– Alexia Larcher
When you meet new people, you will inevitably face bias. Most people make up their minds about other people in less than a minute and then interpret any information gathered later to confirm their first impression. If you deviate too much from a socially accepted “standard person”, many people consider it within their rights to treat you poorly. So what does this mean for introverts?
In a North American society that still has a hard time with introspection, we find it easier to just give in. We give into snap judgements, unchanging beliefs, and dualistic assumptions. We give up on our personal power, our ability to see things on a spectrum, our ability to question our thoughts and behaviours. We do it because we don’t feel we have any time, because we feel powerless, but mostly, we do it because it’s easy.
Earlier today I had a meeting with a counselor. I met her last year when she recommended that I accept a particular job offer, in a department that had a lot of turnover at the time. At that workplace, I had a supervisor who believes that quiet people think nasty things about her (Myth #4) and, instead of talking to me and seeing how we could work together, she decided that I was a bad worker because I am “too quiet”, plain and simple. She did not try to even learn who I am, she just presumed that I hated her. I actually went out of my way to try to create a working relationship with her, but nothing I did was enough. After she told me explicitly that she hated that I was “too quiet”, she would negatively respond if I tried to talk with her. What else could I do? I tried to find common ground and kept our conversations to these topics. It definitely helped alleviate her fear but she always treated my quietness as an insult to herself, which it wasn’t.
Why did this supervisor act like this? Because it was easier for her. For her, it was easier not to bother with people who live quietly and not out loud. It was easier not to reconsider her biases or to work at finding the strengths of each team member. She gave into her fear that I was “quietly hating” her (a common fear extroverts have about introverts) because it is easier for her to despise someone who is different rather than confront her fear.
I told the counselor I understand how it looks and told her I had been getting along with the rest of that department (which is the truth). I told her that I felt the entire situation was unfortunate, but that I felt I did what could be done. I do not know of anyone who can make a relationship work if the other person just doesn’t want to have a relationship with you. Well, the counselor told me off. She said that I was 50% of the problem, specifically because I am a “solitary” and “quiet” person.
So let me get this straight. I try to get along with someone who is prejudiced against my particular working style. I try to get along with them because I will be working in their team and would rather have a good time working with them than a bad time. Yet if this other person chooses not to deal with me at all, it’s my fault because I’m an introvert? Is the lesson here that no one should have to deal with anyone quieter than they are?
Now why is the counselor telling me these things? Because it’s easier for her. It’s easier for her to keep believing the myth that introverts are “naturally” rude (Myth #3). It’s easier for her to believe the myth that disagreements are always equally due to both parties’ actions, but especially the quieter party for being quiet. It’s easier for her to believe that introverts do not want any relationships with anyone (Myth #6) and that they should be penalized for their “latent hostility towards everyone else”. It’s also easier for her to believe that it is my specific fault for “failing to fit in” even though they have placed and lost over 40 people in this department over the last 2 or 3 years. (She told me this after telling me off.) And I highly doubt most of these other ex-employees were introverts.
When people talk about the bias against introverts, it’s always subtly insidious and persistent. It might be the way that your date reacts when you say you prefer to watch movies at home than go out. It might be the way that teachers ignore quiet students, at best. It might all the extroverts being promoted at work, even though you’ve been there longer. “Too quiet” is a subjective evaluation. What is too loud for me might be just right for you.