Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dear Zeri: On Getting Others To Understand

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I just found your blog about being an extreme introvert and wanted to say thanks for sharing. I'm feeling particularly misunderstood these days.

One thing I'm constantly trying to figure out is how to get people to understand and respect me being an introvert... I've realized that's never going to happen except for people I'm very close with. So I need to learn more coping mechanisms. I wonder if you'd consider writing something about coping in uncomfortable environments (I didn't see if you've already written about that). For example, I just returned from a 10 day vacation with my in-laws (9 people total). I pretty much had a meltdown by the second day because I was getting basically no alone time and everyone was talking all the time at the same time. I even got a really bad cold which I'm sure was related to the stress. I started hiding out as much as possible and I'm sure everyone thinks I hate them... which almost seems true because I find it so stressful to be around them. I'm not sure how to appropriately deal with that situation. I need to get better at being able to deal with these situations I can't control. Any tips?

Thanks again,


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hi, L --

Thanks for writing, and my apologies for the late reply. I only check in sporadically, but I suppose it's nearly time for another entry. I have to confess, though, that I try not to give out too much advice on my own blog. I try to keep it more personal. I do know of several forums that have great advice for introverts, though. I'll forward some if you're interested.

That said, I can very much relate to the situations you've described; while I don't have any standard tips to offer, I can tell you what my own experience has been.

First, about the vacation-related stress: that sort of thing happens to me, too. During situations like those, it feels like every muscle is tense, and like I'm ready to pounce on anyone who comes near. Being stuck like that for too long can definitely take its toll on your health. I've found only two ways to cope in those scenarios. If at all possible, the easiest thing to do is to get away. Make time for yourself, even if it seems odd to others. Step out to the bathroom, but go for a walk, instead. The other thing that helps is if you can be honest with others. I know I've struggled with that in the past; it's hard to be honest without being cruel, and so I often avoid saying anything. But if you can calm yourself enough to say what you're feeling in a reasonable manner, others will often understand. Even if they don't make less noise all of the time, they'll at least understand if you need to get away from them. And they'll understand that you aren't really hating them -- that you're just having a hard time dealing with so much stimulation.

There is a third thing that helps in those situations, but it's the one that takes the most time: it's practice. It may never become entirely easy, but I think we eventually find ways to zone it all out. Ways to calm or distract ourselves. It still takes a toll, in the meantime, but it gets easier not to burst while we're in the midst of it all.

As for respect and understanding, those things are fleeting. Not even fellow introverts will always understand you. We don't come across introverts as often, and so we act towards the rest of the world just like anyone else does; thus, we often treat each other, including our fellow introverts, in the ways that give us such a hard time. Friends will falter sometimes, but at least they're friends. All you can expect is that they'll try to be as understanding towards you as you'll be towards them.

Hopefully some of this helps.

Thanks again for writing. Good or bad, it always helps a little to know that others deal with the same things as me.

Be well,

... Zeri

Friday, August 2, 2013


Thanks for your response. I really appreciate it. It's nice to feel understood. Sometimes I feel like such a freak when it seems everyone else can cope with "normal" situations so much better than I can.

I understand not wanting to give advice but I appreciate your personal experiences. I often do the thing where I pretend I'm just going to the bathroom or something and then disappear for long periods of time... I think that gives a bad impression, although often I think people don't even notice I'm gone since I'm sort of invisible even when I'm there.

The thing I really want to work on is being more honest and straightforward with people. I've tried this with my mother-in-law. I will say to her, "I'm just feeling really overwhelmed by all the noise and stimulation and I require a lot of quiet, alone time." Her response is always, "Me too! It's driving me crazy... blah, blah, blah!!!" To which I always want to respond, "No I don't think you do get it because YOU are the one I find the most overwhelming to be around!!!" But I don't say that because I think it will hurt her feelings. It's interesting to me that she claims to feel overwhelmed by the chaos and yet she's the biggest contributor to that chaos. At that point I know she thinks she understands how I feel but clearly doesn't because I'm trying to ask her to not talk to me, that I need to be left alone to recover, but she takes it as an opportunity to talk to me even more. Clearly my passive requests are not accomplishing what I want them to. I'm not sure if I need to be even more direct and say, "YOU are talking to me too much and I can't deal with it anymore." If someone said that to me it would really hurt my feelings. But maybe sometimes I need to just stand up for myself and my needs even if it does hurt other people's feelings.

Happy Friday,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hi L --

Yes, it might help to try asserting yourself more. Like I wrote last time, it can be challenging to figure out how to do so without being cruel, but it's important to try, I think, especially if you're becoming stressed out on a regular basis. Friends of mine (and probably many others) use a method of 1) saying something kind first, then 2) describing the problem or stating what is needed, and 3) finishing up with another nice statement. Here's an article that describes something similar as a way of being assertive and nice at the same time:

Personally, I find such steps to be a bit disingenuous; on the other hand, they seem to work well in many cases. You could start by telling your mother-in-law that you like talking with her, and hearing her stories, and getting to know her, etc.; then tell her that, while all that is true, you need a break from it occasionally, and that it's overwhelming; and then, perhaps, finish up by saying that you appreciate her understanding.

That said, she may not ever really get how overwhelmed you become. She may not understand how you are, but it's worth getting her to understand what you need.

In any case, I wish you luck. Situations like that can be tricky to negotiate.

Be well,

... Zeri



Anonymous said...

Hmmm... you were giving advice. Please keep your blog more personal. It'd be more like you.

Zeri Kyd said...

A, funny. That's what I said!