I took a huge step outside my comfort zone and joined the ESL ministry at my church. Even though I’ve never seen myself as a teacher, I felt compelled to do it. So I did, and I love it. I have been teaching since January of this year with a break for the summer. I start back with a new class after Labor Day. I didn’t feel like my introversion would hinder my teaching abilities as I am accustomed and quite comfortable speaking in front of a group, but not comfortable speaking in a group. My students are wonderful and it is great learning about all of the different cultures.
This past weekend, my introversion was on full display and I am sure that it was very confusing to the group I was with. I, along with the other ESL teachers in the ministry, got together for a workshop held at our church. Everything was fine until we all went to lunch at a local restaurant. I drove and two of the other teachers rode with me and we were also meeting several others. At the restaurant there were about 10 of us total. Everyone was talking, except me. I was perfectly content listening, but I began to notice a few concerned faces. I tried to look as happy as possible without making anyone feel compelled to draw me in to the conversation. It happened anyway. I usually deal with everyone one-on-one so they have never seen me in group interactions. Then began the “Are you okay?” and the “I’m sorry, I haven’t let you say anything” not knowing that I prefer it that way. Then I had to explain that I was perfectly fine and enjoy listening. Which is true, but I was getting close to my limit and I wanted it to end. Most non-introverts can’t understand that you can enjoy their company, but in small doses. I was mostly uncomfortable with the possibility of being called out to participate. So I continued to nod and chomp away at my salad. Finally, it was time for us to leave. Of the two that rode with me, one of them was from another church and it was my first time meeting her that day. She had mentioned earlier that she lived on a farm and I was excited to talk to her about it. On the way back to the church I began asking her about the animals and her plans for expanding her farm and she shared many of the details with me. She and I had and amazing and lively conversation about how I am the first generation of my family to not grow up on a farm. Then she said “Where was this woman at lunch? Were you not feeling well? At first I thought I had done something to offend you.” Then I had to explain how I am in big groups. She seemed to understand and I didn’t expect her to understand completely. I can understand why introverted behavior can be confusing to people. I have often wondered if I should explain why I am the way I am.
Are there any introverts who have had similar situations? Has anyone ever called you out and you felt compelled to explain your behavior? If so, what did you say? What are your thoughts on explaining your introversion?