It was one of those mornings you wish you could seal in an old Ball/Mason jar and keep.
A rollicking, early-summer thunderstorm had stomped its way through at 1:30 AM with all the finesse of an attention-starved 3-year-old. I’d ground and perked a pot of Air Capital medium roast. As I sat sipping the fragrant java, my thoughts interwove with its steam.
Each morning’s quiet time is special. I guard it, cherishing it at the same time. A notepad and pen are necessities for me, anyway, but never more than during my quiet time musings. God always has interesting stuff to pass along.
Pouring my second cup, I sat tapping my PaperMate InkJoy gel pen on the pad, idly looking out the window at the sunlight glistening off each leftover water droplet. What a thing of beauty! And God nonchalantly pulls that off every time it rains.
My eyes still stuck somewhere in Middle Distance out the window, I didn’t hear it until my phone twittered again. Or maybe it deedled. Any more, I’m unsure what, exactly, my Galaxy S6 does. Zedge has so many settings I can’t keep up with them. Some I hear constantly; others I rarely hear at all anymore. Anyway, whatever it did, it just did it again. I’m almost sure it sounded just a L-I-T-tle perturbed I hadn’t yet recognized its prominent place of importance.
“What’s your Pandora playing right now?” Arlough. His greetings are always unique and mostly refreshing.
“Dinner Jazz. Deep In A Dream by Sonny Clark.”
“Seriously? I thought your morning preference leaned more toward Relaxation Radio or Calm Meditation . . .”
“Normally, yes. My ancient tablet sometimes drops stations or just quits playing. Usually if I dial up another station, it wakes back up.” It was quiet for a few seconds while my friend’s synapses whirled and sparked.
“So–what’re you doing?” I noticed again the slight discoloration on the sleeve of my mottled-grey Adidas running suit. Probably coffee, knowing me. Maybe this time I’d remember to toss it in the laundry.
“Arlough, you called me.” He sounds slightly addled, but he’s not. You’ve seen a bee moving from clover blossom to blossom, here and then there–right? Consider what that would look like at Mach 1. I’ve never known a human’s brain can have such a variety of thoughts in such a miniscule amount of time.
“Um, right-right. Hey, you’re an Introvert, correct?” I waited, knowing he knew that. “Whaddya do with them? How–is there a right and wrong way to relate and stuff?”
I smiled. Laying on my desk was something I’d just picked up online and thought worthy of copying to work over for an article. “Short answer? Yes. Hang tight while I get a refill, then I’ll see if I can clear away some of the fog.” I smiled again because I could hear him in the background, fiddling with something electronic while he waited. Arlough never sat on hold. He put his phone on speaker and kept his agile mind doing laps. Or warmups. Whatever his mind did.
“All right; I’m back with you. Now, mind you, this is neither exhaustive nor clinical. It’s common sense, borne of life experience.
Arlough: ” ‘kay.”
“First a general rule: never mistake being an introvert with being insipid or intimidated. Many a person has done so to their own detriment. Here we go . . .
“Number 1, always respect an Introvert’s privacy. Introverts love solitude and comparative quiet; writers are usually introverts. Solitude is their gas station, their tanker. Trying to keep an introvert too busy for too long will make him or her noticeably irritable and restless, and they’ll begin to resent you and your company. Soon they’ll decline going with you.” I paused for a few seconds. Since Arlough likes dead air less than a radio station manager, I knew I’d stumbled across something important to him. I waited.
His stuttering was uncharacteristic. “I, um– yeah. I guess I get that.” It was my turn to pause. I listened to the gold wall clock going “p’tock” about seven times. “Arlough, that’s it, isn’t it? You’ve found somebody special, and she’s an introvert. Right?”
Again, the slight hesitation. “Yeah. I figured with you being one and all, maybe you could keep me from massively screwing this up before it even starts.”
“Got it. Okay. I’ll fashion my remarks with a special relationship in mind. Ready for the next one?” I know he nodded, because I’ve watched him talk on the phone.
“Number 2, never embarrass them in public. Oddly, some think it helps break the ice to do that. Get them laughing, and it’s all good. However, many introverts are also perfectionists who find public embarrassment as much fun as ramming a sliver under a fingernail. What may seem to you like an innocent, silly wisecrack intended to make everyone laugh may unwittingly lacerate an introvert’s heart. If they don’t know you well enough to recognize sarcasm, I can just about guarantee they’ll take your words seriously. You can wound an Introvert that way; it may be innocent from your perspective, but the wound will cut just as deep.”
