Stay out of my bubble!

I'm an introvert. Every person in my life will tell you that. I'm perfectly happy to be left alone for hours on end, with no sound whatsoever except the hum of my laptop's cooling pad. As I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon this is the exact state I've been in for the last four hours. My social interaction today has consisted of asking my mom if both the cats are outside and telling her I found an SFR where Russia is the dominant culture, and a thirty second conversation with my brother before he left for work. He's an extrovert, by the way, could sell a lifetime supply of ice and reindeer meat to a Finnish reindeer herder.

We introverts tend to be a misunderstood lot. People think we're weird, there's "something wrong" with us because we're not friends with every person we meet and we don't talk all the time or have to be the center of attention. We don't like being interrupted when we're engrossed in something. For some of us the idea of talking to people we don't know is downright terrifying. We're not afraid of silence or being still or the dreaded (to extroverts anyway) "being alone".

A lot of people, all of them extroverts I'm sure, tell us there's something wrong with us. I'm also a homeschool graduate and never spent a single day in a public or private school classroom. I'm very comfortable with who I am and mostly immune to peer pressure. Homeschooling provides, in my opinion, the perfect atmosphere for introverts to thrive. We're not drowning in noise. We can go off to another part of the house and be alone while we do math so we can think. People aren't constantly trying to talk to us and get us to "open up". I thrived in a homeschool setting, whereas in a public school setting I would have withered up and never discovered my creative side.

Because of that, many homeschooled children are introverts who are always being accused of having no socialization skills. Nine times out of ten it's a bald-faced lie. There is NOTHING wrong with a kid who'd rather read than talk about nothing with people who think he's weird or rude or aloof or socially awkward.

I'm a homeschooled introvert. I don't lack social skills. I simply interact in a different way. If I have my head down in a book or a notebook or I'm staring into space, leave me the hell alone! If I want to talk to you I will. Don't try to chit-chat with me. You'll get nowhere real fast. This is actually etiquette rule #1 for dealing with introverts: Don't try to force us to be like you.

For some of us, extroverts are scary. I'm not one of them, and at writer's conferences I do a pretty good imitation of being an extrovert. But I pay for it when I get home with a week of being totally, mind-numbingly exhausted and I stay locked in my room, emerging only for food and the bathroom. And The Big Bang Theory, of course. But I also know when I'm at writer's conferences most of the other attendees are introverts too. It's easy to be a little more outgoing when we're surrounded by people who UNDERSTAND why you drift off into space, or huddle in a corner, and don't force their way into a most sacred bubble because you can't possibly be having a good time over there by yourself.

What sparked this whole rumination was Twitter and the link to an article in The Atlantic, called "Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up At School". It's a teacher ruminating on her interactions with the parents of introverts in regards to class participation grades. What ticked me off was this:
This is no problem for the extroverts, who live for the opportunity to talk about their ideas. However, I also teach introverts, who live in fear of being asked these sorts of questions
Hmm. For a teacher who said she's read "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", she doesn't seem to have really grasped the difference between an introvert and someone with real, valid social anxiety. I don't know a single introvert who lives in fear of being asked questions. But quite a few of us live in fear of others' reactions to our answers, or being made fun of because we have a different view of something. Public school settings are one of the most hostile places in the world for a young introvert.

Yes, students need to participate in class. That's how many learn. But introverts tend to learn best by reading or seeing. Not by talking. Instead of a teacher focusing on the fear of an introvert student, the teacher AND PARENTS should be making every effort to help the introvert be comfortable in the exchange. Talking about an introvert being afraid of something will make the introvert afraid of said something.

Thankfully one of the stories linked to in this article is another about Caring For Your Introvert. I love this:
The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."
This is also pure genius, especially the third one:
How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.
Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"
Third, don't say anything else, either.

To sum up I present the link to the best infographic I've seen in a long time.


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