Here it is! The long-awaited (not really) Part 4 of my book The Ultimate Guide to Not Sucking at Human Interactions: An introvert’s obscure advice for succeeding socially.
Part 4: Channeling your inner extrovert—just kidding
Chapter 14: Facing your fear of people head on, or at least acknowledging its existence, or maybe just curling up in a ball and crying for no reason whatsoever
The title to this chapter is a little misleading (what’s new?). It implies you only have one fear when it comes to people, but let’s be honest, us introverts have a plethora of fears when it comes to other humans.
Here is a short list of my fears (this list is limited to phobias regarding people—I might write a different chapter for all of my other phobias).
- That someone will look at me.
- That someone will talk to me.
- That someone will ask me for directions, and I will lead them astray because I am the most directionally-challenged person in existence (when people ask, “What’s up?” On reflex, I always say, “The ground.”).
- That I will make awkward eye-contact with a man who then thinks I’m coming on to him, and then he tries to engage me in a conversation, and then I embarrass myself because I get flustered when talking to anyone other than myself.
- That I will forget all the essential details about my life when engaging a stranger (name, gender, dominant writing hand, my answer to the chicken vs beef dilemma, and how long it takes to microwave a Pop Tart).
- That I will trip and fall on my face while running away from awkward situations (a RAFAS fail is one of the most embarrassing things ever).
- That I will get hungry when out in public and have to order food at a restaurant.
- That I will get chatty when talking to a stranger and forget to use punctuation when I’m speaking.
- That I will forget every single monosyllable word I know and only talk in multisyllable words, which is not good because I cannot pronounce most of the “big” words I know. This is the main reason why I don’t talk very much.
There are more, but I think that list sufficiently illustrates my struggle with going out in public.
Ways to overcome social phobias: A (shorter) list
- Read books about successful extroverts, realize you will never be on their level, cry.
- Read books about successful introverts, realize you are actually reading fiction, cry.
- Buy motivational tapes to play in your cassette player from the 90s. Unfortunately, they have a habit of skipping, so you develop a stutter when giving yourself pep talks.
- Pay an arm and a leg to see a therapist who tries very hard to help you deal with your paralyzing fear of people, but your anxiety is so contagious and potent, your therapist becomes an alcoholic and forces you to pay for their rehab.
Chapter 15: Forcing yourself to step out of your comfort zone and finally talk to that person who insulted your intelligence by asking you calculus questions during your group therapy session
Group therapy can be helpful in certain situations, but sometimes people are downright obnoxious. It’s best to seek out groups with people who make you look competent, educated, and extroverted. Which pretty much just leaves daycares for infants.
But, most daycares frown upon adult attendance, so you are back to square one.
There are support groups for everything these days. Finding the one that works for you will be a struggle because you have so many problems. You might have to shop around a bit.
Support groups that might work for you: A list
- Introverts Anonymous. This one has the most comprehensive treatment plan, but there is a waiting list because they only allow the groups to be two people plus a sponsor who can only be in charge of two “groups.” Their sponsors have to go through rigorous training which involves passing a 1,000-question test about what it’s like to be an introvert. They don’t want actual introverts to be the sponsors (because they are obviously racist), so sponsor candidates have to score between an 83% and a 92% exactly. People get two shots at passing.
- Shy as Sheep. I’ve been to a few Shy as Sheep meetings, and they are helpful in moderation. Sometimes there are ringers who come to the meetings who aren’t shy at all. They just like taking advantage of introverts who prefer to listen rather than talk.
- Intelligent Introverts Who Seem Unintelligent Because They Hate Talking (IIWSUBTHT—for short—I have a tattoo of this acronym on my foot; it gets mistaken for a gang sign a lot). IIWSUBTHT meetings are great because there are frequently intellectual conversations that are enjoyable and enlightening. These people have a lot of pent up brain power that they don’t get to express because they are shy. There are many pros to this group, and I’ve learned a lot from mine, but sometimes stupid people who identify as intelligent introverts, when in fact, they are just stupid extroverts who are not at all self-aware (slightly redundant, I know) crash the meetings and ruin everyone’s day.
- Introverts are People Too. This one specializes in facilitating acceptance of someone’s introvert status and helping people realize that they have rights even though they are shy and have a hard time expressing their desires. I have found the people who attend this support group are the most genuine and accepting of other people (probably why I don’t fit in).
Chapter 16: Correcting people when they say they are introverted extroverts because that isn’t really a thing and it’s super annoying when people subversively claim introversion because it is the popular thing to do these days given people are finally accepting that introverts are cool people
To me, when people say they are introverted extroverts, they sound pretentious and duplicitous. People have only recently realized being introverted isn’t a curse and has some great benefits.
People who identify as introverted extroverts want the best of both worlds. They want to have the best characteristics of an introvert (good listener, comfortable with solitude and introspection, thoughtful and self-aware, etc., etc.), and also all the positive aspects of being an extrovert (don’t ask me to list good aspects of being an extrovert).
What people fail to understand is that introversion and extroversion are not about how good someone is around people. It isn’t even about the good or bad qualities of being an introvert and being an extrovert.
It’s about where people gain their energy.
If someone gains energy from being around people, they are an extrovert.
If someone gains energy from solitude, they are an introvert.
If someone gains energy from being around people and from solitude, depending on the situation, they are an ambivert (not an introverted extrovert).
Why people feel the need to use two words when one word will suffice is beyond me. Well, no, it isn’t.
Since you are now well-versed in introversion and extroversion (you’re welcome), you are officially licensed to correct people who use the two terms simultaneously to self-aggrandize their own “winning” personalities.
How to set people straight on the terms introvert and extrovert without sounding like someone who is bitter against people who self-proclaim to be introverted extroverts: A list
- When you hear someone say introverted extrovert, do your best screechy-tire-coming-to-an-abrupt-stop sound effect and say, “Excuse me. I think you mean ambivert. Educate yourself.” Then hand them my pamphlet called STOP SAYING THAT! YOU’RE AN AMBIVERT!! Or possibly an incredibly narcissistic extrovert (sorry about the redundancy again).
- When you hear someone say they are an introverted extrovert but you know for a fact they hate being alone, say, “Right. And I’m a three-legged unicorn with magical, edible poop that gives eternal life to whoever consumes it, and I won’t let you have any because I think you are annoying.”
- When you hear someone utter those two words together, ignore them for the rest of eternity.
- Carry a taser, and any time you hear someone say introverted extrovert, zap ‘em.