Part of being an introvert is straightforwardly explaining introversion to others—the way a teacher might.

Part of Being an Introvert Is Explaining It—in the Teaching Sense

Being an introvert means calmly explaining your introversion sometimes. That’s explaining as in teaching—not defending, justifying, or apologizing!

You don’t have to defend your introversion, or justify it, or apologize for it—any more than extroverts have to defend, justify, or apologize for their extroversion.

But sometimes—maybe even often in this extroverted culture of ours—you do need to explain your introversion to other people in your life.

I don’t mean explain in the context of “The Brady Bunch,” where father Mike would routinely haul the word out when one of the kids got into some sort of trouble (“you have a lot of explaining to do, young man/young lady”).

That form of explaining, after all, was and still is code for defending, justifying, or apologizing for!

What I do mean is that you sometimes have to explain your introversion to others in the context of pure teaching—of calmly opening another person’s eyes to something that’s new or that was previously unclear to them.

You can use classic “I” statements to express what you need, and explain why, in various situations. It’s a bit of an art form, but it’s one you can easily learn. And it will help you keep both yourself and your relationships healthy and balanced.

Let’s look at a few examples that will give you a better sense of a) the kinds of explaining you’ll be called upon to do, and b) how you can go ahead and do so in a way that’s straightforward and effective.

Explaining to Your Work Colleagues

Suppose you’re the classic introvert who needs plenty of time to think before offering up your opinion on something, but your weekly staff meetings at work are fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants affairs where everyone is expected to essentially wing it in the moment.

While it’s unrealistic to think that these meetings will suddenly become completely thought through in advance, you can talk to the powers that be (i.e., whoever sets up the meetings)—explaining to them that you’d make better contributions if you could have just an inkling, beforehand, of each gathering’s key points of discussion.

“I do my best work when I have a chance to think about things carefully ahead of time,” you might say. “It gives me the opportunity to be fully prepared so that I can best help the team/department/organization.”

Explaining to Your Friends

You enjoy spending time with your friends, but you also enjoy—and need—time to yourself, especially when life is hectic.

So suppose a good friend invites you over for a Saturday afternoon of football watching and popcorn eating. If your brain’s/heart’s first reaction is “no way, no how,” you can simply explain that you’re craving some quiet regrouping time.

“I really appreciate the invite,” you might say, “but honestly, I just need some downtime to breathe and recharge my batteries.”

Two things here:

  1. This is a variation of “it’s not you, it’s me.”
  2. You will quickly find out who your real friends are based on their reaction to this type of statement. They’re the ones who will respond with: “No problem. Another time. Take care of yourself.”

Explaining to Your Kids

It turns out that your kids can wait sometimes—and that if they do have to wait, they won’t die.

So suppose you’ve had a horrible day at work, and that you’ve just arrived home after a 45-minute commute in a raging snowstorm.

Your kid meets you at the door and starts talking about … well, talking about something he/she is excited about. You just have no idea what, because your brain is crispy fried.

You’ll be tempted—and it would only be human—to yell “WAIT!” (or worse).

But instead, try explaining with something like this:

“I know you’re excited, hon, but I need five minutes—just five minutes—to sit and get myself together for you. Then I’ll be able to give you my full attention instead of phoning it in. Sound OK?”

Reminding Your Significant Other

Only one key thing to remember here: Though your significant other already knows you and your introversion quite well, he/she isn’t a mind reader.

So explaining your introversion in this context is less about educating and more about reminding your significant other, in the moment, of how you’re feeling and what you need.

“I’ve just got to decompress for a few minutes before we talk” might be all you have to say.

You just have to say something.

You’ll be surprised by what people in your life are willing and able to handle if you give them a reason.

Again: That’s not a justification for … or a defense of … or an apology for your introversion.

Just a mere explanation of it.

One that will make sense all around.

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