Imagine you’re swimming along the bottom of a pool, tasked with analyzing a pattern of markings on the bottom. You’re finally starting to understand what you see and make some sense of it, when suddenly a voice transmits down into the water, “Hey! Come up now!” So you break away from your pattern, totally losing what you’d accomplished so far, and haul yourself up through all that water, surfacing, looking around, trying to focus on the person who summoned you to see what is so important.
“Did you have a good weekend?” the person asks.
“Sure, thanks. What’s up?”
“Oh nothing. I just saw you swimming so deep down there so I wanted to stick my head in and say hi.”
That is how I feel all the time at work. I have to concentrate pretty hard sometimes to either read some tough material or figure out ways to get data I want by creating queries. Sometimes just as I’m about to really understand something or get a cool idea, I see a shape at my door. I know some people would ignore that shape, but of course it could be the boss! So I look over there and it’s Him. The guy who just wants to say hi. And last week he did tell me, “You just looked so deep in thought that I wanted to stick my head in…” Seriously.
Introverts can go really deeply into our own heads, concentrating to an extent that is ultra intense and productive, if you will let us. When you come by and shatter our thoughts for no good reason at all, we have to bring ourselves back to the surface and focus on you, and sometimes it takes us a moment. By then you’ve already launched into whatever chitchat you came there to do. The interruption totally ruins what we were accomplishing, and sometimes it takes us a long time to get back to the spot where we were. I also feel a bit disrespected when it turns out you weren’t interrupting me to tell me the building is on fire, or the boss wants to see me… You just came and interrupted me for no good reason at all. I understand that extroverts might be feeling terribly bored or restless if they are reading or working and might welcome a friendly face stopping by, so I wanted to let you know why the introvert you’re visiting does not look so happy and might even look as if he’s in a daze as he comes out of his deep thought process. At that point, be sure to get to the point, and don’t insult him by asking if he is OK!
Now I know we introverts can have an incisive wit that makes you howl with laughter, so I understand why you want to stop by. So if you’re not supposed to interrupt us while we’re thinking, how does one ever get to talk to an introvert? My preference and what I’ve seen and heard is that we by far prefer email anytime, if you need something that doesn’t have to be right now. If you are requesting information or an action that does not require interrupting us, we’d much prefer to get an email (or Twitter tweet) that we can address whenever it works best for us. If you just want to chitchat with us, I consider it a worthy interruption if you stop by at lunchtime and ask if we want to go with the gang to wherever, or talk to us when we grab a soda from the break room. But remember that we usually don’t like meaningless small talk, so if you’re really interested in getting to know an introvert you’ll probably want to use the sneak attack method to get him to talk.
When you see an introvert deep in thought, please respect that he is far inside his own head and it took awhile to get there, so please don’t sever the delicate thread of a really cool idea he is now getting. Once he accomplishes his task, who knows, perhaps he’ll come looking for you to tell you about it!
Photo credit: jayhem