Loud people can be shy too.
Whenever I tell anyone that I’m an introvert, they laugh.
And I understand why. It’s not the personality type that you’d instantly associate with me. When people meet me in person, one of the most common words they use to describe me is “loud.”
I’m actually fairly embarrassed by that. “Loud” isn’t exactly an adjective people aspire to embody. But the clear implications are that my normal speaking voice is turned up to a louder-than-is-socially-acceptable volume (I can’t tell), and that I talk a lot.
I am a big, talky loud guy. If we’re at the same party, trust me, you’ll know where I am, because you’ll be able to hear me over the crowd ... from a few rooms away, maybe even from the front yard.
And those traits don’t exactly scream “introvert” to others.
So, people assume that I love being outgoing, that I enjoy big crowds, that I’m a social animal. But NOTHING could be further from the truth.
True extroverts thrive around other people. They feed off them, they’re energized by them.
Me? I never want to leave the house.
When I find myself in social situations, I am constantly aware of my own awkwardness. I am constantly hoping that someone else will start talking. I am constantly looking for outs.
But, if that’s true, people say to me, then why were you talking a mile a minute at our last get-together?
Because I’m not good with silences.
On my own, I LOVE the silence. Like many introverts, while I generally like other people, I tend to find socializing exhausting. After I’ve spent some time in a social situation, I usually need to carve out some alone time for myself. Preferably in a dark room. Maybe with a book. (Naps are awesome too.)
The act of being “on” for a crowd feels like a performance to me, so I’m hyper-aware that I’m being watched and, when it’s done, I feel the need to retreat to my dressing room and loudly exhale.
Perhaps that’s why I react to social silences like an actor on stage trying to cover for someone who’s forgotten a line.
Have you ever seen an actor trying to “fill in” on stage? It’s terrifying. Maybe someone misses their line or another actor hasn’t made their entrance yet, so the whole play is held hostage. They can’t move forward without the missing person or line. And, in that state of limbo, sometimes, another actor will take it upon themselves to move the play along.
So they start talking … about ANYTHING. “Well, interesting situation we have here… I’m sure that… (looks around)… if someone came in here right now… (looks around)… they might tell us that the jewels are hidden behind the picture frame…”
It turns into a desperate one-man show, which is exactly how I end up behaving when things quiet down at a party.
There’s a lull in the crowd, an awkward silence passes, and, suddenly, I’m OFF.
I’m rambling, I’m joking, I’m performing the hell out of my one-man revue.
And it’s not because I’m craving attention, it’s because I’m uncomfortable as HELL.
WHY IS NO ONE TALKING?
The worst part is that I’m aware that I’m doing it. I can feel it. I recognize it. If I’m out with my wife, I can see her giving me her patented “you’re having a hard time with the silences again, aren’t you?” look.
But it’s a compulsion. I don’t have much control over it. And, once I finally get to retreat from that situation, I’m EXHAUSTED.
The problem is — people who aren’t familiar with my personal brand of crazy mistake my desperate monologuing for extroversion. They invite me more places, they expect me to drive the conversation at the dinner parties, they assume that I can be funny and chatty and personable on command.
But I can’t be.
I can just rant at the absence of sound to make myself feel more comfortable. That’s not the same thing as being outgoing. That’s a defense mechanism, not a heartfelt, legitimate interest in other people.
So, yes, I am a walking contradiction. I am a loud introvert.
Just realize that we’re out there, people. Dominating the conversation and repeating the same anecdotes over and over again, not because we’re trying to honestly connect to other people, but rather because we’re terrified of what happens when we stop.