Thursday, January 08, 2009

Quiet does not equal crazy. Okay, rarely equals crazy.

Do you love your quiet time? Treasure the moments when you can sit silently and contemplate the universe? Do you sit back and let others do the talking...and not feel all that bad about sitting out the conversation? Then you, like me, are probably an introvert. (Actually, those wacky Myers-Briggs tests pegged me as an introvert with just a dash of extrovert...which is probably why I keep a blog and tend to interrupt people with jokes about donkeys in smart hats.)

While you're indulging in some highly prized quiet time today, take a minute to check out this terrific article in "The Atlantic" called "Caring for Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch.

It's one of the first pieces of writing I've come across that really explains the inner life of an introvert and why so many people think we're, well, weird. I wouldn't trade being an introvert for anything -- after all, it's at the heart and soul of my nerdy nature -- but it would be nice to get a little slack for our social awkwardness and have people realize, hey, we just can't help it.

Here's a taste of what Rauch has to say:
Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes....

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating....


Well said, Jonathan. If I were an extrovert, I'd send you a note of congratulations.

12 comments:

Elimare said...

oh wow, that makes so much sense now - that whole thing of needing 'alone time' that was me for the week after Christmas.

Miss Grace said...

Article hits it pretty spot on.

Emmy said...

I like that!

I am married to an extrovert who many times misunderstands my approach to social situations as shy. I'll definitely be sending him a link to your site.

The Modern Gal said...

I love that article. I'm guessing most extroverts won't appreciate it, though?

Marie said...

that is SUCH a great article!

setagel said...

I found this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Party-One-Manifesto-Anneli-Rufus/dp/1569245134

to be a great comfort, especially at a time when I was dating a super-extrovert who didn't quite 'get' my introversion. We introverts can always use more defenders!

only a movie said...

Oh I love this. Validation.

Michele said...

It's worse if you're an introvert AND shy! I find it easier to deal now I'm that much older, but as a teenager, it was hell. I often spend an hour or two in company with someone else and speak about 1 sentence for every four of theirs (which actually works fine because most people prefer to talk rather than listen!)

Camera Obscura said...

So say we all.

chewbob said...

*sigh* I think I'm both. I sometimes crave alone time and sometimes crave people. I wouldn't even say there's a dominant one. Some days I just want to hang out with everyone on the entire planet while other days I want to sit in my apartment and watch an entire season of "House". It's almost more aggravating not being able to pin down if I'm an intro or an extro.

crone51 said...

Chewbob- I am exactly the same way. Sometimes the only people I want to interact with are my dogs ( and rumor hath it they are not exactly people) and other times I want to get to know every human on the planet. Has been this way for a very long time. After all these years I think I have learned to cherish both wacky parts of my increasingly wacky self.

bikegirl said...

That makes SO much sense. When I lived with my parents, I didn't really have any alone time because my whole family was always around, and I was miserable. Now that I live alone, I'm a lot happier and feel more at peace. I thought I would get lonely living alone, but that hasn't been the case in the least.
I especially like the part of the article where the writer says that introverts are the majority of the gifted population ;)