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Think fast–does a loud outburst make someone an extrovert? If we use Bruce Banner as an example, the answer must be “no.”
While introverts are generally portrayed as quiet, retiring folks who are afraid of their own shadows, Bruce shows us that under the surface, complex emotions wait patiently for their moment. “But wait!” you say. “How can someone as aggressive as the Hulk ever be considered in introvert?” The answer here is that we all are complicated beings, filled to bursting with vivid and varied emotions, but some of us keep a lid on those feelings more tightly than others. All that is needed is the appropriate catalyst to spark an eruption.
It is important to realize that as serene as introverts may seem on the surface, they should never be written off as emotionless. In fact, for lack of an appropriate compatriot to share with, or an appropriate time to let loose, many introverts suffer quietly simply because their strong emotions have nowhere to go. When someone you love is an introvert, you may wish to be that necessary sounding board, but find yourself perennially outside the “wall of protection” that they’ve built to safeguard their sensitive inner life. It takes a fair degree of study and practice to learn the behaviors that will grant you access to the heart of the fortress.
Bruce Banner, and his alter ego, the Hulk, are an excellent example of the basic needs of an introvert. Start here on your quest to emulate the “Hulk Whisperer,” Natasha Romanov, also known as the Black Widow. You won’t be required to breathe, “Hey, Big Guy…” at any point, but you will be rewarded with the undying loyalty of your favorite introvert when they realize that you truly understand how they think and feel.
THINGS WE CAN LEARN ABOUT INTROVERSION FROM THE HULK
1. Introverts are more sensitive (to absolutely everything) than extroverts. Physiological studies show that introverts react more strongly to external stimuli, and thus need less of it or they quickly become overstimulated. This applies to activity, sound, and even bright lights. It pays to keep this in mind when you and your introvert find yourselves in crowded or loud situations. Wondering why she’s making that pursed-lip face? Now you know.
2. Introverts are drained, not recharged in social situations. Whereas extroverts feel more and more enthusiastic and almost buzzed when they spend time interacting with friends, introverts will make a brave start, but will quietly and continually lose energy until eventually they reach their limit and feel a desperate need to get off the merry-go-round. Sure, they’ll socialize if they have to, but they won’t really like it. If you really want to form a bond with an introvert, find time for one-on-one conversations in safe settings, where they can let their hair down.
3. Don’t take it personally when they need alone time. Maybe your one-on-one chat has been going splendidly, and you are really enjoying yourself (and perhaps patting yourself on the back) when suddenly, your favorite introvert smiles, thanks you, stands up, and leaves. What did you do wrong? Nothing. Your introvert can even reach her limit talking quietly with you. Just like your car needs gas, your introvert needs down time to recharge. Don’t worry, she’ll be back.
4. Introverts feel hurt when they are marginalized by popular American culture. The “Extrovert Ideal” is a quintessentially American description of a successful person–friendly, outgoing, risk-taking, and thick-skinned. Interestingly, even though extroverts are commonly groomed for leadership, it is the introverts who make better managers (more thoughtful) and produce better outcomes (more methodical). Look past preconceptions to see the valuable contributions your introvert can make.
5. Introverts learn to fake extroversion. Especially smart ones who want to fit in. But pretending to be someone you’re not is incredibly wearing, and leads to Imposter Syndrome, where the talented introvert feels that he isn’t truly as talented as those seemingly carefree extroverts around him, and worries his world is about to come crashing down. That’s a tough burden to carry, and it is these introverts who need your support the most. Help provide a safe place for them to recharge and be themselves.
6. Don’t mistake peaceful introverts for unhappy introverts. Just because she doesn’t have a ton of friends, or he isn’t invited to parties every weekend, don’t conclude that they wish their life was spooling out in some other way. Introverts find happiness in the state of flow (complete immersion in an activity), not the “champagne bubble” that stimulates those hi-dopamine extroverts. Don’t try to fix what’s not broken.