Funny, when we talk about holidays or social events or many other topics, we introverts agree on a lot of things that we definitely need. We need time to recharge, or process all the stimulation we’ve had, or whatever it is that happens that makes us feel good, like we’re supposed to again. We find ways to manage to enjoy family, friends, and hobbies while being comfortable and happy too, and sometimes that takes a little planning. One way some of us can visit people out of town and enjoy it is by staying in a hotel. Others of us go to parties but make it brief or even entirely avoid events we don’t care for. So why isn’t that all right with the rest of the world? Seems to me I’m often hearing things like, “My sister’s husband is strange. He stays in a hotel when we have a family reunion and the rest of us stay with Mom and Dad,” or, “She always leaves parties so early!” or even, “I’ll bet you won’t show up!” The implication or comment is meant to convey that introverts are abnormal or at least stubborn, eccentric, or unfriendly. Instead of understanding that we need certain positive things, the idea is that we “don’t like” being with people and we want to “get away” from others or other negative ways of saying we need time inside our own heads.
No one would dispute it if we say that a fine sports car “needs” a certain fuel. No one would scoff at it and say, “It just needs to come out of its shell!” No one has a derogatory comment if a race horse needs a certain mix of grains and other nutrients in order to feel and run his/her best. It’s not all in the horse’s imagination – he needs what he needs! I’m still trying to find a way to convey my own introvert needs to others without the negative connotation other people take from what I say. “I need some alone time” sounds like, “You annoy me,” to my sweet relative, and I really don’t want to hurt her so I avoid saying it at all. That puts me at risk of a meltdown if I have constant companionship for several days, so we both would be better off if I could manage to say, “I need some fuel.” I know some introverts have explained to their family that they are introverts and their families even understand that, or try to. I’m bringing up the subject more and more with coworkers, friends, and family, but somehow when I retreat to my delicious book or moment alone I still feel as if I’m leaving misunderstanding and hurt feelings in my wake.
Do you have a positive way of explaining what you need so that your partner or mother or friends don’t think you’re aloof or even tired of them? I’ve found myself making excuses sometimes, just to give myself a break, because I couldn’t think of a way to explain in a positive sounding way that I needed alone time. After one long meeting at work, I claimed I needed to run home before dinner to do something. I dashed home and definitely felt much better when I arrived at dinner than I would have if I’d gone straight from the meeting. But then while we were having drinks someone asked, “Where’s Robert?” and another of my coworkers said, “Oh he went to the hotel for a while…he needs some time alone before dinner.” Oh. Maybe I should give the people around me a little more credit!
Photo credit: chego101