They didn’t used to. As an insensitive extrovert, it was really easy to be around your stereotypical introvert because if I said whatever I wanted without worrying about consequences (I did, and often, too), they never said anything and I just figured it was always fine.
Except that it wasn’t.
And now I know that.
Now I have become what I’ll call a sensitive extrovert (if you know me personally you can feel free to disagree here), which means that I still often feel compelled to talk about things to get other people’s input, or for any of a myriad of other reasons (I talk a LOT), but it’s much trickier now because every time I say something I wonder what their reaction to it will be, whether they will understand what I mean, whether they will be hurt by what I say (this can be a slippery slope toward a swamp of people pleasing, and not living into who God is making me to be. Still, other people have feelings and now I notice them. What am I to do with this sudden windfall of information!?!?). With my fellow stereotypical extroverts, that’s still not too bad, because I feel pretty confident that if they have a problem with me I will know because they will tell me.
But with people who are less likely to say something, it’s hard to know where I stand. If I say something that, upon reflection, may have been ungracious/unkind/too sarcastic/too opinionated, I don’t know what the rules are for dealing with it. If it’s really bad, obviously I can just bring it up again and apologize. But when I can’t tell what people’s reactions are, it’s hard for me to know how to proceed.
I know this one guy…he’s very much of an introvert. I was very excited to meet him (he’s kind of a famous musician type) and said a moderately long stream of words at him after a show which ended with an invitation to dinner sometime. His response, “Uhhh, you’d have to talk to my wife about that. She’s the extrovert.” I left, feeling pretty sure that I would not get a chance to talk to his wife. Happily, I was wrong (he was right…she IS the extrovert) and after they eventually came over for dinner she related a story about the text he’d sent her right after meeting a very nice couple with a cute kid…presumably us. 🙂
So from that particular introvert, I have learned that when he doesn’t say anything, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you. That is a very helpful thing to remember as there are many introverted people in the world that I love and want to be in relationship with. I just have to learn the language, now that I care to, rather than just taking the dominant “you live in the land of extroverts! Speak up!” approach. I don’t do that to people for whom English is a second language, so why would I do that to introverts? Although I have to admit, sometimes I think it was easier learning Chinese than learning Introvert. Good thing I have some very patient introverts to help me along.