It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Introverted Me

Introversion is the Next Big Social Thing. Everyone’s talking about it these days. It rather bemuses me, all this sudden flurry attention. Hello? We’ve been here all along! Oh, I guess you extroverted types didn’t notice, huh, introverts being so quiet an all.

I am an introvert, but I’m a confident one who’s never felt inadequate or lacking, so the “it’s okay to be an introvert! there’s nothing wrong with you!!” emphasis of some of the writers is frankly annoying. This book? Totally mis-titled. “How to Thrive in an Extrovert World”? Nah. Merest survival. And advantages? Didn’t find a one. But this one? Is terrific. I really enjoyed it, and found myself nodding along … and learning lots.

Most recently I happened onto a Huffinton Post article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert. Having no toddlers to write about this week, I decided to respond to its points, see how I, a not-so-secret introvert, tally according to this particular list.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh, I used to! Right into my late thirties. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but now I can actively enjoy it. Introverts, as the article notes, tend to see small talk as a barrier between people. Introverts like conversation to go deep. Chit-chat is anything but, and so for many years, I avoided it. It was tedious, it was annoying, and I just wasn’t any damned good at it.

Some people only small talk. For them conversation never develops beyond friendly chit-chat. That’s fine, if that’s what they enjoy … but I won’t be spending long hours of time in conversation with them. But! At some point in my thirties, I began to see that small talk is a terrific springboard to real conversation. Small talk is a way to get comfortable with someone, to determine their conversational style, their attitudes and interests, to evaluate whether they’re someone who’s capable of and interested in, conversation with more depth.

So now I enjoy small talk. Not as an end in itself, generally, but as a means to an end.

2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
True. I go to be with people I know, for conversation. I go for the food and drink, to dance if there’s dancing. I go to flirt. “Meeting new people” is not an enticement. It may be a fringe benefit, but it’s never the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
Yup. This one surprised me. Doesn’t everyone? Guess not!

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
It used to. And goodness, networking certainly offers huge opportunities for phoniness which some people exploit shamelessly. But, as I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t have to be phony. Introverts just have to learn to network in a style that suits their nature. Also, I will not — not even sure I could — approach someone for some sort of job-related favour if I’ve never done anything for them. It doesn’t have to be huge: maybe I’ve sent them a few links to articles that I think they’d find interesting, with a personal note attached. (A perfect introvert technique!) It’s the relationship bank account idea: don’t be making withdrawals if you never make a deposit.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”
Yup! Also been accused of ‘over-thinking’ when I thought we’d barely begun to explore the topic.

6. You’re easily distracted.
When I read this I disagreed. I have terrific focus, once I get my teeth into an idea. (See “too intense/over-thinking”, above.) The article isn’t talking about mental focus and distraction, though, it’s talking about physical. In that case, yes, absolutely. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, trying to have a significant conversation (as opposed to small talk!), I will place myself with my back to the room. It’s too stimulating; I can’t focus; I keep getting distracted. So it turns out this is a yes.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
ABSOLUTELY! I looooove my downtime. Not so that I can ‘do nothing’, but because it refreshes and restores me. Without the downtime, I am less productive, and I know it. When I have downtime, lots of healthy, nourishing, internal things are going on. I love it. I need it.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
Yes and no. I’ve done a reasonable amount of public speaking, though I think the largest audience I had was 100 or so. As long as I am well-prepared, I actively enjoy public speaking. The conversation afterward? Depends on how it’s structured. If we’re having a meet-and-greet with coffee or drinks, where people mill around and talk about whatever, that’s tiring and I’d rather not. I can, and I’m charming … but it’s tiring. If it’s simply a line of people asking a question about my presentation, and maybe moving into their own experience, that I’m absolutely comfortable with, and enjoy.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
Yes, though I see this as more good manners. When you take the middle seat, you’re hogging the whole bench, tacitly discouraging people from sitting there. (But maybe I only feel that way because I’m introverted, and would choose to sit alone if I had the chance?)

