- Michael Thompson
“You’d have more fun if you spoke to more people.”
My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Martin, was a grump. Despite his serious demeanor, and his yelling at me for not understanding advanced calculus, he still holds a special place in my heart.
This isn’t because of something he did, but rather because of something he didn’t do.
Growing up, like some other kids whose best friend is their imagination, I got picked on a lot.
The only thing bigger than my coke bottle glasses was my speech impediment. To make matters worse, for my dad’s job, every year or two my family had to move. I wasn’t a massive fan of school to begin with. But I really hated starting over at a new one.
I had a really hard time saying words that begin with the letter “m.” For the weeks leading up to the first day of school, my palms gushed with sweat thinking about having to say, “My name is Michael,” when my new teacher asked me to introduce myself to the class.
Mr. Martin, however, was different. On the first day of fifth-grade, doing my best to hyperventilate in silence while waiting to be summoned to the stage, something interesting happened, something beautiful: when he came to my name on the attendance sheet, he read it aloud, gave me a look over his gold-rimmed glasses, and then moved onto the next person.
Out of the seven different schools I went to as a kid, he was the only teacher not to utter the words that just about every introvert hates to hear: “Tell us about yourself.”
Along with watching him chain-smoke while proctoring recess, I’ll never forget the kindness he showed me that day.
Over the years I’ve learned how to better respond when put in the spotlight. To this day, however, my palms still get a little clammy when I’m asked to tell people about myself. It’s the first of 7 phrases introverts like me hate to hear.
“You’d have more fun if you spoke to more people.”
I know this may be hard to understand, but some people like to be on their own even when they are around other people.
But don’t misconstrue this with introverts not liking other people. We do. Especially the ones that make stuff for a living. After all, one of our favorite pastimes is people watching.
Don’t worry about us. We’re enjoying ourselves. Observing people at parties is fun for us. Imagining what’s going on between social dynamics can be highly entertaining. Not to mention sitting back and picking up on other people’s quirks.
If you’re going to introduce us to people, however, do us a favor and first provide us with some context. It’s not a coincidence that introverts make friends quickly online; we get to learn about other people first.
“Is that Brandy? OMG, she’s carrying a karaoke machine. This is gonna be amazing.”
I don’t know what Ceasar looked like after he conquered Rome. I would imagine, however, he looked a lot like Brandy the day she walked into my 14th birthday party holding that damn machine.
On the way off the stage, after being forced to sing Like A Virgin, I gave my mom a look that made it very clear the following year we wouldn’t be having a party.
Some of the best singers, actors, and speakers are introverts. Like a lot of things, however, we prefer having a say in whether or not we walk into the spotlight or not.
“Hey, Mike, I hope you don’t mind I brought some board games?” or “Let’s play a nice long game of Hide and Seek!” Now those suggestions would have been super. But pressuring people to sing karaoke isn’t going to win you any introvert points.
So, no, I don’t want to sing. And no, I don’t want to take turns telling our best stories. At least not on the spot or in a room with more than 5 people. But I’d love to listen to your story, and my heart will gush if you tell me you enjoy reading one of mine.
“Do you have anything to add?”
During one of my first jobs, my manager at the end of every meeting would go around and ask everyone if we had anything else to add. It was a giant waste of time. He could have at least asked us if we had anything valuable to add.
Some people went on and on about anything but the topics at hand, while the rest of us got looks for not bringing enough to the table.
Just because we aren’t speaking doesn’t mean we aren’t contributing. Some people need a little space and do their best thinking alone.
“You always have a unique perspective. If you think of something later on, please share it with us.” Now that would have been more effective. Or simply trust in the fact that, when we have something worthy of being said, we will say it.
“Are you okay? You’re awfully quiet.”
I get it. Being around someone who doesn’t talk a lot can be tiring. The same could be said, however, for spending time with people who don’t stop talking.
How would you feel if someone told you that you talk too much? Not great, right? Put on a different pair of shoes.
If we’re being quiet, it doesn’t mean we’re weird or depressed. Sometimes, in fact, it can mean we are seriously happy.
The next time you want to ask someone who is sitting in silence if they are ok, just sit down next to them. We don’t always have to talk to enjoy each other’s company. Observing and listening to the world in peace and quiet can be nice.
If someone says to you, “Are you okay? You’re being quiet,” simply reply, “Thank you. I enjoy listening to people. I find them fascinating.” That usually does the trick.
“We just got here. I’m not ready to leave yet.”
Few things are worse for us than agreeing to go somewhere for a bit only for it to turn into an all-day affair.
It’s right up there with the sometimes uncomfortable, “I hope you don’t mind, but my friends Carl and Bruce will also be joining us.”
A bit means two hours, not eight. Plus, most of the good stuff that happens after a few hours of hanging out in a large group, actually occurs in small groups.
So please don’t say, “Come on, you never want to hang out.” or “Just a few more minutes.” It does our head in. Instead, tell us to just say the code “blueberry pancakes” when we are ready to leave. That will make our eyes light up.
“Only losers stay home on Friday night.”
After spending all week working with other people, some people enjoy nothing more than spending time alone to recharge. Or maybe with a small group of selective people.
This doesn’t make us losers. Nor does it make us antisocial. In fact, if you want us to hang out more, calling us names probably won’t get you very far. The same goes for “You aren’t any fun,” and “Making friends is easy. You’re just doing it wrong.”
We live in a world that already demands us to be social more than we would sometimes like. Choosing to stay home or hang out in a more intimate setting isn’t a character flaw. It’s who we are. Being alone gives us the energy to be more outgoing when we are with other people.
Some people thrive in the spotlight. Others shine in the comfort of a dimly lit room.
Figuring out which lighting is right for us is important. So is, however, taking the time to identify the preferred lighting of the people around us.
Our words hold power, both good and bad. Why not choose the ones that light people up, instead of the ones that bring people down.
If you enjoyed this article you may also like “11 Phrases Socially Aware People Don’t Say.”