Inspired by a similar post about Extraverts, I'm here to talk about the mistakes that Introverts—myself very much included—may be making without realizing it. Some of them are more obvious than others, but these are some that I've only recently caught myself doing.
1. Coming off as unfriendly
Whether by turning down an invitation to a big, raucous party or by going to that party but then standing quietly in a corner nursing your drink, others might come to the erroneous conclusion that you don’t like people. In reality, you simply find such events overwhelming and unfulfilling.
Start here: If you turn down a friend’s invite to an event that sounds too extraverted for you, make plans with him or her to do something one-on-one or in a smaller group. And try to only turn down invites to the events that you know you are going to hate or when you are completely burnt out. For other times, you should take a chance.
2. Shutting people out
It starts small—a cancelled plan here, an unreturned phone call there—but eventually you might realize that you haven’t had a meaningful interaction with a particular good friend or family member in a long time. You can justify it to yourself by saying, “Yeah, but they could’ve just called me again, so they don’t want to see me that badly,” but what if that’s not true?
Think about it: you think that they don’t care that much because they aren’t continuing to reach out to you, and if they use the same logic about you not reaching out to them, then they’ll start to think you don’t care either.
Start here: Just call them. Make a plan, and don’t cancel it. You can even tell them that you have the tendency to withdraw at times and that it’s nothing personal. However, know that there are times when you cannot withdraw either, like if they’re having a problem in their lives which they need support for. Make sure it’s clear that you do value your relationship with them.
3. Not asking for help
Some Introverts are more staunchly independent than others. If you’re one of these introverts, then it might be hard for you to admit that there is something you can’t do for yourself.
Start here: Ask for help. It’s that simple. Make sure you’re asking the right person, of course—if it’s a work-related question, ask a coworker or your direct supervisor rather than the company’s CEO—but beyond that, I promise you it’s not that scary.
4. Not allowing yourself time to recharge
This mistake is basically the opposite of the first two on this list. Rather than turning down too many invitations, you’re overextending yourself. I know I have a tendency to alternate between the two; after a solid week of being social, I will sink into hermitage. Ideally, you can avoid becoming a total hermit by not draining your social battery in the first place.
Start here: If you’re starting to feel drained, it's alright to turn down an invitation to something that you don’t really care about. Try to schedule your weeks so that you have days without social events.
5. Always expecting others to start the conversation
Remember, even though Extraverts outnumber us (at least in the U.S.), about a third of the population is introverted. That means that there are other people who are afraid to start a conversation as well. Also, not all extraverts are the stereotypical talkative, bubby social butterflies we make them out to be, so try to be the first to initiate a conversation once in awhile.
Start here: If you’re at a gathering with 30 other people, chances are that at least 10 of them are Introverts too, and they’d probably love it if you rescued them from having to start a conversation or from a particularly overbearing, over-talkative extravert! (We Introverts have to help each other out, after all.)
6. Not standing up for yourself (and others)
I wrote an article about confrontation and conflict not too long ago where I mentioned that extraversion is correlated with assertiveness. As an Introvert, you might have a tendency to let more dominating personalities push you or people you care about around.
Start here: You don’t have to yell at anyone or start a brawl. Standing up for yourself can be as simple as saying “I disagree.” And standing up for someone else can be as simple as saying, “Please don’t talk like that about ____.”
7. Bailing on important events
This mistake is beyond turning down an invitation to go out for drinks on a random Friday night; this mistake means skipping your niece’s first birthday party or your best friend’s wedding to stay home and watch Netflix. There are some events in life that you really just have to suck it up and go to if you want to maintain your relationships and avoid hurting the people you care about.
Start here: Depending on what exactly the event is, you might be able to go and then leave early. You don’t have to go out to the bars at 1 AM after your friend’s wedding reception. You can give your sister a time that you need to leave her party by. If leaving early is not a feasible option, you can still catch your breath by going outside for “fresh air” or by volunteering to help your sister with a task during the party.
8. Thinking that you’re deeper/wiser than your extraverted friends and family
I think this tendency stems from being a part of a culture that has undervalued introversion for too long. Now that introversion is more talked about and appreciated, there has been somewhat of a backlash against Extraverts, which is just silly.
Start here: Extraversion and introversion have no bearing on intelligence—just like all the other preferences in Myers-Briggs or the Big 5. Recognize that being talkative and loving crowds of people does not make someone stupid or shallow.
9. Spending too much time in your own head (and getting in your own way)
Being alone gives you opportunities to think and get to know yourself better. However, it can also give you too much time to overanalyze everything. Even when you’re among other people, you may be more present in your own head than you are in the group, which can lead to an even greater inhibition of action than you normally would have.
Start here: Make a conscious effort to be present when you’re with other people or even completing a task on your own. Practicing mindfulness is one way to flex this muscle.
10. Failing to appreciate the people around you
As an Introvert, you may appreciate it more when people cancel plans with you than when they make them. I’ve certainly felt this way before. It’s easy to take having friends who want to make plans with you for granted.
Start here: You can appreciate your alone time and your time with friends. Make sure your actions show that you enjoy spending time with your friends and that you do care about them. No man (or woman) is an island, after all.