“Number three, always let an introvert first observe a new situation or new surroundings. Don’t expect them to be comfortable by instantly charging right into a new group or situation. They may be capable of doing so because of professional training, but that’s not their default setting. When you see an introvert hanging back, they’re not being obtuse or uncooperative. They’re inputting a whole lot at once, noticing things others rarely do. Never equate an introvert’s silence for ignorance; they always notice far more than they say.”
It was quiet enough I could hear Arlough’s keyboard. He was serious.
“Four: Give an introvert time to think. Once again, when introverts hesitate before responding, it’s not because they’re too simple to form words. Introverts don’t lose debates; they may run out of time while thinking through their position, but it’s unwise to engage one in a serious conversation without being confronted with a compelling argument and some insights you didn’t know they’d noticed. Introverts are habitual overthinkers. They’ve already run through a mental checklist of 5 or 6 possible responses, assessing each one’s effectiveness. They’re probably still doing that when you’ve impatiently broken number 5, which is a biggie for any introvert . . .”
“Do not interrupt them. Reasons are that they are deeply introspective, thoughtful people. Often they’re composing what they want to say, while at the same time editing as they go. To barrel into their unfinished thoughts has the same effect as a drunk driver plowing into the middle of a crowded outdoor restaurant. Not only will you not get the full effect of the process in #4 above; but you’ll give them the idea what they have to say is unimportant, and that the only purpose for your conversation is for them to hear what you’ve already decided. Soon, you’ll begin noticing they hesitate to answer at all. That’s not because they have no valid opinion or preference. It’s because they feel their opinion or preference has already been devalued, so why expend the effort to explain it?”
I paused. My big, black-and-green “COFFEE made me do it!” mug reminded me of my distaste for lukewarm joe. I curled my forefinger through the man-sized handle and swigged down a healthy, ah, swig. Yep. Lukewarm. Its only saving grace was that it was fresh-ground Velvet Moon by Cameron’s. While thus occupied, I was listening to Arlough muttering to himself as he made notes. I heard him saying something . . .
“You ready?” He allowed as how he was, softly saying, “I, um, think I’ve already stomped on the pressure plates of numbers 4 and 5.” I smiled. “Arlough, I think every other personality type has done the same. They all tend to think it’s an arrogant trait as in, “How dare you interrupt me?” They don’t stop to think it’s part and parcel of an introvert’s personality.
“Here’s numbers 6 and 7, because they’re related. 6 is to give an introvert advance notice of expected changes in their life; and 7 is to give them 15-minute warnings to let them finish whatever they’re doing or working on. Personally, I don’t think these two should be limited only to introverts, but they are crucial to that personality’s well-being. Because an introvert is usually thinking out ahead of whatever project has them occupied, to break into that unexpectedly will be like tossing a wet stray cat into their lap. Many a boss has failed miserably to get the best work from introverted employees because they never bothered understanding this personality trait. You can only imagine what ignoring this would do to any close relationship.
“Number 8: reprimand them in private. Refer to numbers 1 through 3 above. Dressing down an introvert in front of coworkers, classmates, or anyone else may be your idea of management style or leadership; but it’s also a way to ensure you’ll never get the chance to do it again. Introverts rarely make a big, public scene, although they’re quite capable of it. Most of the time, they’ll quietly fade away and you’ll never see them again in that setting. I’m guessing, Arlough, you get how important this one is in any personal relationship. Introverts love to be informed. They want to please–and because of that, they’re incredibly sensitive to the possibility of offending or hurting those with whom they’re close. Introverts have finely-tuned senses. Again, though they may say little, they also forget little.
I could hear the tapping on his laptop again. Must’ve hit a nerve on that one, too. I waited until the clicking slowed down.
