The Hierarchy of Introverts: Whose Turn is it to Speak?

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In general, I can’t say that there have been many times here in South Korea that I have taken the lead in activities or relationships. However, when I have, it is often spurred on by me being in the company of someone who was even more anxious or introverted than I was. For instance, one of my biggest issues has been my fear of speaking to people, something I don’t prefer even when it is in English, much less so in Korean. However, when I went out to eat with a classmate and we wanted to ask for a box to take some food to go using a translator, while the server’s focus was on my friend, I was able to understand—very generally—what he was saying in Korean and respond to him when my friend become confused. I realized this was because my brain tended to become empty when people tried to speak to me. I would become overwhelmed and anxious. However, if it was to help someone who was even more anxious or if their attention wasn’t directed at me this became easier.

In another scenario, I was appointed the group leader of a verbal presentation. This was a surprise considering I hate public speaking. Instead, I think people saw my anxiousness to decide a topic, delegate parts, and create a PowerPoint as my confidence in the topic, delegating and other factors, rather than just wanting to ensure that our project would get done in time. Moreover, despite my dislike of presenting in front of an audience, I was who delivered the introduction and conclusion, and even filled in for a missing member. In this way, when those around me are unmotivated or uncaring about a project, despite my personal dislike of the project, I will step up and take the leadership role.

Therefore, despite my general unwillingness to interact with unfamiliar people or in a spotlight position, when it comes to a situation wherein those around me are similarly uncomfortable, somehow, I find the ability to step up. I wish I had noticed this sooner, because then I might have used this to my advantage to make the times when I was by myself a little easier. So, the advice I would give to people who happen to have similar feelings of introversion or anxiety, especially while abroad, would be to imagine that you are traveling with a deathly anxious and introverted person, so you have to assume that friendly position for their sake, and hopefully you will find these situations easier to swallow!