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Are you an intuitive introvert?
Do you feel misunderstood by people all the time?
Everything you say seems to be interpreted wrongly.
When you share something about yourself, you feel judged by others.
It feels like no one understands you.
I’ve been in your shoes. Being an introvert myself, I understand it’s easy for others to misunderstand introverts. When I was young, I didn’t even understand myself. I didn’t get it why others are having so much fun in groups while I prefer to be alone with my books. I didn’t know why I’m so imaginative, abstract, and different.
How do I get others to understand me when I don’t even understand myself?
I couldn’t blame others for not understanding because I didn’t even understand myself at that time. For the most part of my life, I’ve been seeking to understand myself better. And now that I understand who I am spiritually and personality-wise, I don’t feel hurt being misunderstood anymore.
I could see why others don’t understand introverts (especially those intuitive ones like me), and I’m at peace with it.
Why Don’t People Understand Introverts?
One of the biggest struggles that introverts face is that people around us just don’t get us. After reading many books on MBTI, I finally have a better idea of why this is so.
Everyone has both introverted and extroverted sides to them. Introverts are termed introverts because their brain’s dominant function prefers introversion. The problem, however, is when we relate to other people, especially with a large group of people and strangers, we tend to use our extroverted function.
So most people know us through our extroverted function.
But that hardly represents how we perceive ourselves and that’s why we feel misunderstood.
For introverts, what other people see is just how we cope with the physical world. Take me for an example, I am an INFJ. My dominant function is Introverted Intuition, and my auxiliary function is Extraverted Feeling. What most people see when they see me is my extraverted feeling function. People perceive me as someone who is accommodating, friendly, and kind.
Yes, it’s still part of my personality, but it’s not something I spent most of my time. It’s just how I cope with the external world. Compared to someone like an ENFJ or ESFJ whose dominant function is extraverted feeling, I don’t really have as much desire to meet the needs of others like them. And my extraverted feeling function is also less visible to others.
As much as possible, I still want to meet other people’s needs. But if doing so requires me to go against my intuition, I usually don’t do it. So people can be puzzled with my stubbornness when it comes to pursuing my dreams and vision.
It also doesn’t help that intuition is abstract. You get an insight or a vision without knowing the in-between. And there’s no concrete facts or reasons to support it. That’s why it’s always challenging to get others to understand my point of view.
So What Can You Do When People Don’t Understand You?
1. Know why you need people to understand you.
I used to feel frustrated when my dad can’t see my point of view. To me, there’s more than one way of doing things and not everyone wants the same things in life, why does he always insist that his way is the right way? And no matter how hard I tried to explain to him, he doesn’t seem to get it.
But one day, I thought to myself, “Is it really important that my dad understands me? Why do I need others to know me? I know what I’m doing. I’m fully responsible for my life. Even if others don’t understand me, I’m still going ahead with my plans, right?”
Why is it important for someone to understand you?
I realized I’m not really upset when people don’t understand me. The real problem is that I felt a lack of love, connection, and support from others. I wanted approval and validation from my dad, and I wasn’t given any. It would have been fine if he said, “I don’t understand what you are doing, but I respect your decision.”
Therefore, examine your need for people to understand you. Do you get happier when someone understands you? Do you really need everyone to understand you?
Showing yourself more love and acceptance may be more important than getting people to know you.
2. Understand how you contribute to the misunderstanding.
I do have this habit, if I sense that the other person doesn’t understand or isn’t patient enough to listen to what I have to say, I usually don’t share that much about myself. But by doing so, I might have contributed to the misunderstanding too.
Did you make the effort to communicate clearly?
It’s an egg-and-chicken situation. When we assume people won’t understand us, we don’t make the effort to get ourselves understood. The contrary is also true. When we don’t share much about ourselves, people don’t get the chance to understand us.
I’m a bit scatterbrained. My intuitive mind jumps from ideas to ideas and I tend to sound incoherent when I speak. I know if I want to speak coherently, I could. But it takes a lot of effort and energy to prepare what I want to say in my mind first, so I usually don’t.
Plus, even though I felt lonely at times when people don’t understand me, deep down inside I kind of enjoy it. I love being all mysterious and private. Therefore, subconsciously, I might be the one who creates this distance from other people.
Before you blame others for not understanding you enough, perhaps you could look at how you contribute to the misunderstanding. If you really want others to get you, change the way you communicate with others. Be more explicit and open.
3. Gauge whether the person is interested in understanding you.
Not everyone is willing to listen or open to new ideas. Some are very fixated with their point of view and it’s really pointless to get them to understand.
If someone is uninterested to listen, don’t force them to understand.
First, it’s so much easier to connect with someone who is interested in you. Second, people don’t like it when they are forced to accept an opinion. Most would try to resist and some might even resent you. Third, there’s nothing much you can do when someone doesn’t wish to understand, other than accepting they don’t wish to understand.
So how do you tell when someone isn’t interested in understanding you? You can tell when someone doesn’t allow you to complete your sentences.
Some people are just more interested in what they have to share than what you want to say. Before you have finished sharing your views, they either interrupt you and add their own point of view or they become distracted by someone else and started talking to them. Even when they aren’t talking, you can see from their body language, they are preparing for their turn to share.
Don’t feel hurt when someone does that, especially if you are highly sensitive or empathetic. They are not intentional. Not everyone is as empathetic as us. Not everyone is good at listening. It’s better to lower our expectations for others.
4. Let go of the need to explain.
There are times when people are interested to know you, but they just don’t get you. There is really no need to get frustrated over that. Being interested in you and asking you to repeat already show that they care about you. You do your best in explaining, but if they don’t understand, it’s okay.
That is just a perception gap. We can look at the same event, but give different meanings to the event. Don’t expect everyone to get you and understand your feelings. Realize how they perceive you may be different from how you perceive yourself.
Welcome the misunderstanding and different points of view.
You don’t have to be right all the time. Being open and considering another person’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to follow their view in the end. Don’t argue. Let go of the need to explain or defend yourself. Seek first to understand their perception, but know that their perception belongs to them. It shouldn’t affect the way you see yourself.
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” Lao Tzu
Of course, some people aren’t very diplomatic, right? They tell you what you have done is stupid or not logical. They try to get you to change and tell you what you should be. If they have crossed the line, you must uphold your boundaries and stay true to yourself. But you don’t have to get them to agree with you.
Just let them be. Let them laugh at how crazy you are. In David Keirsey’s book, Please Understand Me II, he mentions the Pygmalion Project. We all trying to get people to be more like us. Be it more empathetic, more logical, more dutiful, or more spontaneous. The best is actually understand other people’s differences and respect their differences.
5. Focus on oneness, not the differences.
The reason why we feel so hurt when people don’t understand us is that we focus too much on the differences. You see yourself as an individual and everyone else as separate from you, other than you.
In school, even though I had friends, I always felt lonely. I felt as though there’s a wall between others and I. It’s because I focused too much on how others weren’t as introverted and intuitive like me. I would feel less lonely if I focused on the similarity I had with others.
It feels nice to be understood, right?
But you don’t need people to understand you to feel one with them.
Instead of getting people to understand you, what you really have to deal with is your feeling of loneliness.
The first spiritual book, I read after my depression changed me. In the book, The Shift, by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, he mentions that we are like a small glass of water from the ocean. Ultimately, it would return to its source (the ocean).
One day, I was walking in the subway and feel this deep connection with the crowd. It’s beautiful. Usually, I avoid crowds, I still do. But that day, I feel the oneness with everyone on the subway. We all belong to the same source.
Featured Photo Credit: Lonely Playtime / Jason Parks