Would You Wave Back?

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Would You Wave Back 26FEB20

Hot tears form in my eyes and my heart races.

“Can you explain what’s not working?”

“Just tell me what’s wrong!”

“I don’t understand why this is an issue for you.”

I swallow, surrendering to the tears, my face as red as a stop sign. In fact, I wish I had a stop sign so I could hold it up instead of trying to find the right words. I know I’m crying, but I’m not sad! I’m…mad. I have a million things I want to say, a million eloquent, valid points, but they simply won’t rise to the surface.


All I can seem to utter is an emotional, “I don’t know, it’s probably just me. I’m sorry.”

Does this sound familiar? Every time I’m faced with a difficult situation, my body immediately goes into fight or flight mode. Picture your worst stage fright coupled with a funeral, and then those two things have a baby with the ugliest argument you’ve ever had. That’s kind of how my body reacts when it senses anything resembling confrontation.

It’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, my mind has been turning over well-spoken, rational explanations for weeks, possibly months. Long, one-on-one conversations with close friends affirm that I have a sane, solid handle on the matter. Yet all of that goes out the window the minute someone signals it’s “showtime.”

In fellow introvert Jessica Pan’s moving and hilarious memoir, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, she tells the story of trying to overcome her introversion by giving herself a series of daunting tasks over the course of one year, ranging from hosting a dinner party to stand-up comedy. In one challenge, given to her by a coach, she has to talk to strangers in London’s Underground. Not just talk to them, but ask the ridiculous question, “I’m sorry, I forget, could you remind me, is there a Queen of England, and if so, what is her name?” She was shocked to find that people actually responded.

“Nobody waves,” her coach explained. “But everybody waves back.”

Sorry I'm Late Jessica Pan
Read it, for reals.

I used to think something was seriously -I mean seriously- wrong with me. In fact, the feeling was so deep-seated that I didn’t even realize I still carried it until recently, after reading both Susan Cain’s Quiet and Jenn Granneman’s The Secret Lives of Introverts.

Also solid reads.

Turns out… I’m (we’re) normal! There are other people like me (us)! I always knew I was an introvert, but some part of me never let go of the notion that it was something to fix. Gotta give that presentation, gotta speak up in meetings, gotta tell charming stories at that dinner party… And I did. And I do. Sometimes it’s even kinda sorta okay! But it’s never, ever without sweaty palms and a racing heart.

While it’s deeply soothing to know that this reaction to stressful situations -including those uncomfortable confrontations- is actually just part of the introvert package, I can’t help but continue to wonder what my life would look like had I been born an extrovert.

How many more relationships, promotions and opportunities might I have experienced if, instead of crying and stumbling through awkward moments, I spoke my piece with confidence? …Would I be willing to trade my entire identity -including my introspection and “hyper” sensitivity, as some have called it- to find out?

And what about my Redbox (solo) date nights?

Maybe I (we) don’t need to answer that question. Maybe, for now, it’s enough to know that if and when we wave, we have nothing to fear.


What do you think? Do extroverts have the advantage, especially in their love and career lives?


18 thoughts on “Would You Wave Back?”

  1. I’m not sure if I used to be an introvert or just shy… but I can relate to this somewhat. It took me a long time, basically until my thirties, to come out of my proverbial shell. Not sure why or how it happened and I doubt I’m a true extrovert… but at least I don’t melt into a puddle talking to strangers now. Do they have the advantage? Maybe. They have less of those “oh I should have” regrets I’m sure. But it takes all kinds to make the world and if we were all outgoing think how obnoxious a place it would be!

  2. Babe babe babe, you know this girl’s an introvert, too. I’m pretty sure there would be different challenges as an extrovert (not that I can imagine which ones). You’re fabulous just as you are, though I understand why you want to be able to channel “mad” into something productive. I think that is a rare skill – most of us blow up internally or externally – I’m sure there’s a Dale Carnegie course we could take together – lemme know the dates! LOL

  3. When I read your blog today, my mind immediately went to an introvert friend of mine, possibly one of my best friends. We have known each other close to 20 years. He is a director at a 1.2 billion dollar company, convinced his extrovert friend (me) to apply there last year.. and I was hired. He said the 50 employee department he oversees (he now oversees over 300 employees) needed someone like me. He was correct, I think, because my experience and personality enhance the nerdish and introverted personalities that my other four associates possess. I also get to see how he intentionally overcomes his introverted tendencies. Sometimes it looks painful to me. He repeats gestures and phrases and jokes.. because he needs to rehearse them. I see the discomfort. But he pulls it off. He’s good at what he does, is the regimented introvert I have known. And yes, I see it in his love life.. and he’s head over heels in love with an extreme extrovert!

    1. Introverts are so insightful and full of good taste like that! Heh. This is such a fascinating topic to me, especially in terms of close friendships and romantic relationships. Do you think two extreme extroverts or two extreme introverts can be successful together as very close friends or romantic partners?

  4. My ex is an introvert. That didn’t work well, mainly because she had a hard time understanding why it was so easy for me to be open to anybody and everybody. Two extroverts would be in competition. Two introverts would likely be in heaven. My two best friends are big believers in Myers-Briggs, were funny to listen to when they were meeting new women and evaluating their potential– ‘She’s INFJ, just like my ex. Not good’.

    1. Ha! I can just imagine hearing that on a first date.
      “I’m sorry, you’re an INFJ; this will never work.” …”I’m sorry, what did you call me??”

  5. so… yeah… I’d wave wildly & have this huge grin & come at you for a big ass hug & you’d be like WHO THE F**K?!?!!?!? And then I’d tell you who I was and you’d still be like DAMN GIRL GET OFF… but that’s not weird at all, cuz I’d definitely wave first.

  6. I’m an introvert and I’ve done comedy on stage, a lot. And it really helped, kind of – in a sense that I would be totally fine performing in front of 1000+ people (and I don’t even have to picture the audience naked), yet still hesitate to speak up at a meeting or start a conversation with a stranger or do a toast at a party. I did get a little better in that, so that now I’ll hesitate, but will still, probably, speak up. Toasts are still beyond me, though.

Leave a Reply. Because I Love You.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.