“Here’s number 9. Teach an introvert new skills in private. Remember that I mentioned in number 2 introverts are mostly also perfectionists? Perfectionists despise practicing. That’s not because they don’t want to excel and be at their best: they absolutely want both of those. They hate to practice because it means making mistakes where others can see or hear them. Ever overheard somebody asking an introvert something like, “Well, when are you going to have _______ finished?” If you’ve observed the introvert, you’ve seen the characteristic hesitation before answering. When you want something perfect – or as much so as is reasonably possible – how do you respond to someone who either has no understanding of an introvert’s mind, or doesn’t want to? I can tell you this, Arlough: the mild response that finally made its way out is rarely the steely, penetrating first or second choice. And, yes, I’m speaking from personal experience. I’m finding the older I get, the less patience I have with those who ask such questions. Beware of the introvert whose internal filter has slipped!”
Though I wasn’t being intentionally humorous, I could hear my friend sniggering in the background. He straightened up, then said, “Got it. And number—which one are we on? Ten?”
“That’s a rog. And that is, enable the Introvert to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities. For a let’s-party type of personality, this is no big deal. To an introvert, it can literally save their sanity. The necessity of this can’t be overstated. Introverts don’t easily open up to anyone, for as the saying goes, it is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply. In one story, a young boy remarked, “There’s too much risk in loving.” “No,” said the old man. “There’s too much risk in not.” Introverts’ emotional channels run very deep, so a young introvert would agree with the boy: It’s not worth it. It takes too long to let down the barriers, to let another person close enough to seriously hurt you. An older introvert, though, understands the sere hollowness of living one’s entire life without any truly close friends. Once more: introverts have an uncanny sensory panel. The closer they get to you, the more attuned they are to the slightest nuance of change in your interaction. It can be unsettling to someone who’s never been close to one, yet it’s not ever a personal thing; it’s a personality thing.
“Got time for two more?” Arlough almost sounded eager. When an engineer sounds thus, it may not be a good thing. “Just two more, I promise. . .”
“Number 11 – do NOT push an introvert to make a lot of friends. The introverted personality never has and never will easily make friendships. Don’t expect it. What you can expect is for those few real friendships they do accept are ironclad. Once you’re an introvert’s friend, you’ll need to make it painfully clear when you decide you no longer want that relationship. Here’s the caveat: it takes a LOT to convince an introvert you really don’t want them or their friendship; but once you finally do, you’ll never know them like that again, for they’ll never let you back in. This has nothing to do with their spiritual state, either. They can be the most sincere of Christians, but once you’ve pushed them away and convinced them you mean it, they’ll still love you–but they’ll not allow you to ever again get close.”
“A-a-and finally, number 12: Respect their introversion. Don’t try to convert them into an extrovert. Honor them for the personality God created them with. Celebrate their individuality. Make the effort to get to know them at their levels of thought, reasoning and conversation. Introverts are by design very private, very deep and complex creatures. Trying to somehow alter them into something easier and more malleable will only result in frustrating you.
I paused, slurping some now-definitely-cold coffee. Again, I waited while my good friend processed what I’d just shared with him. Because Arlough was rarely at a loss for words, I never mistook his silence for anything other than what it was: collecting data just as sure as any computer. I’d no doubt he could do a credible job of repeating back everything I’d just read to him. What a mind! What a—
“Dominoes tomorrow night? My place. Six-ish. Bring that queso gunk you guys make.”
Saying g’night would’ve been superfluous; he’d already clicked off. Engineers.
Something told me his new relationship was in for some interesting times.
I leaned back in my old, restuffed office chair, contentedly listening to an old Duke Ellington/John Coltrane arrangement of My Little Brown Book, and appreciatively sipping at my newly-refilled mug of hot java.
I sat reflecting on some relationship quotations I’d collected that seem to speak to the introverted character, reminding me: it’s not easy for an introvert to fall deeply in love; and it’s much harder for one to let go of it.
The reason we struggle so with insecurities is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reels. –
“One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, my dear, is to grieve the loss of someone who is still alive.” – my father’s advice
“Long after I have given up, my heart still searches for you without my permission.” – Rudy Francisco
“Sometimes we aren’t meant to get over someone, and we go on living a little emptier.” – Leo Christopher
“It is a frightening thought that in one fraction of a moment, you can fall in the kind of love that takes a lifetime to get over.”
“It’s so much easier to act like none of this matters and to pretend to wear a smile, than to confess that my heart is nearly broken from losing someone who was never even mine.”
“Why are you sad?” “Because you speak to me in words and I look at you with feelings.” – Tolstoy
© D. Dean Boone, June 2018