I don’t really think of myself as an introvert. But all these years I have always felt a tad uncomfortable being in a crowd, especially if the members of which, I am not fully acquainted with.
Even my friends would laugh off the idea that I am an introvert.
“Introvert apa…cakap tak berhenti. Garang macam dengan apa. Setiap kali cakap, semua dia nak menang” Of course it was said in the most affectionate manner they could muster. Hahah.
I am a social butterfly among really good friends only. I have ideas, thoughts, opinions that I want to share with them; things I need them to know about, because those are interesting things to be enjoyed and discussed together.
So of course these people would scoff at the idea of me being socially awkward. And WITH THEM, even I can be made to think that I am charming and witty and can talk non-stop; Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum.
But when I am dragged to a social function or an event involving mingling and making small talk, I become taciturn. Quiet. Sometimes downright rude. Temperamental. Irritable.
When I was a child, I was the one who would go “Mak, bila nak balik ni?” pestering my mother and interrupting her lively conversations.
I find people talking about the weather downright irritating.
When they DO talk about the weather,my brain YAWNS before it completely SHUTS DOWN.
Was it the mundane topic? Or was it the boring personality? Or a combination of both?
Back then, I didn’t know.
As I grew up (and out) I became convinced that it’s not (always) the topic that determines how interesting a conversation will get. A topic about the weather, when discussed with the right person in the right manner can become just as absorbing as the latest Khaled Hosseini book.
If I were to comment about the weather, instead of just saying “hujan tak henti-henti kan sekarang ni,” and leave it at that, I will say “Best kan hujan? Ingat tak waktu kita kecik dulu waktu rumah kita banjir….” And I will go on about the memory that we BOTH had as a child… a similar memory, a common knowledge…
That’s why talking with friends – with whom you have common backgrounds and common memories – never becomes a dreaded small talk even when the topic is small.
But talking with complete strangers is a torture I like to avoid as much as possible. Unless if – when talking about the weather – he/she can make it interesting by saying “What do you think the government should do to prevent the flash flood from happening again in the future?”
THEN, there are topics to discuss (even though we are strangers). THEN, there are ideas to flow (even when we don’t share similar memories). THEN, they become interesting (even when the topic is small). It gets interesting if ideas flow back and forth; if there are opinions to agree and disagree with; if there are things to ponder and dismiss.
So even a big talk (as opposed to small talk) requires the right person to communicate with, for it to be interesting. Someone with whom you have similar wavelength; someone who will respond to all your great ideas of “how to prevent the next flash flood” with another intelligent idea of his own. Someone who has the same enthusiasm as you do about things that you are interested about.
So, my childhood puzzle has now been answered. It wasn’t just about the topic. It wasn’t just about the personality. It was the combination of both.
“You were the one who wrote that fiery blog upon finishing your first posting…”
I couldn’t be certain whether it was a question or a statement that the paediatrician was trying to make. But what I COULD be certain of was she sounded incredulous.
Okay, I get it. I don’t look like a writer. Perhaps, I don’t look nerdy or bookish enough. 😛 Hahah.
But the reason she was so disbelieving had nothing to do with how I look because she then said “But you are so quiet. Whereas in the blog, you are so outspoken.”
For the record, I write something that I feel strongly about. Just as I hate small talk, I also hate writing boring daily stuff of the Korean dramas variety or the Hollywood stars gossips. Simply not my cup of tea. Among the list of things I feel strongly about is justice and oppression. Enough said about the reason for what I wrote.
“I can be outspoken in person too. Just have to give me enough reason to be.”
“Did you write about me?” She was cheeky enough to ask.
I burst out laughing.
“No.” I paused. “Not yet.” (I couldn’t help it. That kind of answer was too delicious to pass up)
“Make sure you let me see first before you publish what you write about me in your blog. If I say okay, then you can publish.” She was all tongue-in-cheek.
I simply had to laugh.
Now, that’s the kind of small talk I enjoy.
Below is the list of myths regarding being an introvert. Some of you may be an introvert but never really realize it. Some of you are polished enough to disguise your discomfort when small talk is required (I can do this sometimes, myself. Disguise my discomfort. But it was not enjoyable).
The list below is courtesy of another fellow introvert known as Carl King, from his blog H.E.R.E. I would say that most of what he said are spot on.
Myth #1 Introverts don’t like to talk
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
(spot on! If I talk about books, or an inspiring film that I have watched, or about a political agenda or about religious misconception, or about domestic violence and the rights of women in Islam….you won’t have a chance to cut me off. Be warned.)
