Although I’m the Counselor (INFJ) personality type and usually hear or figure out someone’s life story within just a few minutes and even enjoy helping people with whatever’s bothering them, I don’t appreciate instant familiarity in the form of abrasiveness or sarcasm. The difference is, I want to be approached in a appropriate way with appropriate boundaries respected, then if we decide to talk about something more personal, we will.
I’m happy to make a remark about a mutual situation to a stranger (“Do you think this line will ever move?”) and to exchange pleasantries with anyone, but I don’t expect anyone to make unwanted personal remarks or tease me about anything when we don’t yet know each other!
A few years ago we merged offices with another group. I knew that Monday morning would be awful, as everyone tried to get logged in and get settled, and of course now I’d have double the coworkers, with half of them being strangers. I was in the IT department, but we did have a well-known procedure people should go through if they were having trouble, and everyone knew that. I arrived at work a little early that Monday morning, and a woman I’d never seen before said loudly, “Hey cb, wanna get to work? I can’t get logged in.” ExCUSE me? “Wanna get to work?” I was actually early, plus my presence or lack of it wasn’t keeping her from getting logged in; she was supposed to call the help desk. I didn’t say any of that, of course. Instead I quietly said I’d see if I could help.
A week or so ago a woman came into our office. She works for our company, in another division, and I’d never met her before. First I heard her go into the office of an extremely extroverted young man. I could hear her loud voice and I soon heard him laughing. Then she came my way. Standing in my doorway not smiling, she demanded of me in a loud voice, “Have I met you?” I answered calmly but not taking the bait, “I’m afraid I don’t know.” Then someone introduced us, and before I could finish saying, “It’s nice to meet you…” she blurted to the other person (or to me?), “And what does cb do?” I didn’t know if I was supposed to answer this strange question that was asked in front of me but not directed at me, but the other person did. And after she left, he told me that he knew that her extremely abrasive personality would set me on edge. Later I asked the young extrovert about her and he said, “Oh, I just thought she was a big tough woman and it was a real hoot!”
Most of the time the almost insulting unwanted attention comes from people who know my friends or coworkers. They seem to think that by extension, they’ve known me for years and that it will be amusing somehow for them to comment about what I happen to be drinking or wearing that day.
The best analogy I have for this sort of thing is the cat/dog one that Nick Laborde mentioned in this comment. I feel like a cat. You may approach me, but do so in a controlled manner if I don’t know you. Or if you look receptive and don’t jump all over me, I may approach you! My friend down the hall is a golden retriever. Sure, go rushing right up to him, thump him on the side, throw the ball for him. Just don’t ignore him, because that’s what he hates most in this world.
If you’re an extrovert and find that an introvert seems to shrink away from you when you try to have fun with him, are you overstepping his boundaries with friendly insults as if you know him very well (when really you don’t)? Why not tone it down and talk about something he’s working on or a hobby, instead of blasting him with so much overwhelming attention?
And as an introvert, I’m going to try to learn to be a little more detached and notice the “real hoot” in situations instead of getting my hackles up so easily. Maybe I’ll get a laugh out of the next boorish intruder!
Photo credit: JohnSeb