Being the Introvert in an Extroverted Family

By: Brad Manock

        introvert    I am a very introverted person. This means that I would much rather have a one-on-one conversation or be by myself rather than be around large groups of people. I live in the most extroverted of the fifty United States of America, which is Wisconsin. People in Wisconsin are so insanely extroverted that being an introvert is not only perceived as odd, but as rude and morally wrong. In this article I will discuss some of the things that happen when I attend large family get-togethers.

 

I’m Just Tired

            Introverts get their energy drained very quickly when they interact with large numbers of people. As a general rule: introverts restore mental energy when they are alone, extraverts restore mental energy when they are around lots of other people. Whenever I would be at some kind of large family function they would notice that I look tired all of the time. I work night-shifts currently so I would always claim that I am tired because of working the previous night. This is a lie that I basically have to tell because it would be perceived as disrespectful if I said “I like everybody in my family as individuals but I really don’t like being around all of you at the same time.” The “I’m tired because I work nights” lie is very convenient for me.

 

Entering and Leaving, What is “Polite”

            In terms of large family get-togethers, entering and leaving are the most awkward times. When I have broken the collective ice a little bit I can usually retreat to a comfortable place until it is time to leave. Usually a chair in the living room or the end of a couch. But when I enter the house for the first time of the day, it seems I am expected to go around and say “hi” to all of the people present no matter how well I might actually know each individual person.

            Leaving the get-together is probably the more awkward experience. It seems that extraverted people say goodbye as if one of them is definitely going to die before they can see each other again. My mom will usually tell me “go give your grandparents hugs.” My brain decodes this message as “go give your grandparents hugs since they are the oldest and will probably die soon.” So I go give those hugs and say bye to everyone else. What is the worst though is when I would be told to say bye to someone who I did not even speak to during my time there. I do not speak to every single person every single time. There have been times where someone would reply “oh I didn’t even know you were here, ok bye.”

 

“Go Talk to Them!”

            My grandmother has a very bad habit. She seems determined to recruit me to the “extroverted” side by telling me to talk to people. If there is a cousin I haven’t yet talked to, she will say “go talk to them, you haven’t talked to them yet, is there a problem where you are mad at each other?” None of these things were the case in reality, I just happened to not talk to that person yet.

            My grandma seems to have this mental spreadsheet full of either check marks or empty spaces. If she sees empty spaces then that needs to be fixed. If there is someone I haven’t talked to yet she will go out of her way to push me into an in-organic conversation with that person. When she tells me to go talk to someone, that someone is usually within hearing range. This amplifies the awkwardness off the charts. From the other person’s perspective there wouldn’t be much that is more awkward than to see someone being told to go talk to them, and then having that person, go over there to create a forced, in-organic conversation. This is especially true with older relatives who I have never really had an organic conversation with. I would occasionally be told to talk to someone who knew me when I was a baby, but who I have never talked to during my adult life. If I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with a person, I feel like I do not know them. Large group conversations do not count.

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