Yesterday’s post discussed the current thinking on introverts and extroverts and how introverts are people who lose energy being around people for large periods of time and recharge with time alone. So if you have an introvert in your life, how can you support them? FYI: I find many of the introvert suggestions work very well for those with Aspergers. (Extroverts, I will get to you on October 16th).
Here are a few suggestions…
One: Don’t immediately tell them ‘Hey! I know you are an introvert!’ Great, just what they wanted, another label. Keep your knowledge to yourself unless they bring up the subject. Few people enjoy being psychoanalyzed..
Two: Give them prior notice when moving from one event to another. We used this suggestion frequently when my son was small (and even now do it as a courtesy) to avoid explosions. Going to Grandma’s at 4pm? Notify people at 3:45pm that the car is leaving in 15 minutes (the amount of time you need to provide will vary). My son could not handle just getting up and leaving what he was doing in an unfinished state.
Three: In new situations or places, don’t push them to just run off and play, instead let them watch first. Another good idea for my son. New playground, he would watch and see what was there, what other people were doing. I still do this: when I start a new job, I observe more than I talk until I know how things are run there.
Four: Don’t interrupt. Nope, just don’t do it. More arguments have been launched in my house by someone NOT waiting to speak than any other reason I know. Now this can be hard since Aspergians often talk and talk and talk, either about their topics of choice or what bothers them, so you don’t know when they really are done. But try. I have someone at work who is normally a team player but interrupting him sets him off. He stops talking and participating completely. Yes this is a grown man, but an introvert.
Five: Provide notice of changes in their world BEFORE it happens. Is Monday usually spaghetti night but this Monday you are serving meatloaf? Let them know. Yes they should be flexible, yes, it shouldn’t matter, do you want an explosion at dinner? You decide.
Six: Don’t expect instant answers to a question. There are many possibilities to your question and all of them should be considered. If time is of the essence, try providing two or three options and asking them to pick from one of them. It may not work (but I don’t want A or B or C, why didn’t you offer D?) but it’s worth a try.
Seven: Respect their privacy. They probably do not want you to discuss their condition, diagnosis, failings, etc., where others can hear. If they failed at a task, let them know in private. If they need additional help in an area, provide it without an audience. I always think that my son (and many others) who love video games do so in part because they can practice again and again to get it right in the privacy of their homes with no judgement and the computer never scolds.
Eight: Give the the space to recharge alone. They need it. It may consist of going to a nature center, knitting a winter hat, chilling with a comic book. Give them that time so they can regain what dealing with the world drains away.
Nine: Don’t expect them to like being in large groups of people. Even though YOU may want to go to that Fall Festival in the park, with large crowds of people, and loud music, don’t be hurt if THEY don’t want to attend. Compromise, go to the festival at a time when the crowds are smaller and the band isn’t playing. Or go with people that enjoy crowds.
I find introverts are like geodes. You cannot tell the beauty inside just by a cursory look at the outside.