Introverts are no strangers to getting hurt.
The vast majority of us are affable, friendly folks who enjoy cultivating deep relationships with a select group of people.
When one of those individuals hurts us, however, it can be like getting hit by a car traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour, or having a large pile of rocks fall right on top of us. (Okay, maybe not, but you get the point.) We're left blindsided, if not devastated.
When an introvert decides to let you into their circle, consider yourself special. We're usually slow to warm up to people and even slower to build trust in them.
But once you've earned that trust, you've got yourself a friend for life. Someone who has your back in good times and bad. Someone who will be entirely honest without passing judgment. Someone who will cherish you for who you are, even if they may not always agree with you on everything.
The problem is that introverts' tendency to do nice things and expect nothing in return coupled with their reticence to stand up for themselves creates the perfect storm for being taken for granted.
What's worse, we find it awfully difficult to cut ties with those in whom we feel emotionally invested. After all, our fear is that if we keep chipping away at our already-small circle, we'll be left with no one. Then the cycle repeats itself all over again, made all the more difficult by the fact that now we're even less inclined to trust new people that may come our way.
Here are three tips for navigating the growing pains of relationships:
1. Do not let others -- not even those you deem your closest friends -- take advantage of you. I'm all for doing everything in one's power to repair a faltering relationship. But once it becomes apparent you're being used, it's time to speak up. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Do not be afraid to make your feelings plainly known. You might be reluctant to address how you feel for fear of getting the other person riled up. But ask yourself this question: If open, honest communication prompts a person to exit your life, did they truly value you in the first place?
3. Resist the urge to assume everyone is out to hurt you. When we've been burned by others, it's only natural to put our guard up. However, that doesn't mean we should look upon others with suspicion and hostility when they've given us no reason to. For example, just because your friend of 10 years sold you out doesn't mean the genial young lady you've gotten to know in your aerobics will similarly betray your trust. There's a difference between caution and downright cynicism.
As introverts, we have every right not to hand over our trust to anyone until we feel comfortable doing so. And when it comes to those older relationships, just because you've known someone a long time doesn't mean they have your best interests at heart (or ever did, really).
In reality, someone you met on the street yesterday might have purer intentions than an individual you've known since your college days. Always remember that your gut is often your best guide when assessing others' true motives.