Introverts Are Not Specimens

I’m the organizer of a local introverts meet up group. Just less than two years ago, I went looking for a local group that catered to introverts and found none, so I started one myself and called it “Social Introverts.”  It has by and large been a success. We meet this Saturday, in fact.

I’ve been thinking lately about two “incidents” for lack of a better word that have occurred at our meet ups in the past. One happened a few months ago, and the other about a year ago. Both highlight a potential annoyance that perhaps other introverts have faced. I didn’t write about either incident in detail until quite a bit of time had gone by, just to be sure I wasn’t “shooting from the hip.”

Not that I was angry either time, but as you’ll see I had every right to be at least annoyed, for more than one reason.

The first time, we met at a local cafe in the afternoon. Back then, I didn’t cap the number of attendees as much as I do now, and there happened to be about ten who showed up. (I keep it at seven or less these days. Better for conversation.) We’d all been conversing for maybe half an hour, when a woman approached our table. She asked if we were the meetup group her friend told her about. I told her I wasn’t sure, because I didn’t know what her friend had told her, but that we were the social introverts group. This interloper proceeded to repeat how her friend had mentioned that she should check out this meet up, but never confirmed we were even the one she was looking for. She did, however, want a definition for “introverted.”

Several of us obliged her question, (though part of the point of the group is not to have to explain ourselves to other people who are not introverted.) This woman pulls up a chair and sits down with us, (uninvited) and says, “I suppose then it’s my job to convert all of you to extroverts.”

I believe I said something like, “You’d be wasting your time.” I then tried to explain how one doesn’t just convert to another temperament, but she was already talking about something else.

I sensed that several others at the table, though not as put off by this behavior as I was, nevertheless would have been happy had this visitor never shown up.

I could have sent her away. As organizer of the group, I probably should have. But I wasn’t going to be that guy. I let her stay, and interject things into the conversation(s) we were having. I had a hunch the problem would take care of itself. And it did. After sitting mostly in silence for a few minutes, this conversionist excused herself and left. I never did know if her friend had sent her to us, and she never said who her friend was. I do know I’ve not seen or heard from her since.

Those that were present laugh about it from time to time when we gather at meetings. We share the story with newcomers. It convinced me to keep our meetup locations hidden to non-members from then on out.

Move forward in time to just before Christmas, last year. Same cafe, if you can believe it. A smaller group of introverts this time. After a while a guy in a suit is sort of hovering nearby, but doesn’t say anything. New people come to meetings often, and I don’t always recognize people from their picture, so I think he may be someone who RSVPed. Just as I am about to ask him something, he introduces himself.

“I’m not officially a member of this group,” he says, (as though there were an unofficial way to be a member.) “But I was looking at your meetup page, and after reading some of the comments and doing a little investigating, I determined this had to be where all of you were meeting.”

So much for not revealing where the meetups are to non-members.

This dude told us that he’d hoped to learn more about what it is to be an introvert, and he thought meeting some of us was the best way. After another round of playing, “what exactly is an introvert?” this guest mentioned, “Then I must be an extrovert, as I thought.” More questions about what it’s like to be introverted, and what we do and how we think.

He wasn’t without intelligence, but as you can imagine I wasn’t thrilled with the nature of his visit. And whenever anyone tried to turn the conversation back on him and his career, he had a curious lack of information to share about his own profession. He was, however, on his way to a formal dance that night, about two hours away. This he mentioned more than once.

As he was leaving, I mentioned to him that he could always join the group officially, and not have to sneak around to find out where we are. (Translation: Don’t do that any more, it’s rude.) I also told him he could contact me if he had any further questions. He said he’d have to do that, but I’ve not heard from him since.

That visit inspired me to change the description of the group to be more specific.

I hold no malice toward either of these peaceful invaders. I’m sure neither meant any harm, though both were, in my view, quite presumptuous. There is a reason people have meetup pages, with RSVPs and such. They are in place to control who comes to what. Ignoring that is rude. And while I don’t mind some healthy curiosity about what it means to be an introvert, there are plenty of places to learn about such things online and off line. If someone does want to talk to a person about it, there is a right way and wrong way of doing it. Standing up in the middle of a Catholic Mass to ask questions about the church is not appropriate. Though what we do in my meetup is not a religion, it is a group with a purpose, and we have every right to expect that to be respected.

Though I own the group, I don’t speak on behalf of its members. I don’t know their thoughts on these things. But as for me, both times I felt as though being introverted were something weird, rare, or in need of repair. A curiosity. I felt that the group was being used at both of these times as a case study, more than a social occasion. There is a time and a place for learning, as I said, but introverts are not such an unusual “breed” that people must surround them, like fish in an aquarium to gawk and ponder. We make up about half the population, after all; we’re not that unusual.

Am I overreacting? In some aspects perhaps. Yet not totally. That’s why I waited so long to blog about this, so I wouldn’t appear to be venting as opposed to expressing a concern. My guess is that other introverts have at times felt treated as more of an oddity than a type of personality, and I wanted to express solidarity with such people through this post.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Well that’s…rude. Or at least presumptuous, as you said. The lady sounded more annoying…

    I don’t understand what is so hard to understand about introversion. Really.

  2. Frankly, neither do I. I suppose it night have something to do with how extrovert-oriented much of American society is. But even then, it’s not a complex or rare situation.

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