Introverts just need to be understood

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Introverts behave differently from extroverts.

This may well be the only important thing that anyone who wish to understand introverts need to know about.

Consider the following real life scenario, with fictitious names used:

Scenario 1:

Jane Tan,  a lecturer,  was about to start a lesson soon but the projector in the classroom just wasn’t working.

Fiddling with the remote control, she just can’t find a way to get it working. The projector is on but it just doesn’t project the content on the lecturer’s laptop on the screen.

Just as Jane was about to give up, a student stood up, grabbed the remote control from her hand, pointed it in the direction of the projector, pressed a few buttons, and it worked! Returning the remote control to her, the student merely smiled gently and returned to his seat, but not before receiving a heartfelt thanks from Jane.

Not a word was spoken by the student, but he solved a dilemma faced by an educator with ease – and in time.

What does this mean?

“Introverts process their thoughts mentally and often focus on the necessary. Verbal conversations and actions are possible for them but engaging in such acts drain them of their energy. 

Hence, to understand their thoughts and intentions, observe their actions.”

Scenario 2:

Mary Lim, a librarian, was busy at work at the front line counter when a young chap in mid-thirties approach her, passing her his library membership card.

“Excuse me, ” he began. “I have reserved  a book and I would like to collect them. I have already paid the reservation fees and I would like an extension of the book loan if nobody is reserving them.”

“Sure thing,” Mary looked at the man while smiling. “Please hold on while I get the book.”

She got up from her seat and headed to the cupboard at the back, where the reserved books were kept.

While Mary was away, the man started flipping through a calendar, starting from the first page. Soon, he was looking at the reverse page of each page as well. He kept doing that for every page. After having seen all the pages, he flipped back the calendar to its original arrangements and looked at the remaining pages on the other side.

Mary came back with the reserved book in her hands and began processing it on her computer. While she was doing that, she kept looking at the man, wondering what he was doing.

As he continued flipping the pages, he smiled.

“So, can I have the loan extension? Nobody has reserved them, right?”

“Right,” Mary replied, with a somewhat puzzled look on her face.

The man finished scanning the pages and meticulously placed the calendar back to its original location.

Mary finished processing the book and passed it to the man, placing the man’s library membership card and borrowing slip on the book cover.

“There, it’s done.”

“Thank you.” The man smiled, collected his reserved book, and left the library.

From the first encounter till its conclusion, Mary has no idea what the man has been doing.

However, if she has observed carefully, she would have noticed that the man’s eyes remained fixated on the right side of the calendar throughout the pages which he has browsed. Now, the next question is why. The reason is simple. There is a list of recommended book titles, one on the right side of each page. And the man is merely looking at any interesting titles he might like to borrow or reserve in the near future.

“Most introverts think and act in their heads, seldom seeing a need to explain their rationale to others. This is why they are often misunderstood in school and in the workplace. Extroverts would face other social issues but often, not this.

This is because extroverts would sooner exclaim “Wow, what an interesting list of book titles on this calendar! Mind if I take a look? I am sure you won’t, right?” Extroverts proclaim their thoughts verbally first, while introverts proclaim their thoughts mentally first, and often, won’t verbalise them unless someone whom they trust asks.  In a world dominated by extroverts,  this difference makes a world of difference between someone who is perceived as sociable, and someone who seems to lack social skills.”

To communicate with introverts, these are some questions we can ask ourselves:

1. Are we taking the initiative to communicate with them? We need to.

2. Are we asking them what they are thinking at this point in time? Especially in the classroom or business meetings? Remember, introverts live in their heads. They often live in two worlds: an inner world of ideal possibilities, and an outer world of physical reality. This is why introverts are often deemed as dreamers. But it is in their dreams where they make creative connections.

3. What are your interests and hobbies? Introverts are often intellectually attractive, something that others may be oblivious to – until they talk to them. Then they would realise that introverts can really talk -especially on subjects of their interests.  

4. Do you prefer to correspond in writing? Introverts do not communicate superbly in person, and may not even make an impression during social gathering or parties. But they are often excellent communicators and writers on paper, which includes emails.

As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, said:

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

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