During a dinner party, a casual friend was talking to me in a situation dripping with awkwardness.
Friend: …well, I’m just asking to create small talk.
Girlfriend of friend: You’re not supposed to tell people that!
Me: Actually, I don’t like small talk.
Friend: Well, we’ll just sit here and smile at each other, then.
I’m quite an introvert, which is not something I am ashamed of, but something I revel in. (In fact, I think most introverts love being introverts.) This does not mean I am shy. I can be talkative when I want to be, and I love getting to know people and the motivations behind their actions. I love people. But I love being alone, and I operate alone.
People tire me out, and I hardly have the patience for small talk. Sometimes when I’ve been alone for too long, it takes me a while to adjust to company. I stare more than I talk, I listen but I am elsewhere. This is why I have a sharp boundary between my friends and non-friends, and this is why group settings increase my discomfort.
I have a lot of friends who are introverted and who prefer relating to fictional characters or people they will never meet. I’m not sure how much of this is a healthy practice, but there is one thing I am sure of. These introverts love people more than anything. They love people, and are constantly receptive to them, which is also why they tend to get more emotionally exhausted in company. And it’s also why they are more easily influenced and disappointed by people.
Introverts love being alone, but, more than anything, they are pained by loneliness.
So, before you ask someone to be more people-oriented (a term I viciously abhor), please consider if they possess the condition of being folded inward.