If you’re an introvert then there’s a good chance you’ve had at least one of these phrases said to you. Probably many of them. Probably many times.

  • You should come out of your shell
  • You need to put yourself out there
  • You ought to make more friends
  • You’re so boring
  • Why do you hate people?
  • What’s wrong? / Are you okay?
  • Why are you in a bad mood? / Are you depressed?
  • Come out – we’ll cheer you up
  • You overthink / overanalyse everything
  • You ought to get out of the house more
  • You’re too sensitive
  • You should smile more
  • Why are you so quiet? / Why don’t you talk more?
  • It’s not healthy to spend so much time alone
  • You need to try harder / come out of your comfort zone / change

And, based on the responses when I asked about such comments on the Louder Minds Facebook Page, you are absolutely fed up with hearing them.

So what can you do? How should you respond?

Well, carefully, is my advice.

Because, for one thing, the people who make these comments are often speaking out of love, concern, or worry about you.

For another, explaining introversion to a non-introvert is not easy. It’s a bit like explaining chocolate to a person without taste buds: it can be very frustrating and somehow in the process you end up eating a lot of chocolate.

With that in mind, here are a few steps for dealing with advice from well-meaning friends and loved ones.

Not Depressed, Not Lonely, Just INTROVERTED

Step 1. Accept Yourself First

Accepting yourself is the single most important thing you can do to convince others that you are fine as you are.

If you judge yourself harshly, compare yourself unfairly to more gregarious people, apologise for your preferences, feel inadequate because you dislike parties and enjoy your own company (EGADS what a monster!), then other people are going to pick up on it.

But if instead you accept that being an introvert is part of you; if you allow yourself to take absolute pleasure in this, to relish your time alone and your solitary pursuits instead of feeling embarrassed by them; if you cultivate a sense of joy in the geeky/quiet/reserved aspect of yourself – then that will come across too.

How can you nurture this self-acceptance?

If you like to journal, begin to write about the simple pleasures of your introvert life. Dear Diary, today I spent time with me. It was ever so dreamy.

If you like to talk, discuss these joys with a good friend. No, not a bottle-of-wine-friend, a person-friend. Though maybe bottle-friend can join you both.

If you practice mindfulness, become aware of how great it feels to engage in your work and hobbies and interests and geeky pursuits. Breathing in: I am surrounded by books and the remote and snacks. Breathing out: I am happy.

However you do it, consciously enjoy your introvert pleasures – and feel your enjoyment!

Allow yourself to take absolute pleasure, to relish your time alone and your solitary pursuits, instead of feeling embarrassed by them.

The more you allow yourself to appreciate your unique experience of life, the less other people will worry about you – or if they do, the less you’ll let it bother you.

Step 2. Pick Your Battles

One of the happy side effects of accepting yourself is an instant, dramatic reduction in the number of fucks you give about what other people think about you.

Of course there’ll be true friends and loved ones who matter, and with whom you’ll want to have a deeper conversation, as we’ll discuss in the next step.

But for the most part, you’ll simply cease to care about being misjudged or misunderstood by the majority of advice givers. It’s very unlikely you’ll change their view, and life’s too short to try. This is incredibly liberating. One of the major epiphanies of my adult life has been realising that is it’s actually okay to be misunderstood. Letting go of defending yourself saves so much energy.

For these people, dealing with unwanted advice can be as simple as:

  • Using humour:
    You know I don’t just have one shell, right? I have a whole closet full of shells. But I think this one brings out my eyes.
  • Saying thanks:
    (with a smile and maybe a squeeze of the hand) I appreciate that you care about me.
  • Changing the subject:
    Speaking of [something you weren’t speaking of at all], let me now introduce a complete non-sequitur…
  • Turning the tables*:
    It’s so funny you should say that, because I was thinking you go out too much. What are your thoughts on that?
    (*You need to be able to do this with a wink and a smile or it could backfire.)
  • Streamlining your friendships:
    The art of simplifying your friendships is a post in itself, so stay tuned for that soon. But in short, introverts tend to be happier with fewer, deeper friendships. Be prepared to spend more of your limited energy on fewer people who matter to you more.

One of the major epiphanies of my adult life has been realising that is it’s actually okay to be misunderstood. Letting go of defending yourself saves so much energy.

Step 3. Come Out As An Introvert

For the people in your life who matter to you, it’s worth explaining a little about what it’s like to be an introvert.

Because for them, especially people at the high end of extraversion, doing the things we do with their personality make-up would be depressing. They would be miserable!

Remember that just as we are easily overstimulated, which we find extremely uncomfortable, they are easily understimulated, which they find extremely uncomfortable. They know how bad they would feel if they behaved as we do, staying home, having solitary interests, being quiet – and they want to save us from that.

By helping them understand that what makes us happy is different, that we enjoy different things, we can reassure them that they don’t have to worry about us, or try to change us, or keep giving us advice.

So how can you have this conversation?

Here are some articles to help. You may like to read them and then raise some of the issues with your loved ones. Or you could simply share these links and let your loved ones ask any questions that come up for them.

Being Happy In Your Way

Sadly, especially for those of us who like to be in control and would make an excellent Queen Of The World, you can’t change other people. And the more you rail against people’s annoying habits, the more you set them in place.

But by changing yourself you can change the dynamic in a relationship, and that often causes the other person to change as well.

If you’re fed up with unwanted advice from people who don’t understand your introvert ways, look first at your own behaviour. Make sure you’re setting the standard with your own self-acceptance. This is absolutely crucial and on its own will change your relationship with yourself and with others.

A lot of your concern about other people’s opinions will fall away, and you’ll be able to be deal with their advice more lightly, with humour, with kindness.

Make sure you’re setting the standard with your own self-acceptance. This is absolutely crucial and on its own will change your relationship with yourself and with others.

And for the people in your life who really matter, the ones who deserve a real conversation, you’ll have the energy, and I’m hoping this site will give you the resources, to understand each other better. And to let each other to be happy in your own way.

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