Should We Stop Enabling Introverts?

Are orangutans introverts?

Approach with caution! Don’t back them into a corner! Wait to be invited into their space!

Wild animals? Nope. Introverts.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to track and secure the wild introvert beast. Put introvert infographic in Google, and chances are you’ll find advice such as:

I’m an INFJ or INTJ, depending on the day. Sometimes I’m more extroverted, just like anybody with more than one dimension is sometimes one thing and sometimes another. So while I appreciate a comfort zone crutch as much as anyone, reading all these tips on how to treat introverts bugs me. I’m not referring to respect and common courtesies. It’s language such as “let them” and “give them” that makes me feel like I have a condition to be coddled and cozened beyond the basics, and that makes me look at my behavior in turn. 

I don’t want to be limited, even if it’s giving me a clear out. I don’t want to be handled. And I don’t want to be held back in my job because the popular perception is to leave the introvert alone. 

Introverts can be very good at creating safe zones. It’s a survival trait: There’s a comfort zone behind the screen, behind a door, among the weeds. It’s the “you can’t see me” trick when you bury your head in the pillows, forgetting that the rest of you is still hanging out in the open, a sham security team guarding us from the trigger-charged panic waiting behind the curtain.

I know that a lot of this is on me. It’s not easy when you’re comfortable with your introvert walls, even as you recognize they can hold you back, even as you have to expend extra energy to keep them up. When “you gotta speak up” holds true in both work and life situations, speaking up for myself is a good goal to have.

I’m not saying to come up and push me out of my comfort zone. I just don’t want to be shot in the foot by a well-meaning set of guidelines before I even start.

I asked my friend Ty, a self-styled introvert blogger, for his opinion. He didn’t want to be labeled as someone that needed to be “handled” in a certain way either. Yet he suggested for consideration that this country was “built to such an obvious, all-encompassing advantage for the extroverted, these sometimes overly simplistic, quasi-insulting memes, posters, blogs and listicles may be inevitable as those who have no introverted reference point in their lives at all attempt to bridge said gaps.”

This makes sense. As with my earlier post on gendered inspirational images, sometimes there needs to be some catching up on one side for us all to move forward as one. If that includes oversimplified advice for awhile, maybe that’s just the way the first few steps have to be.

So yes, it’s on me to figure things out personally–Ty says we are all on a spectrum and can opt to move ourselves along it to fit our circumstances–but it’s also on all of us to take a step back from accepting statements at face value, no matter how well-designed.

Information and infographics are great. As my friend Heather says, as we’re inundated with all these opinions and advice, it’s up to all of us to take responsibility in how we relate to people outside the descriptions. We need to be mindful in finding a balance that’s not too much of anything, whether it’s coddling or encouraging.

Are introvert infographics/advice too enabling? Do you look at them as more helpful than harmful?

Also read: Introverts Don’t Need Spotline to Shine, How to Care for Extroverts (an infographic from the other side, in case you’re curious), and Introverts and Extraverts and Power (oh my!). If you’re still figuring things out while struggling with your career, try Introverts: A Guide to Help Find the Job You’ll Love. And if you really want an introvert infographic, try this one.

Orangutan courtesy of Animal Planet.

2 thoughts on “Should We Stop Enabling Introverts?

  1. Awesome, awesome post, B. I love this. According to Myers-Briggs, I am ENFJ, but I have a hard time believing it some days. On another scale (wish I could remember which one), I also netted out “E”, but it was seriously like a 51/49 split (so that was super validating). I think Ty nailed it. If nothing else, we can hope that these infographics can create some awareness for those lacking it completely.


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