We do not dislike people. We do not dislike crowds or chaos.
What introverts dislike is the violation of our bubble of privacy. So long as this bubble is respected, we can be dropped into any scenario.
I have enjoyed the company of surrounding co-workers at the lunch table, chatting and laughing and venting. I enjoyed it because I was reading a book. Overtime, my co-workers learned that I was not being rude or dismissive – I simply loved to read more than converse.
So, they left me alone.
Occasionally, I’d be addressed, but when I did, I had a choice: engage or dismiss. The understanding of my co-workers allowed this choice to exist. After all, if I chose to dismiss, their logic was , “Well, he’s just really engaged in that book”, which was true. No one would label me as bad-mannered. At the same time, if I found the topic intriguing, I’d take part, which they all appreciated.
However, even while actively listening or sharing a viewpoint, I kept my bubble handy: I’d still have my book in hand, propped open and ready. This communicated to all that I could exit the interaction and return to my portable sanctuary at any moment.
There are other tools or ques that can serve as summoning platform for a person’s bubble. It is important to take inventory of your arsenal, because the needs of an introvert are not always respected. We need to set out into the world with something – material or figuratively – that can help tune out external reality and allow us to recharge within our own.
Lately, I discovered another tool. I had adapted it subconsciously for my trips to the gym: the baseball cap. Its original purpose was to keep sweat from dripping down my face or into my earbuds, but I came to enjoy the sense of solitude that was triggered by that simple tug on the brim. I kept it low; it minimized eye contact with other and made the world around me easier to block out. The cap, harmonized with headphones and stern facial expression, immediately sent the message that I did not want to be disturbed.
I was not sure how well this image was coming off until my wife ran into a fellow gym rat a couple of months ago at the store. I drifted off to a nearby aisle to browse, and while they conversed at the checkout, I overheard him joke with her that my baseball cap and focus had become a sort of trademark. He said I was obviously a nice guy, but apparently preferred to be left alone.
I smiled and thought, Perfect.
Too often, in this extroverted society, we are forced to power through the day, wearing heavy masks of vivaciousness, while only having specific places or times of day to look forward to for replenishment. And even this is sometimes taken from us. It is crucial to identify utensils that allow a strategic withdrawal.
We must make our bubble of privacy portable and accessible.
Even if we hardly use it, its proximity is reassuring enough.
So, what is your tool? Is there an object – or technique, or song – that envelops you into your haven of tranquility?