What if someone was always trying to tell you what to do, but in the most congenial possible way, that comes from a “place of caring” and sociability?
They were always trying to tell you what to do, even though these are not the things you wanted to do. And worse:
- If ever you said no, a room full of people would call you an asshole and anti-social and a bunch of other things and complain about you to your face—each time.
- But doing anything that they would tell you to do would by its course result in a punch in the gut that left you reeling—each time.
So sometimes you said “no” and got a chorus of people swirling around you calling you an asshole. Other times, you did what they said even though you didn’t want to and got punched in the gut as a result.
Sound like fun?
That’s what it’s like to be an introvert hanging around extroverts. It just doesn’t work. It’s painful. Invariably you feel worse afterward.
— § —
Here’s the thing: extroverts always, without fail, assume (not consciously) that everyone in the world is exactly like them. That their experience is the sum total of all experience, that their preferences are the sum total of all preferences, that their lifestyles are the natural lifestyle for all human beings.
They do not listen. They are incapable of listening. They certainly do not think that you know what is best for you if what you think is best for you differs from what they think is best for you. You must be wrong. Never mind that you live in your body, in your life, have your preferences; never mind that nobody is positioned to know you as well as you are.
This does not occur to them. You have a thought or a preference or a behavior that does not align with theirs—and therefore you must not have a clue about yourself, or about what makes you happy and what doesn’t.
— § —
The archetypal version of this problem is the “just go to the party” problem.
© Aron Hsiao / 2000
E: Let’s go to a party.
I: I don’t want to go—I won’t have any fun. You go and have fun! I’ll read a book.
E: Oh come on, you can’t stay here by yourself. You’ll have fun once you’re there. I know you will!
I: Really I won’t. They leave me feeling lousy. But you go and enjoy!
E: Come on! Seriously, I have to drag you kicking and screaming to have a life sometimes!
I: Not going.
E: You’re going. I’m your friend and I want you to be happy. I won’t let you not go!
…10 minutes later…
I: Okay, fine. I’ll go but I’m leaving after an hour or so.
…30 minutes later, at party…
E: Isn’t this the greatest party ever?! Oh my god I’m having the greatest time! How about you?
I: I’m not having fun. This is hell.
E: Oh my god, you’re trying not to have fun. You’re actually working at it.
I: Seriously? No, I’m not. I’m just not into parties. Like, at all.
E: Well it’s your own fault if you’re at a great party and you’re determined to sulk!
Here’s the thing.
No, extrovert, it’s not the introvert’s own fault. They told you they wouldn’t have any fun, they knew they wouldn’t have any fun, they didn’t want to go and they were right about it. It’s your fault as the pushy extrovert who would no doubt be offended if they didn’t go (which is why they went—they value your friendship and did it to make you happy) that they’re stuck in a situation where, as predicted, they’re not enjoying it.
They don’t need to try harder. Trying harder is not going to get them a thing. They are who they are. But you can’t fathom it because it’s not the same way you feel, so naturally they must be trying to be miserable. It couldn’t be that they agreed to do something that violates every principled fiber in their being just to make you happy, and now they’re suffering the consequences.
But are the extroverts ever grateful? Do the introverts get words like this?
“Well thanks for humoring me and coming. I really appreciate it. I’m sorry I dragged you here. You were right, I should have listened to you.”
The answer is no, the introverts do not. What the introverts get is more shit for a week or two from the extrovert for being “such a downer” and for “going to a party and just sulking and ruining it for everyone.” Extroverts generally don’t even notice, or care about, the gesture—which was made at their virtual command. Worse, they appear to be cheerful and full of joi de vivre in such situations, not caring in the least about the introvert’s feelings.
Because, of course, the introvert’s feelings are wrong. Because they’re different from the extrovert’s feelings—and so they can be dismissed.
— § —
Of course, it’s not just about parties. Extroverts are pushy. They’re always pushing on introverts to do or say one thing or another. If you’re an extrovert, watch for this. Watch for yourself to give “suggestions” that:
- Presume that the introvert doesn’t know WTF is good for their own self.
- Get repeated over and over again as you look for signs of acquiescence.
- Aren’t a response to advice solicitations, but are given proactively and of your own initiative.
Every time you do this, your introvert friend is feeling more and more disrespected by you, and they don’t know how to get out of this situation because you won’t take “no” for an answer—and they’re not ready to terminate the friendship yet.
— § —
People are different. Often introverts are very different. They have different habits, different objects, different wants and desires from you. And when you push them into stuff and they do it for you, they are unhappy, best case scenario, or really important stuff in their life breaks, worst case scenario.
And you probably don’t even see these things as being broken. You’ve probably even “good naturedly” told them these things don’t matter and they should “let loose” a little.
That’s right, extroverts. You are probably harming your introvert friends—and so far as they can tell, you usually don’t even care.
So if you’re an extrovert—think about all of this for a while. Is this you?
— § —
Oh, and do not, under any circumstances, ever, give advice to an introvert unless it is solicited. Introverts don’t need your advice because they already know what they are doing and already know how they feel about it. I know you don’t understand that, extroverts.
None of this occurs to you. In fact, it’s in large measure why we won’t go to the party, and why we know we won’t have any fun. Because we’ve done this a thousand times, and we know that the party will be full of extroverts, and we know how that goes. We’ll go home at best feeling worse and at worst wanting to chew on nails and punch extroverts.
But we put up with it all patiently. We try for you. We’re willing to accept and respect the ways that you think and work. Would be nice if we could get a little acceptance and respect ourselves, without being belittled and without being punched in the gut.