For the extroverted, accurately perceiving and respectfully interacting with the introverted can be quite confusing. When in doubt, extroverts tend to plunge into the introverted bubble. Many introverts are well equipped to suffer through awkward encounters, even if they find them unenjoyable. Still, it will be appreciated by the introverted if the extroverted in their lives had some understanding of these three common, cringeworthy introvert experiences.
1. The Rorschach effect
Many introverts are prone to display ambiguous facial expressions. An introvert's enigmatic visual feedback may open itself to social interpretation. It is not uncommon for introverts to experience misalignment between their thoughts and feelings and that which is felt, assumed, or projected onto them by others in the harried social milieu. At the very least, introverts are well acquainted with encountering intrigue about their tendency toward quietude. Being quieter may even raise others people's anxiety.
Rorschach inkblots help assess the meanings a person may be projecting onto their world. These long-employed tools have been known to confuse the visual cortex. We tend to see what we want to see. In the same vein, introverts often appear as indistinct social-emotional shapes open to interpretation, and, in the absence of expressive feedback, sometimes others project their own meanings and emotions onto introverts. Introverts are typically painfully aware of the effect their social posture has on others.
2. The "How am I the last one to leave?" phenomenon
Though introverts don’t often love chatting at mixers or after meetings, it is not unusual for the last pair of chatters in a room to include one introvert who secretly has been attempting to escape the conversation. Many introverts are well-acquainted with feeling that they are being held conversationally hostage. The other person likely has no idea they have such a captive audience. Meanwhile, the introvert endures.
3. The reassurance that you are not introverted conversation
Many an introvert has been reassured, “Oh, you’re not an introvert. You actually communicate really well!” Introverts protect themselves from excess psychological energy loss incurred through social interaction, but they still need social relations and a feeling of belonging, too.
Introverts aren't especially deficient in verbal articulation, nor do they necessarily hate talking. Many introverts love interpersonal communication. Many also primarily prefer chatting one-to-one, or on topics for which they have had ample time to privately reflect.
Introverts think differently from extroverts. And, they tend to communicate differently. Introverts, for example, famously avoid small talk, usually needing to think it out before they can very well talk it out. They listen more than they talk, and their silence can be mistaken for disinterest, or worse.
Carl Jung deciphered the behavior of extroverts as psychological energy directed externally. In fact, Jung said that, for extroverts, the world of other people is an inexhaustible fascination, tempting them never to look for anything else. Introverts’ fascinations tend to revolve around activity taking place within their mind. This does not exclude the external world, yet it does place it in a different order of operations, so to speak.
This year, my daughters learned the order of mathematical operations, captured in the acronym PEMDAS—parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction—often put to the mnemonic "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” Yet some algebra problems require “reverse PEMDAS."
It's a useful analogy: for introverts, the same psychological operations exist, but in a different order.
Introverts are puzzling to many in a society that prizes extroversion. No wonder such cringeworthy encounters so frequently occur.