Introvert? Beware the coffee drinkers

Introverts and coffeeThe experience of being introverted is widely misunderstood. I don’t mean to imply that, as individual people, introverts are misunderstood. What I mean is that most people don’t understand what defines an introvert versus an extrovert. Introverts aren’t necessarily anti-social, shy, nerdy or lacking good communication or interpersonal skills. No, no, no. Not at all. I’ve met lots of extroverts with poor communication skills and know some introverts (myself included) who can be the life and soul of the party.

I am not going in to too much detail about the theories of why some people are introverted and others are extroverted, or the Jungian origins of these concepts. But this article in Fast Company is an excellent one to read on the topic if you are interested or, this one in the Atlantic, actually written by a self proclaimed introvert.

Most definitions emphasize some common themes, all of which describe me to a tee:

  • Interacting with a lot of people at once drains their energy
  • They love their own company and can happily spend hours alone
  • Highly stimulating circumstances leave them feeling unfocused and confused
  • They tend to have small groups of very close friends rather than large networks of acquaintances

All of that said, I LOVE parties, dancing, meeting new people, big events, night clubs and music festivals. However, after about 5 or 6 hours of any one of the above I am D.O.N.E. Don’t talk to me, don’t call me and definitely don’t turn up unannounced at my house (unless you desperately need the loo and plan to leave immediately afterwards). It is not uncommon for me to do a disappearing act from a party. When my social energy runs out, there are no reserves.

‘So what has all this got to do with coffee?’ I hear you say. Well, another thing I find particularly hard to deal with as an introvert is being “talked at”. And I’ve noticed that people who love to talk at you, talk at you even more after a couple of cups of coffee. It seems they just can’t stop themselves.

I started to notice this when I worked at Brock Uni. One of the students I worked with used to burn the candle at both ends quite frequently. He’d come in sullen and hung over. However, after a Red Bull for breakfast, an extra large Starbucks mid morning, a Coke at lunch and another bucketful of coffee around 3pm, he perked right up. By 4pm his ability to talk became the equivalent, to me, of Chinese Water Torture. After 45 minutes of listening to his verbal diarrhea I would have done anything to have him stop. ANYTHING.

That is an extreme example. However there are many other occasions this has happened. There I have stood, not able to get a word in edgewise, while the over-caffeinated person in front of me conducted a monologue in my direction. My body language turning in on itself, I become incapable of delivering the placatory nods and smiles that indicate polite interest. Every cell is screaming STOP TALKING PLEASE!

I can’t be the only person who experiences this. Although I read somewhere that only 25% of the US populations have predominantly introverted personalities (like most traits, introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum). So maybe I am in the minority. I guess that if you are naturally extroverted you would find it difficult to conceive the experience of an introvert. Although I have no problems imagining what an extrovert might feel like, and have, in the past, wished to be that way.

So for the benefit of those extroverts out there, I stole the following from the Fast Company article. It is handy guide to caring for your Introvert. It doesn’t include “Don’t drink too much coffee”, but in my opinion, it should.

Introvert Chart