Myth #2 Introverts are shy
Shyness has nothing to do with being an introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
(Very true! I am not afraid of people at all. I just don’t like to deal with strangers unnecessarily. About being polite…I have been labeled socially awkward and rude many times as a child. And over the years I learn to make small talk just enough to make it acceptable. But know that if that’s all you inspire in me – small talk – in the long run, I will get bored of you and will avoid you at all cost. Sometimes your being rude –within context- can appear interesting to me if I was the one being overbearing first; it will make me think that you have some substance and character, some courage and principles. But don’t go overboard. No one like an uncouth person with poor insight.)
Myth #3 Introverts are rude
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be REAL and HONEST. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings. So introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting
(Ditto about being real and honest. I DO feel some pressure about fitting in but NOT a lot. If I don’t fit in, I just walk off and do my own thing. There’s something a little begging-like about trying to fit in that my pride cannot tolerate. I much prefer to take things into perspective… fit in just enough to survive but not trying too hard until they think I can be bullied for it. No way! No how!)
Myth# 4 Introverts don’t like people
On the contrary, introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
(I have nothing to add to this. I agree 100% of what was said.)
Myth#5 Introverts don’t like to go out in public
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for introverts.
(In my case, I can easily recharge with a nice cup of mocha by my bedside and a good novel in hand. And I am full. And life is sweet. I am pretty low maintenance. Doesn’t take much to make me happy.)
Myth#6 Introverts always want to be alone
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
( Whenever I discover something surprising, astounding or something pleasant – mostly a good book, a nice article – I cannot wait to discuss them with someone. I will post it on FB. Or I will search the internet for a book review to see what others out there think about the same book that I’d just read. When I go out, I prefer to go out with 2-3 people at the most. Too much people make conversation go haywire and all over the place. Except when I need more people as a buffer to an intense situation – like meeting someone new for the first time during a family match-make. Ugh! In that kind of situation…small talk is in abundant. Hate it!)
Myth #7 Introverts are weird
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is populour or trendy.
(I don’t think I am rebellious. I am not even anti-authority. I am not even anti-government, you see? Hahah. There you go…how can anyone reasonably call me rebellious then? I NEVER slammed the door on my parents the way kids are doing on TV. I never took drugs or deliberately misbehave at school just to get back at my parents or at the authorities. If I was called rebellious, it was always because I disagreed with what others thought I should do at that time and I verbally argued with them about it. My only fault was refusing to be silent when I don’t like what I see or what I hear, even when those things sometimes do not even happen to me. How many arguments with my parents have I entered for the sake of my sisters rather than for myself when we were growing up? Numerous! It was like an urge I cannot ignore. It was like an itch I cannot stop scratching. Then my parents would conclude “hang laa anak aku yang paling lain sekali dari yang lain.” Hahah. Others simply consign me as a victim of the famous middle child syndrome. I disagree with BOTH their conclusions, but then you already expect my disagreement, don’t you? )
Myth#8 Introverts are aloof nerds
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, playing close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them. It’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
(ditto to every word. It explains greatly why some people can be alone without being lonely. You would be surprised that the introverts – the quiet lone ranger that you deign to feel pity for – are actually more content about their lives than the party animals out there. It explains a great deal why some Hollywood stars who are always surrounded by people, fame, success and money end up committing suicide when they are alone. They simply don’t know how to live when they are stripped off the trappings of society. Some of them compulsively need companion – or otherwise drugs – to ward off the external loneliness. Alhamdulillah, I am simply not capable of being lonely even when I am alone. There are simply many things to do, books to read, things to ponder, thoughts to write. How do people get lonely?)
Myth # 9 Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitters called dopamine. Introverts and extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Look it up.
(Ditto. And read my elaboration on Myth #8. Funny enough, we are always bored by interacting with others we find not stimulating or requires too much small talk – not relaxing and not at all fun. We are never bored by being on our own – that’s relaxation and that’s fun.)
Myth # 10 Introverts can fix themselves and become extroverts
A world without introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an extroverts can learn in order to interact with introverts.
(I won’t say that introverts can ‘fix’ themselves to become extroverts. But I guess, we could try to be more outgoing. After all, practice makes perfect. I know I am not good at small talk…but I can’t avoid it forever. There’re Raya and open houses, There’re kenduri invitations in abundance during school holidays, and once I get married insya Allah, there will be a new host of new relatives I have to get acquainted with. I shudder and shiver just thinking about the amount of socializing I have to do. So yes, over time we learn to make ourselves less tensed and less quiet, more easygoing. We pray that sooner or later, as the relationship strengthen into a genuine friendship, conversation with them will stop becoming another small talk we have to endure.)
This post is dedicated to all introverts out there. Stay genuine and true to yourself. There are enough extroverts out there. No one expects you to be like them. If you don’t feel like talking, just don’t. Perhaps everybody is comfortable that way. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than blurting out something intense when others around you are aiming for a light conversation and easy laughter. So if we keep our mouths shut, everybody will be at ease.
Besides, we do know when and where we can let go in full blast all our intense inner thoughts, right? We still have the blog, after all.