.

    • Do you ever have moments when you need to indulge the quieter side of you, your inner self? Even the most “out there” extravert I’ve met has that quiet side, the inner self that they have to listen to periodically. Think about introverts as being that quiet side of *you,* but that’s the part they listen to the most. They have an outer side that you likely know well, and it’s not so different from yours, except it’s less sophisticated and flavored heavily by their internal world. It’s just costly to use it too often, which is why introverts need downtime to recharge. We all have similar personality elements, but they’re flip-flopped depending on a person’s introversion or extraversion.

      My best advice is to develop that inner side of you better so that even if you can’t “understand” fully, you can relate better. Just reading what you wrote, you seem to put an undue emphasis on always being “public” in some form, which, if you’ll pardon the inference, seems to indicate your inner self isn’t all that developed. Take some time to read privately, to write in a journal, or just sit and think for a few minutes every day. Let yourself appreciate the quiet moments a little. Once you’ve gotten more comfortable, try to engage that new inner awareness in public when you’re with your daughter and your ex. It’s going to take practice, but if you observe their reactions and take a little time to run your comments through the inner part of you, you’ll gradually develop a sense of empathy, or at least be able to relate better, even if you can’t fully “understand.”

      Trust is something that’s built up gradually, especially with introverts. You’ve already stated that you’ve made your ex uncomfortable “in public” and your daughter also, even if you’re “bragging.” FYI, “public” for many introverts is in front of other people besides your spouse, even if they are family. Sometimes *especially* if they’re family. Be more cognizant of the words coming out of you about the introverts in your life when you’re out in “public” (introvert definition) both with and without them. Refrain from gushing about your daughter unless you’ve asked her permission beforehand;* be quiet about your ex’s personal habits, both positive and negative in public.* Show restraint when you’re with them and negotiate conversation limits in advance.* Many introverts are very observant and making a few respectful gestures in their direction and taking action to change what bothers them will help slowly rebuild their trust.

      * Actions that will help show respect and build trust.

      Dunno how helpful this is, but I hope it’s a little more so than my initial reaction when I read your post. That was a much more extreme version of Kathie’s post above and involved a lot of *really* cutting and catty remarks.

      Anyway, good luck!

      • I will admit my initial post was pretty bad. I was just done fighting with him and felt that I was right and he was wrong. Well, I am wrong. I will freely admit that. I have spent a lot of time with the inner me, but the other exterior tends to take over without me really being conscientious of it, when speaking out loud to others…I am needing to change that for my relationship with my daughter to work. I appreciate your honesty and really hearing all of this from you and the other postings is helping me to understand a LOT better than hearing it from her father. We tend to annoy each other more than anything…probably one of many reasons we are no longer a couple. I deserve the catty remarks with the initial posting, I really do. I re-read it now and want to say them myself. But in my small defense, I was still angry. I really have to learn that not all silence is bad. Quiet people have always made me nervous but I have to get over that. You would think a 40 year old would get it by now….THANK YOU! This is helping me understand how to deal and adjust my methods…..

        • Isn’t 40 fun? It’s funny– a lot of new awareness seems to kick in, and you’re left extra-confused as more neglected parts of your personality made themselves heard. Well, at least they have with me. This year, I’ve really noticed my emotional side kicking in, and it’s both fun and horrifying at the same time. On the positive side, it’s a good time to make changes, listen to your holistic self and to appreciate a lot of new depth. Oddly enough, I’m slowly beginning to enjoy the process.

          I can relate to the problems of letting annoyance take over; the worst time for me to process *anything* is when I’m emotionally engaged with it. And, yeah, I can’t take input from people I’m angry with, so I get you there too, even if if they’re 100% right. I need to back away and let the emotions subside a little before I can take their words into account, or seek feedback elsewhere.

