Even though I felt betrayed by my own body language, I had to laugh. My coworker and I had an awkward exchange that was a textbook-perfect example of how personality type affects communication. Although I didn't ask her afterwards, I'm willing to bet we saw the same situation very differently. I’ll share the same story twice to decode my introvert body language.
The Extrovert’s Version of the Story
I stopped my coworker in the hallway to ask how she wanted our team to celebrate her upcoming birthday. She always arranges a birthday lunch for each of us, so I wanted to do the same in return. Her response was kind of weird though. She tried to deflect the question and writhed sideways as if physically uncomfortable. I just wanted to do something nice, so I’m not sure why she responded so strangely.
The Introvert’s Version of the Story
An outgoing coworker stopped me in the hallway and asked me an unexpected personal question. It was a perfectly reasonable question, not too intrusive, and came from a place of genuine caring. But I wasn't ready for it. As I thought about my answer, I unconsciously turned to the side almost as if to protect myself. I realized this a few moments later and turned back, hoping I didn’t seem disinterested or rude. The combination of the unexpected attention, answering a personal question, and our close proximity made me feel vulnerable even though my coworker radiated nothing but warmth.