Attention Extroverts! Leave Me Alone! (2023)

There is a war going on in this country and it has to do with privacy. The government is not involved and it doesn’t mean people are hacking your e-mails; it has to do with personal space, communication preferences, and human interaction. It’s about the battle between Introverts, who want solitude, and Extroverts, who seem to make it their life’s mission to convert inside people into outside people.

Assess yourself in the following scenario: It’s the end of a long work day, one where you’ve had lots of high human contact with customers, co-workers, vendors, and bosses. One of your colleagues says, “Let’s go out for some cocktails, just because it’s Tuesday night!” Do you say, “Sounds awesome! Let me get my stuff and I’ll meet you at the bar”? Or do you say, “Thanks, but I’m good. I think I’ll head home. See you in the morning”?

If you’re a card-carrying member of the Extroverts Club, you’re warming up your car and putting the address of the place into Google Maps. If you’re a longstanding member of the Introverts Club, you’re sitting in the driver’s seat thinking, “Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one!”

Perhaps your Extrovert co-worker is thinking, “Why such a killjoy? What’s wrong with a little harmless midweek booze to get us warmed up for the weekend?” as he or she steers toward the bar in search of fun, frolic, and new friends. Perhaps the Introvert is thinking, “I seem to have that conversation every week. Doesn’t he or she get the hint by now that I don’t really want to go out? No hard feelings and I like him or her personally, but I’m just not in the mood to sit in a noisy bar and make small talk about how Jerry in Marketing has drop-dead bad breath.”

Both people are seeing the big ocean through their little drinking straws (hmm, possible cocktail reference there) and that should be okay. Is it not useful and even necessary to see the other person’s perspective for a moment, and not value-judge him or her on being overly or underly-social? There is room in the world for both Introverts and Extroverts and one is not superior to the other. There are people who need people and people who don’t. In fact, although the numbers are close, the world seems to skew slightly more Introvert than Extrovert. Maybe this is in response to population overcrowding and the constant speed and pace of life as some people realize when it comes to being around people, less is more.

This should be viewed on a sliding scale, of course. Some folks are hardcore in their Extrovert ways, attempting to corral every human on the planet they encounter over to Their Side. (Ever been invited to an “information only” meeting by one of your Extrovert friends who is new into some multi-level marketing home business?) Others are just as strong into their Introversion, hoping to be left alone and not needing other socially-forward recruits to seek the wisdom of their approach to life, work, and human interactions (or the lack thereof).

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I’m against zealotry in all its forms, whether it’s about religion, politics, or how NASCAR is more than just guys turning left at a high rate of speed. It’s tedious to be around people who believe what they believe at the top of their lungs. Can we all get along better by agreeing that Introversion and Extroversion exist in degrees and you can be a Situational Extrovert and a Necessary Introvert, on demand, even if you self-define yourself as living hard in one category over the other?

The subject of these communication collisions between the I and E preferences makes the news a lot these days. Being an Introvert seems not to be much of a badge of honor. Lots of books, articles, and blogs get published on how to be more extroverted if you’re an Introvert, as if you are a “problem to be solved.” Where is the reverse angle? Some media people and social scientists are testing the phrase “Ambiverts” to define those who can be a little of both. Isn’t there plenty of times at work and in life when you can be too much of an Extrovert?


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As a plankholder in the “I’m an Introvert and I’m Okay” movement, I’ve crafted my own list of cooperative suggestions for my Extrovert friends, colleagues, and family members. I say this with peace and love, but:

1. I need time to reflect, recharge, and recuperate.

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You get energy from people; I get drained by them. Too much conflict in long meetings makes me pine for a walk around the lake. Lots of group brainstorming and complex problem-solving discussions means I’ll need the next day alone to gather my thoughts and reconnect my internal battery booster. Long days standing in front of total strangers, teaching training subjects that are not always popular just tires me out. (What? Force me to sit through a two-hour sexual harassment prevention program? Yes, please!) You go out for drinks with the group; I’ll go back to the hotel for a nap.

2. I have the ability and skill to be quiet now and loud and fun later.

Give me the benefit of the doubt that I know how to be outgoing, sociable, friendly, and playful on command. I won’t embarrass you at that big party by sulking in the corner. I know how to drink, dance, laugh, make people laugh, engage with both strangers and friends, and be approachable. I’m not a creepy loner at parties, but don’t expect me to help you find an after-hours bar when it’s time to go home.

Extroversion Essential Reads

Why Extroverts Are So Needy

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3. I realize the benefits of being social and of being alone.

I can live in your world when necessary, being engaging when I meet new people, being assertive when it comes to giving my opinion when asked, and knowing when it’s time to get things done. I’ve been self employed for 25 years. If I didn’t have the capacity to cold-call, cold e-mail, or walk up to potential clients at conferences, introduce myself, and give them my business card, I would have starved to death long ago. Don’t confuse my introversion with not being assertive about my self-interests.

4. Being quiet doesn’t mean I’m in a bad mood or I’m angry.

No need to ask me, “Are you okay?” six times per day. I am okay and so are you. Telling me, “You need to smile more!” doesn’t make me want to smile more. Ask me to participate in team-building training games that I see as goofy and time-wasting and I’ll go along, but you’ll know from my leaking body language that I’m not thrilled about it. I won’t ruin it for others. If I’m quiet that doesn’t mean I’ve checked out or I’m dismissive; it just means I’m watching and waiting for my time and turn to get involved.

5. Leopards don’t change their spots and zebras don’t change their stripes.

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At my tender age, telling me, “You need to have more fun in life! You need to experience more excitement! Go zip-lining, hang-gliding, shark-swimming, or skydiving with me!” will guarantee I ain’t gonna. If I bring the idea to you, that means I really want to do it. If you bring the “you need to get excited” idea to me and try to force me to do it, I’ll probably refuse. I can be more like you when necessary. Can you understand that, respect it, go with it, share it, and maybe even be that way too, when I ask you occasionally to live a quieter life with me?

Dr. Steve Albrecht is internationally-known for his writing, speaking, and training on workplace violence and school violence prevention. He manages a San Diego-based firm specializing in high-risk HR, security, and work culture issues. He holds a doctorate in Business Administration, an MA in Security Management, a BS in Psychology, and a BA in English. He has written 17 books, including Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace , one of the first books on workplace violence subject. He worked for the San Diego Police Department for 15 years. You can download his weekly radio show, “Crime Time with Steve Albrecht,” at Contact him at or on Twitter @DrSteveAlbrecht


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