          I’m thinking pre-negotiated limits will actually help you a lot, especially since you seem to just jump right into conversation without thinking. I’ve noticed I do that a lot in my more public moments, and it’s gotten me into trouble too. Sometimes I need a little tap on the shoulder or a kick in the shin to realize I’ve gotten a little too carried away in something.

          Try this before your next “public” engagement with your ex or your daughter:

          1) Ask what topics they don’t want brought up with the company you’re keeping.

          2) Ask what you are permitted to reveal about their private lives. From personal experience, I have a bunch of differing filters about what aspects of my personal life I’m willing to discuss depending on the person I’ll be associating with.

          3) Tell them that you get carried away in the moment when you’re talking, but you want their help to become more aware of what you’re actually saying.

          4) Pre-arrange some kind of signal, say a gesture, or a code-word or a tap if you get too out of bounds when you’re talking, and make sure you practice it a couple of times before you leave.

          Just going through the process alone might help you develop more awareness. You know, that “if you remind someone to remind you of x, you’re more likely to remember x yourself” thing.

  9. I just turned 40 Monday and I was looking forward to it. I am not afraid of aging at all. I think I have gotten better with the wisdom, no matter how small sometimes, that I have acquired as I have aged. Now, if I can just shrink the bum and thighs a little more I will be a little more content with me. Then I can move on to other things. ;-)
    I LOVE the suggestions you gave for the next outing. We are going to try and go to a couple of colleges this summer for tours. She is going to be a senior this coming year and is determined to get into a good school out of state if she can. Of course as a parent naturally you want to hold them close to keep them safe but they have to go and do their thing. She is so strong, I know she will be ok.
    I am finding that I am crying at TV shows all the time. I used to be a huge true crime show watcher and now I can only stomach it in small amounts. I get upset easy at how people treat each other with all the violence in the world. I used to have thicker skin. I have always been an open book so finding that pause and silence button under all the noise is difficult. I always tell people more than I should.
    Again, thank you with any and all advice. I am learning so much. I just need to put it all in action.

    • Hah! My bum and thighs need more than a little shrinking ;-) Aging doesn’t bother me that much anymore either, although I felt the big gong strike hard during my last moment of “being in my 30s” back in October. Turning 41 doesn’t bug me at all.

      Congrats to your daughter! I hope she has a blast in college! My college years were some of the best of my life, and a real awakening for the more public side of me. I’m sure she’ll be fine too.

      Count me in on the crying thing too– although for me it’s been either Bollywood or ultra-romantic films or parents fixing their relationships with estranged children kinds of movies. I cried the other day at one of the early episodes of Jem and the Holograms streaming on Netflix! I’ve never really liked true crime shows, and I’ve been getting a lot more frustrated with people’s inability to get along with each other. Politics, which used to be my great love in life, enrages me in ways it never has before. JUST GET ALONG, DAMMIT! COMPROMISE AND NEGOTIATION AREN’T BAD WORDS! Like you, I’m also a lot more sensitive than I used to be; stuff I used to brush off or suck up for the sake of getting along now leaves me bleeding.

      I wish you luck! You seem to have a lot of love for both your daughter and your ex, and I hope you can find that wonderful middle ground where sharing and trust are natural.

      • Just reading your reply was tearing me up!!! How pitiful!!! Though I personally have never watched Bollywood movies, the other types you mentioned do it to me as well, or on television. Thank you so much. I appreciate your support and information more than I can express right now in a few words. My daughter is my life and I love my ex even though that love has changed. He is one of my best friends and we raised her together and will hopefully help to “raise/ babysit/ be there for (whatever is needed) our potential grandchildren together.” He is a good man and an excellent father. If not for him, I don’t think she would be as college focused as she is. I honestly hope to hear from you again. If I have another question, I will be asking you. Thanks again, and I hope your life is beautiful!!!!

        • “Pitiful” is way too kind a word ;-) I was embarrassed, and I was *alone!* Then again, that was probably less pathetic than my response today when I was asked if I needed help at the mall, “No, I’m just here.” Maybe it’s existential wisdom and emotional honesty, but, huh? That was the clerk’s response.

