Oh Introverts, we’re so cute.
When I first heard Dr. Richard Grant talk about the Introvert’s Backpack, I chuckled because he was so spot on. The Introvert really experiences life internally, inside our own heads. Every idea, emotion, and desire has to be processed before we can say or do something. So, we’ll go through a day and just put those thoughts and feelings into our backpack. It’s not bottling feelings, it’s just that I can’t keep up with life if I stop to chew on everything all the time. I have a thing, and I throw it over my shoulder into the backpack.
This is why the introvert in your life – if it’s not you, it might be your partner – seems to not have much to say. Most of the time, we don’t have much to say.
BUT, eventually that backpack gets HEAVY. The unpacking of the Introvert’s Backpack may come as a shock to the unwitting. If you’re a parent /sibling / friend /roommate / romantic or business partner of an introvert, this can be rough. But don’t take it personally. We’ve spent the last week processing these things and now we have to get them out. Now, and yes RIGHT NOW, you’re going to hear about that thing you did 3 days ago that drives me nuts, along with why it drives me nuts and how my brother used to do a similar thing when I was 4 and please instead of that do this instead.
Just nod and smile please! Answer questions as asked. You can’t check out because we’ll know. And do not, please for the love of god, do not do the thing where you, Extrovert, go into your own story about something similar you once experienced. In my house, that is called “Hijacking the Conversation.” Also do not argue, do not defend yourself. Wait until the backpack is empty and the Introvert is out of words. Anything else makes me not want to talk. Or it makes for an argument. It makes us think, “Fine, I’ll just shut up.” Zip up the backpack and never open it again.
We can only unload the backpack with a person we feel is safe to do so. If you’re on the receiving end of it, realize that this Introvert is trusting you… like an emotional trust fall. Just catch them, and all will be well.
If you’re the Introvert, you may find yourself part way into the unloading before you realize what you’re doing. Try to pause and give your person a little warning, like Hey, I know this is a lot but I need to get it off my chest. Or if they know the backpack idea, Hey, I guess I’m unloading my backpack…
For us, this has been a marriage saver!
Pssh…Remember the last installment of the Care and Feeding of Introverts? No? You can read it here.