Of course it’s not really an abyss. 🙂 But sometimes we need to stop to think how things look from the other side of the fence. A couple of weeks ago Mark commented on the post Don’t ask an introvert if he’s OK!, and since that post was one of the ones from early August, I thought a lot of you may have missed his comment. It was a constructive comment, and I think it was important for all of us introverts to read and consider. So here it is again:
This issue is that people who are friendly really do care about you. They ask “are you ok?” because they really do care about your well being and will listen if you need to vent. They ask you this question because they are trying to make a connection with you in a safe way. Extremely introverted and private people are extremely hard to have as friends. They want the relationship 100% on their time, emotional convenience schedule, etc. Relationships need to have both parties trying. Go into work and say “good morning” and SMILE at people when you see them. You are making contact and when you are busy they will see that but since you had a word or two and eye contact/facial expressions that says “emotionally, etc. I am ok” they will give you the space you desire.
I see his point. It’s no fun at all to have a friend who is sometimes friendly and sometimes aloof, making you guess whether today is the day you should try to talk to him and enjoy his company. Yet Mark is trying to be a good friend to one or more introverts and would gladly lend an ear whether they want to unload problems or share good things. He genuinely cares about them, but if they come into the office and won’t smile or talk, he doesn’t know whether something is wrong and he should help as a friend, or if they are just withdrawing from him because they need their time alone. The on-again/off-again friendliness is not fair to Mark.
On the other hand, a lot of the time the person asking, “Are you OK?” is not our friend at all, even if they may want to be. We crave our privacy and don’t want strangers intruding and talking about anything as personal as the expression we happen to be wearing. Even if this person is interested in getting to know us, I would think, “Are you OK?” is not the thing to say, if he’s just commenting on the fact that an introvert is deep in thought.
In my case, the first minutes when I arrive at the office, I really don’t want anyone to stop by and talk to me, or worse still, to stop me while I’m trying to walk to my desk. I always come in through a side door so I don’t pass the receptionist or the break room. I really want to get my laptop going, take care of little emails that straggled in overnight, all in silence, then I’m more receptive to someone who wants to chat. I guess my brain is stimulated enough just coming into the office after a night of being away, and it doesn’t want one more thing to annoy it. Of course this means I really should just come in a few minutes early each day, and I do try to do that. That way by the time 8 am arrives, I am ready for coworkers or any other issues that might have seemed to be a bit too much when I first arrived.
Can you see a way for introverts to do their part to be good friends to their extrovert buddies? Can we get the solitude we need and still be fair and consistent with those who want to be friends with us?
Photo credit: RBerteig