          Anyway, I’m glad I could help just a little. To quote Vanilla Ice, “If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it!” I hope what I suggested works for you. I know I sometimes need that extra jab of awareness when I’m off in la-la land or floating on the currents of external ideas when I just let go of my barriers in public.

          Love is best when it changes, I think. Time is what makes it blossom in the right direction. It’s obvious you have a lot of respect beyond your love for your ex, and I hope he recognizes that. I’ve been enjoying the changes in my marriage a lot (it’ll be nine years in September). My husband’s also going through a touchy-feely phase in his 40s, and it’s a blast to be able to get to be silly and mushy and sentimental and cuddly with him at the same time instead of logical and realistic.

  10. This has been a most intriguing conversation to read through.
    My first thought is: What 17-year-old girl wants to be really close to her mother? What I mean is that it’s a perfectly normal stage for a teenaged girl to go through, and it’s perfectly normal for her mother to want to push too hard. She’s just at the age where she’s learning to really become her own person. As she grows older, into her middle twenties, when she has learned who she is and is able to look at her parents as separate people just like anyone else, she’s entirely more likely to welcome a closer relationship. Which is not to say you should just stop trying to have a good relationship with your daughter, only that you should be careful you’re not pushing her too hard, because that will probably push her away entirely, especially if she’s introverted and sensitive.
    The more you show respect for who she is, in ways she can appreciate, rather than ways that might seem most natural to you, the more she will be willing to reciprocate. It’s possible that growing up with someone who is so out-there, as you describe yourself, has driven her even more inward. I know that when I get around really boisterous, outgoing people, I just want to crawl into a shell and stare at them and analyze them like an anthropologist, or else stay very far away from them. My own mother is that way, to an extent, and I find myself either reacting with sarcasm or shutting down very frequently. A softer, gentler approach is needed, offering, not pushing, recognizing that her different way of being a woman is beautiful, realizing that if she chooses to share something it’s from deep inside her and is valuable to her and that you can’t demand it from her. I think my own mother has been learning this, and it has definitely improved how I relate to her. She doesn’t understand me, but she no longer thinks I have to be just like her, and as a young woman in my late twenties and early thirties, I have appreciated this more and more.

    • Christy,
      I have backed off of her overall. I still try to get some conversation going with her at times but try not to push it. It is difficult. I realize I have my own character flaws and am currently working on those as well. What is difficult is that my daughter and her father are so extremely close and I am constantly on the outside looking in. They are both introverts. He has learned to deal with extroverts overall, but has little patience for me and tends to cut me off if I don’t have conversations the way he likes them. My issue with him is that she sees that…but that is a whole other thing.
      She is such an amazing kid. She has reached out a little then pulls back. I am trying to be patient but that is one of the most difficult things in the world. I have also tried different tactics, like making the time with her more about her and I and not being around her father as much. But that has just begun. It has made a slight difference in the stress level between the three of us and I hope that will continue. I long for the time that she returns to me, but fear I will do something to prevent that as well.
      I am striving to understand my introverted child more and more. I try not to hover or hound her about things and wait for her to come to me…or I tell her ahead of time that I have a question but don’t need an answer immediately she can answer later. I do fail at times but am trying at least to change my approach and this site has helped immensely along with everyone’s input!!! OH< I have also tried to change my wording around her AND her father!!!! The only thing I wish they would do is give me the same respect at times…maybe someday it will all run smooth.
      Because of everyone here, I do think more about how I say things. I also don't drag her to places I know she wouldn't be comfortable, like with my family… I just have to learn patience and that it is partially being a teenager…

