Knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
‘I never thought I WAS weird!’ came the abrupt reply. ‘It’s everyone else that’s got the problem’.
I was taken aback.
It was a few years ago and I was having a conversation with a lady about what it meant for us when we realised we were introverts. I was just starting to discover what it meant for me, and said ‘isn’t it nice to realise you’re not actually completely weird!?’
She launched into a tirade of abuse about all the weirdos who didn’t understand her. For starters, there were the complaints she had received about the way she spoke in public when she was delivering presentations.
She went on, ‘they say I’m too quiet and they can’t hear me. But I’m peaceful and calm, just because they’re not used to it, that shouldn’t mean that I have to change. They need to get over themselves.’
Avoid the Trap
I was blown away by her instant and blind-forceful defensiveness and made a vow never to let such a thing become a tool I would use to justify myself in that way. If identifying with such a label wasn’t going to help me in a positive way then I didn’t want it at all.
She tainted the term for me, made me step back and recoil at what it might mean to embrace being an introvert. She projected this victim story onto the world, deciding that everyone else was to blame and that there was nothing she could learn or grow out of it. I soon realised however that it was her problem, not one shared by all introverts in general.
It was clear that there was something in there that I needed to be aware of and guard against.
1. Don’t Get Caught in the Cycle
In a recent article Paul Jarvis wrote about an ironic cycle that those of us interested in becoming more productive and better at using our time may find ourselves caught in.
“Think about it. If you’re focused on learning about productivity, you’re not technically productive at all because you’re spending all your time learning about productivity instead of working. What percentage of lifehacks do you readily apply to your life and are then much better for it? Do you simply consume these tips because it feels like you’re taking action without having to actually act?
It’s a trap. A perfect trap. And it’s one we’ve all had our foot caught in at some time.”
This example is indicative of how our search for solutions can be so tied up with the problem itself:
“Feeling overwhelmed? Here are 4,539 tips to overcome anxiety — and the 675th one you’ll have to read to believe!”
Don’t become addicted to learning because it makes you feel better. Use what you learn and apply it so that it makes you live better and need less of the thing itself.
2. Don’t Become Judgemental
It’s easy to adopt the mentality of ‘it’s everyone else that’s got the problem’, but this is a really divisive and damaging attitude to carry around with us.
Everyone is different and just because it might be hard to truly understand what makes someone of a different temperament tick, it doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t do it. If you’re carrying that much defensive bitterness and resentment around with you about then there is work to be done.
3. Don’t Stop Listening to Yourself
You are still you, a completely unique blend of human regardless of any labels you have. You make your own choices and have your own preferences. Don’t allow labels to dictate how you respond or act.
Make space to listen to yourself, to converse with your emotions and to grapple with decisions you need to make. Never do or refuse to do something just because you’re ‘an introvert’ or HSP. There must be a more compelling and personal reason.
4. Don’t Stop Learning and Growing
Despite experiencing an overwhelming ‘aha! moment’ and it feeling like everything has suddenly fallen into place remember that you never reach the end of learning or personal growth.
There is always more to learn, to explore, and there is an endless potential within us that we will never fully realise, however long we live. Embrace the blank canvas of each day to paint something new.
5. Don’t Turn Your Back on People
Discovering how you are orientated to the world is a liberating thing. But it also brings into focus the differences between you and others. Embrace and enjoy these differences, especially with friends and family. Don’t use them as some kind of weapon to say ‘you don’t understand me’ before turning your back.
As humans we can have a tendency to do this in the midst of learning something new; we see it when people discover an ideology, religion, or a revolutionary way of thinking to them. Suddenly everyone else becomes stupid and wrong…at least for a while. Be aware when this is happening.
6. Don’t Become Defensive
Being an introvert or highly sensitive person can quickly become a filter for everything, including criticism. Don’t become defensive every time someone questions a choice you make.
The person I spoke with dismissed those who came to her, asking if she could be clearer and speak up in presentations. She took this as an attack on her as an introvert and threw it back at them, becoming defensive, which in turn led to her falling into the next trap…
7. Don’t Become Aggressive
Defensiveness may turn into aggression if you don’t process the situation properly. When you take the comments and turn them round, throwing them back at the other person.
Introverts and highly sensitive people are often natural peacemakers. Use this intuition to diffuse rather than fuel divisions between different temperaments. Help others to understand and presume (sometimes you may need to do so ignorantly) that nothing is said in malice.
8. Don’t Stop Encouraging Others Who Need the Same Information As You
We may forget that everyone is at different stages of their journey in discovering truths about who they are. Prioritise the encouragement and support of others who need to hear the things you’ve heard. Look back at those profound moments of ‘aha!’ and pass them on to others.
9. Don’t Use Labels to Justify Yourself
Bear in mind that when you use a label you are speaking on behalf of all who identify with it and moulding the perception that others have of us.
If you let someone down by not showing up to something without notice and say ‘sorry, it’s because I’m an introvert, I didn’t have the energy, I needed to stay at home’, then that is painting a picture of introverts. As far as that person is concerned they are all unreliable and non-dependable in their mind.
By using the label you become responsible for the reputation of all others who use it too. Do so wisely.
10. Don’t Alienate Those Who Don’t Identify
Introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts are not on different sides. We are on the same team.
We’re simply going through a period of realising that we’ve been trying to play the goalkeeper and defenders as strikers, getting frustrated when they don’t score goals. And playing strikers in defence, finding it odd that they’re getting frustrated, shipping goals, and not being as effective as we want them to be.
We’re re-jigging the team so that everyone fits into their natural position and that we can play together properly.
The team needs everyone; the team flourishes when every member of it is able to find their natural position and play there.
Over to You
Do you see yourself or other people falling into any of these traps? Are there any other pitfalls that you have come across? Please leave your response in the comments below.