The Trouble with Introverts

(They are aloof, they are weird and they hide from the world all the time)Over the last few years, I have read an awful lot about introverts. I know now that roughly they are a third of our population and to that extent they are not some kind of freaks, which I earlier thought they were. There seem to be enough of them, in spite of not being the majority. Ted Talks on the subject and several articles explaining the mind of the introvert, have been helpful in trying to understand them. Also some of the introverts in my life have openly confessed to being introverts, which has meant that I make special allowances for them. This largely means that I have pre-conditioned myself to expect a little abnormal behaviour while dealing with them and to be easily forgiving when they act a bit weird. There is really no other word but weird to describe their behaviour. In business life, the most irritating introvert I met was a well-known name in the world of business, an innovator in the field of Indian retail. I hated my meetings with him because he always looked at his feet instead of looking me in the eye while speaking to me. For a long time I thought, he was shifty-eyed and untrustworthy, until all this reading on introverts, made me re-evaluate him as a human being. He was an introvert, of course and like the allowance I made for other introverts I tried to understand the world from his point of view. But it was irritating to be speaking to someone who constantly looked at his feet!
In spite of being the resident expert on introverts I must say they are a little difficult to handle. My dear friend David Innis gave me one of my life’s most important lessons about 10 years ago, when a mutual friend got upset easily and ditched us for a friendly dinner without a good enough reason. His advice to me since we were both growing older was ‘ avoid high-maintenance friendships’. I have found that to be very true. You can’t afford to have high maintenance friendships because, they require too much fuel and energy to keep them going. And you expending so much energy means that you are going to be exhausted.
Well, I have now come to the conclusion that friendships with introverts are definitely high-maintenance. The long gaps in the friendship are often, the result of introversion rather than anything being inherently wrong with the friendship. And it is difficult to break their barriers. They often create this little cocoon in which they live in, and the shell of the cocoon is a very hard one to penetrate. Just yesterday when I was out for my evening walk with my dog, I saw an introvert around the corner of a building. I think she saw me at the same time that I saw her. But obviously being an introvert, she suddenly recoiled, turned back and dissapeared into a building so that she could avoid having to say hello to me. And because I might have caught her waiting at the lift I think she actually ran up the stairs! That I find too abnormal. Quickly noticing that this was a usual introvert reaction, I acted normally as if I had never seen her, so that she could make good her escape. But when I came home I was terribly upset. Why on earth would a friend suddenly not even want to say a ‘hello’ and why should I be constantly trying so hard to understand the strange world of introverts. It is too time- consuming. It sucks my energy trying to understand them. And when introverts give in to their introversion so much that it starts producing deviant behaviour like hiding from other people or avoiding others during a normal evening walk, I think that they have overstepped the limit of introversion! They are letting introversion rule their lives and change their behaviour. After all there is such a thing as etiquette. And I for one, have decided that perhaps you can have one but you can’t have too many introvert friends in your life. Because they are too difficult to handle. Life is too short to keep worrying about introverts and their many little quirks and idiosyncracies. If they can’t meet the extroverts at least half-way, my advice both to myself and to others out there is to just drop them as friends. They are too high-maintenance! Connect with me on twitter
Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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