  11. I don’t know when this was posted but I saw it and felt I should add something. I’m in a similar situation, not as you, but as your daughter. My dad is heavily introverted, and so am I. I spend probably 80% of my time alone, and it makes me feel better. My mum, however, is very extrovert. She does make comments about me, the way I am, the way I look etc. and it does get to me! Like the things you say to your ex-husband, they can be humiliating, and make you feel as though everybody’s watching, listening, and laughing at you, even if there are only a couple of people in the room. For an extrovert, it would probably be the equivalent of someone standing up, while you are performing on stage, or in the middle of a club, and calling you horrible names, saying things about you that you weren’t proud of, or weren’t true, but were believable to those around you. I

  12. If I were your ex-husband, I would completely cut you out of my life as much as possible. You see, it doesn’t matter how you think he should take your insults. What matters is how he actually takes them. To keep insulting him when you know it irritates him is emotional abuse. Who are you to judge what should or shouldn’t bother him? Would you like someone making decisions like that for you? It sounds like you are completely incompatible. This isn’t about extroversion or introversion, it’s about how mature, loving adults treat each another. Please do all us men a favor and figure this out before you attempt a new relationship.

    • Jon,
      I appreciate your bluntness. I am the woman from the original posting and have since realized that I was wrong in a sense, but he has also apologized for getting as upset as he did. See Extroverts see the words as words, not insults. He, as an introvert took it as an insult. My intention was not to insult him. When I posted originally we had just fought and I was still pissed off. I should have calmed down and then asked the questions in a more mature fashion. Now, after posting my eyes have been opened not only to the introverts and the way that they view the world, but to my own extroverted ways and the way I personally view and speak to the world so changes have happened for the better all the way around. I still have to heal wounds with my daughter, but the relationship with me and my ex has improved more and the friendship has become more stable thanks to everyone
      on this website. I have learned more here than anywhere else and it has helped me to grow as a human.

  13. I will emphasize something…writing. Introverts communicate best through writing. It may not be what you seek (verbal communication) but I am a heavy texter, emailing and facebook messaging person. Write it down and leave it for her to read. I also want to recommend some books for you (if you are not aware of them already)
    Quiet
    The Introvert Advantage
    Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child
    I have only read The Introvert Advantage and it was a really good book. Also you appear to have a very strong need for socializing and being public. Do you have any extroverted friends that you can hang out with and meet that need with (instead of waiting to connect with your family)?

  14. I find myself walking on eggshells for people and I feel smothered. I have to find a balance in life where I can be myself, but not offend people that are more sensitive than me… its a long road, thanks for the info as always!
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  15. I’d say give your daughter space. My mother was a bit of an extrovert in a family of introverts and as a 17 year old introvert, she could often be in my face. It was overwhelming and annoying, and for many years I shutdown and tended to keep my contact with her to a minimum. Yes, I was cruel to my poor Mum :/

    I think if you give her options, her own space, her space to be and breath… she will appreciate that. It will take time, but she will appreciate you. It sounds weird, but don’t get too ‘chirpy’, teenagers tend to be moody creatures (I especially was!) and getting all too yay-yay, chirpy chatty can be off-putting. I know its suppressing your own natural character, but holding back a bit can help a lot. Also, I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect a 17 year old to be completely open to her parents anyway. I know I wasn’t. But if you can get some sort of communication channel open and not expect it to be always super awesome, I think you’ll be doing okay :) It’s only now that I’m talking more to my Mum, looking forward to seeing her and talking more about my life – which I think every Mum loves to hear about.

