While I’ve had a couple of close friends who were extroverted (including my high school best friend), the vast majority of my close friends have been introverts.
That was how I got my social start back in elementary school. Shy kids flocked to me. I was often the group spokesperson, being brave on my friends’ behalf. Checking with adults to see if toys or play spaces were available for use and reporting back.
Later, I was the one who yelled at attacking bullies and kept them from whitewashing my friends. For those who didn’t have it done to them growing up, whitewashing is having your face forcibly held into a snowbank, typically while your tormentor laughs at you.
I can proudly say that none of my close friends suffered a whitewash in those years. I was subjected to three myself because of this, the ones I couldn’t talk my way out of or run away from (I was a quick runner but clumsy and prone to falling down at inconvenient moments).
And when my friend Emma got slapped with headgear in 4th grade and became self-conscious about her diction, we worked out a system where she’d whisper her answer into my ear when the teacher called on her and I was allowed to report it to the rest of the class on her behalf.
That sort of thing.
I Get Mistaken for an Introvert More Than I Used to Be
Very little has changed. Well, I do get mistaken for introverted more than I used to — primarily because I’m a writer, and that’s the stereotype. We’re supposed to be quite introverted since we’re always spending a lot of time staring at walls imagining things, an activity which at least for me entails a lot of silence and isolation (both of which I manage just fine).
And not only that, but I grew up in rural Maine, where even the extroverted folks are kind of introverted and socially anxious compared to people anywhere else.
When I first moved to a major city, I was taken aback by how outgoing everyone was — even folks who were considered introverted or even shy — by themselves or others.
Country introvert is different than city introvert.
So nowadays, I guess I strike most people as somewhere in the middle of extroverted and introverted. And which side they typically land on depends on the context they saw me in. What I was doing at the time.
I Always Think Introverts Hate Me When They Don’t
Anyway, one thing that really hasn’t changed is that I tend to pick up introverted friends fairly easily.
And not only easily but unexpectedly.
Because nearly every time I’ve made friends with an introvert, it’s been after I’ve met them and decided after the interaction that they must think I’m annoying. Maybe they even despise me.
Well, I’ll think, that didn’t go so well. Too bad too because they seem neat, and I would have liked to get a chance to know them.
And then lo and behold, they’ll reach out to me… sending a friends request or a message or something.
Or I’ll run into them at another party, and they’ll walk right up to me, seek me out. Giving the clearest possible signal that, wait, in fact they not only don’t hate me — they actually like me.
Seriously. This keeps happening to me. I have countless friendships that started this way. In fact, I was pretty sure my (introverted) husband despised me when we first met (and if I’m being honest, for a while after).
It’s pretty silly. Still manages to confuse me after all this time. I’ve learned to keep an open mind that what I think is a disastrous first introduction actually might have been a pleasant one to the other person.
And at least it doesn’t seem to cause many problems long term, even if it can be awkward in the short term.