Extroverts, How Can We Communicate with You Better … ?



Setting Boundaries

This is a big one, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with it. Perhaps it is because I hate conflict. And setting a boundary with someone will often result in conflict.

What does this mean for us introverts? Well, I can speak from my own experience. I hate conflict and tension and I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I tend not to speak up when something is bothering me.

The situation with my friendly neighbor is a good example. For years I have felt unable to just say “Hey, please don’t come over so often.” or “You know, I really don’t want to talk right now. Please excuse me.” In effect, I have taught her, over the years, that it’s perfectly okay to come over and talk to me whenever she wants to. It’s NOT okay, but she doesn’t know that, because I’ve never come right out and said so.

Also, as an introvert, I tend to be pretty tuned in to the body language, etc. of others. But it seems to me as though extroverts generally are not. So the signals I try to send go unnoticed. You know what I mean. “Chatty Cathy” comes sailing up. She does not notice my lack of a smile, my curt answers, my turning away. She continues to talk even as I continue to do whatever I was doing, never picking up on what I think are perfectly clear signals to “Please Leave Me Alone!!!” So two things happen. She thinks it’s okay to interrupt my private time, and I get angrier and angrier as time goes by. Maybe I didn’t start out hostile, but I end up becoming pretty hostile after repeated assaults on my solitude.

Of course, the other thing that happens is that because I am so unwilling to hurt someone’s feelings,

I often pretend polite interest when inside I’m seething. This is really my own fault – and I need to stop doing it so much. I can’t really blame someone for intruding on me if I’ve never let him know he IS intruding.

This happens at work, too. For some reason, I am a magnet for every extrovert who needs a “talk break”. Why do they come to ME?? I really want to post a “No Parking” sign on the wall across from my cubicle. People come to my cubicle (which is at the back of our offices – people have to go out of their way to find me), lean on that wall, and talk away. I am not completely anti-social. Sometimes I welcome the company and a SHORT conversation. What I cannot stand is when someone parks him or herself there in order to talk AT me. You know what I’m talking about. But I’m too polite to do anything more than sit there feeling victimized while Chatty goes on and on and on. . . . (I had a cube neighbor once who seemed to think that he needed to read all of his emails to me, out loud. He would go through his inbox reading his emails out loud and making commentary on each one while I sat on my side of the cube wall screaming silently “Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!”)

I wonder. Why do I feel like it would be rude for me to say something like “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now – I need to concentrate on this project”? Or even just “Could you please be quiet?” Chatty isn’t concerned that perhaps he or she is being rude by interrupting me, right? Chatty is clearly not concerned about MY feelings. Why am I so worried about his?

Well, I am trying to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. I’ve decided that I’m not being fair to myself by letting the “Chattys” of the world talk at me whenever they want to, and I’m not being fair to THEM by not letting them know they’re bothering me. So I’m going to try setting some boundaries.

The problem is, some extroverts simply don’t understand that they are being intrusive. They think they are just being normally friendly, and if we try to set the tiniest boundary in the gentlest way, they get upset. I imagine this is particularly likely if we’ve never spoken up before and they feel blindsided when we finally DO say something. I am having to handle my neighbor with kid gloves and appeal to her desire to see herself as a sensitive, thoughtful person in order to avoid creating an enemy. My initial attempt to share with her that I’m an introvert and need my private space was met with defensiveness, hurt feelings and statements to the effect that “I don’t think I’ve ever intruded on your privacy. Fine, I just won’t talk to you anymore.” Sigh. I’ve had to do some serious damage control and I still don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be, yet. With some people it seems to be an “all or nothing” deal. Either they get to call the shots and talk to you when-ever and where-ever THEY want to, or they won’t talk to you at all. Why can’t there be a middle ground?

At work, I have had some success already. I have a coworker who loves to tell me all about TV shows he’s watched, books he’s reading, and the like. There are two problems with this person, who I really do like, by the way. The problems are that number one, the books he reads and shows he watches are about things that don’t interest me one bit, and number two, he talks AT me. It is impossible to have a two way conversation with him. He talks, I listen. In order to say anything, I have to raise my voice and interrupt, and we know how introverts hate to do THAT! Fortunately, he is not easily offended, and I’ve been able to cut him off by saying “You know what? You lost me. I am not interested in <fill in the blank>” and just turning back to my computer screen. He’ll just direct his conversation to someone else. I’ve even just walked away from him in mid-sentence. It feels rude to me, but he doesn’t seem to notice, and it solves my problem, at least for that moment.

I plan to get an iPod. I figure I can put the earbuds in even if I’m not listening to music, and hopefully it will make people think twice before interrupting me. This will also help when I’m being annoyed by noise in general, be it a noisy lunch table or a conversation going on near me.

We do, generally, have to “get along” in this world as a misunderstood minority, but I think there are things we can learn to do for ourselves to make it just a little easier, one step at time.

Introverts, can you relate? How do YOU manage the “Chattys” of your world?

Extroverts, how can we communicate with you better, and help you to understand us without hurting your feelings?

Email me! Hermit.loner@yahoo.com



~ by nancyfenn on June 28, 2007.

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