    Also on her end too, it’s probably a lack of maturity and understanding about your end of the deal. She probably has no conception or really cares that you love her like the sun loves the moon, until she becomes a mother herself or experiences a love comparable. I guess it’s a waiting game here, be patient and just love her for what she is – which you’re already doing ;)

    • Jan,
      Of course patience is not a strength of the extrovert overall…really especially for me. I have backed off of her and try to give her space and not talk the whole time. I let her know I am here for her if she needs me. We just sit in silence most of the time and when her dad gets home she runs to tell him how her day went and how she feels. But he is just like her is every way so I try to understand….but the jealousy does happen and the hurt is there…I usually wait until I am away from her to cry and try not to let her know how much it kills me. That isn’t her fault. She is an amazing person and I know she will fully understand eventually. It just sucks in the meantime. But I love this website. I have learned so much to help me on the path to the better relationship. I finally get why she does what she does and acts like she does. It makes so much sense. I just have to figure out how to get her to trust me and to get myself to have more patience while I am waiting for that…..Thank you for the help and advice!!! There is hope!

  16. I’m not married by any means but I have an extrovert mother. She figured out at some point to leave me alone to an extent. As with most mother/ daughter relationships its complicated. HOWEVER, there are days when I wanted to scream because she would not LISTEN to me. I would get frustrated when she cuts in with HER view of things. If you don’t want to drive your daughter or ex away please and I beg you, listen to them and say “I understand how you feel.” Cautiously tell them how you feel and walk away. This gives them space to think and they will get back to you when ready. I know it doesn’t make sense to you about the inner working on introverts but we need time to get our ideas together.

    • That’s not it at all. Not for me anyway. I have a lot of confidence and I can be very nice to have conversations with. I have no fear about being unappreciated or accepted. I accept myself and love who I am. It’s this self acceptance that makes me comfortable being and never feeling like I need to comment or judge anyone in the things they do or don’t do. It seems like your comment is the opposite of what I am and what I know most introverts to be. The simple fact is that I don’t want attention. I don’t like people to comment on anything about my Beingness simply because I think it’s rude. It’s all about letting people Be. Let me Be. I let you Be. I feel like a lot of extroverts judge (like the lady in this OP). If a person needs to comment of what you’re eating, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, etc. it feels to me like they are crossing boundaries into my own sovereignty. I need my space. That is all I need. Respect my right to be without judgment. Even small judgments.

      • In fact, if I had to guess who it is that doesn’t have confidence in themselves, I’d say extroverts exhibit more of a need for outer confirmation of who and how they are. See, we simply don’t need others to stroke our egos to feel like we’re something special. We’re simply comfortable in our own skin. I think that you are thinking of something like anxiety disorder or social anxiety. Not introversion. Also, I am pretty outspoken, have no trouble saying exactly what needs to be said. It’s very natural for me to do.

  17. “Introvert people mostly live in their own world because they have fear that their point of view won’t be appreciated or accepted. All this is because of their lack of self-confidence. What we need to do is just be more caring and attentive to them so that they can come out of that shell they live in.” … I’m not loving this post. As an introvert myself I like living in my mind cause it is a wonderful place to be :)

    Lisa,

    Reading your post makes me regret the times in my earlier years when I gave my mother hell because I felt her attention as pestering back then. I’m now 41 and while my mum still wants me to go out and make as many friends as possible, I don’t resent her for not accepting me the way I am. I understand now this is her way of dealing with life. Being open and talkative and everywhere at the same time is her way of living, of coping. She still doesn’t get that I’m happy with solitude and I try to appease her anxiety by talking about the contacts I do have – this way it reassures her that I’m less alone.

    I’m not the sensitive introvert. I’m not a fan of eggshell-walking as if I’m so fragile the slightest thing will make me fall apart, but your attempt at reaching out to your daughter has me almost crying.

    The most important advice I can offer is respect her need for space/quiet, but never let her feel like you’ve left her alone. There are things happening in her mind you may never be aware of.

    And as Jan indicated earlier, we do grow up to realise that it is not always about us eventually. Compromise work both ways :)

  18. Thank you for sharing this useful information. Even though I don’t have introvert family members, I am so lucky to read this article because now I know already how as a person you must need to mingle and handle individuals who have this introvert personality. You need to be sensitive of what they felt so that you will know on how to act with them. I have learned a lot on this article and I will surely share it to my friends.
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