Please help me understand and deal with my introverted relatives! I am extroverted and thrive on interaction with others. When I have been left alone without human contact for too long, I begin to go a little batty. Over Thanksgiving, my sibling + spouse + kids came over to my folks’ place for dinner. I watched as my sibling + spouse spent the entire time, except while eating, playing with mobile devices and reading magazines. During the meal they did not talk, but just ate and then left the table. I did not get a greeting, nor a word of conversation from either of them, and spent most of the time talking with their children under the age of 7 and my other family members.
Here’s my dilemma: I want to respect their introverted and shy tendencies and not force them to talk if they don’t want to. But I see them rarely, only maybe 3-4 times per year, and I feel like it’s not too much to ask for them to put down the iDevice and magazine, and make a small amount of conversation over the two hours they spend with the family. I have tried to chat with them in the past, and they are either very awkward in answering, or they give one-word, conversation-ending answers, so I don’t feel like my usual tools are cutting it. (Note: Sibling + spouse are both in the early 30s age range, and have jobs which deal with the public, so I don’t believe either are incapable of making conversation.)
How can I encourage conversation respectfully, and have it feel to them like a welcome invitation rather than a stressful obligation?
Extroverted Black Sheep
As a raving extrovert myself, I wrote a whole letter to you suggesting that you offer to play board games or giving them even more space or something something, even though I was thinking: “Actually, I think maybe EBS’s sibling and spouse are just rude.” So I showed my answer to my deeply introverted partner. She threw up her hands. “Those people may or may not be introverts,” she said, “but they are definitely assholes.”
So I guess my new answer is this: ignore the assholes and talk to the other relatives. Fuck them.
This letter originally appeared at bitterempire.com on December 29, 2014.