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
Absolutely. Yes.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.
Nope! My wonderful husband is far more introverted than me.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.
Yes.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
I would suspect it would depend on the show, but likely the answer for me is ‘true’. If the audience participation is stupid or potentially humiliating or conflictual, ugh. If participation means playing with fun ideas, then I could do that. I suspect the shows I’d feel comfortable being on are few and far between.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.
Yup. Loves me my call display!

15. You notice details that others don’t.
I don’t know. Do I? I’ve never thought about it.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue
.
Oh, heck yeah.

17. You have low blood pressure
.
I do!

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
I think my grandmother called me that for the first time when I was four.

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

False. In the right situation, I absolutely can. Now, I think my tolerance is lower than an extrovert’s. After a while the buzz wears off and I get tired/overwhelmed, but I can and do get high on busy, loud, positive surroundings, and I do enjoy it.

20. You look at the big picture.
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the things that makes me good at my job.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
Uh-huh. Lordy, I got tired of hearing that when I was in grade school. My response, had I been rude enough to say it out loud, was “Well, if the rest of you would SHUT UP for long enough, I might have a chance.”

22. You’re a writer.

Guess so! I also far prefer email to phone conversations.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
Yes! One of the things I’ve loved about my two weeks off is the opportunity to structure my time so that I can do exactly that. I have far more energy, get a lot more done, when I can pace myself, balance the demands. I’ve gotten SO MUCH DONE, visited a bunch of people, and don’t feel tired AT ALL. It’s been wonderful!

Too bad I can’t be on holiday all the time…

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August 21, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

11 Comments »

  1. This is fascinating – I’ve known for a while that I’m quite introverted, but I hadn’t realised how many of these apply to me. Where/in what context do you do your public speaking?

    My public speaking was years ago, in a women’s health centre in a hospital, and some community centres in the city I lived in at the time. Topics: prenatal education, primarily.

    Comment by May | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  2. I, too, am an introvert, but like May said above, I had no idea how well I fit into the category. I have 21 of the 23 traits. The only ones I’m apparently lacking are an extroverted husband and being a writer. Thanks for the interesting glimpse into my own head!

    In the article, being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean that’s your career. It means instead that you prefer writing to other forms of communication. In that sense, if you’re a blogger, or even just an inveterate e-mailer instead of phoner, you’re a writer!

    Comment by Tuesy | August 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Then I’m definitely a writer. That dovetails nicely with me ignoring the phone when it rings!

      Comment by Tuesy | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  3. My husband sent this article to me; I match every one of the traits. I don’t think even I realized how truly introverted I am!

    Comment by Kathryn | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  4. I read this article recently and was surprised at how insightful it is into the minds and lives of introverts (I pretty much match ALL of these quite strongly) compared to other stereotyped drivel i’ve read on the subject. Your comment on 21 made me laugh out loud! I always had the same answer (in my head). I’m glad that as an adult I don’t get teased for my reticence anymore (because it’s rude! Apparently, it doesn’t matter if an adult is rude to a child, but an adult shouldn’t be rude to another adult).

    Comment by rosie_kate | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  5. Probably omitted out of politeness to extroverts, but how about “You think extroverts are show-offs.”

    I don’t now, but I did as a child. I liked being an introvert, but eventually I realised it could be off-putting for other people, who took my reticence as unfriendliness. I deliberately reached out to people, which made me feel vulnerable, but it was that very quality that endeared me to them.

    Comment by Z | August 29, 2013 | Reply

  6. Mary wrote…”I can, and I’m charming … but it’s tiring.” This made me giggle and is a testament to your statement that you are a confident introvert. Love it!

    My friend’s daughter (15) is reading Quiet right now and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve got dibs when Mom is finished with it. I’m looking forward to it just based on the discussions we’ve had already about it.

    Excellent post!

    It’s a widely-held misconception that introverts lack confidence. No, we just don’t need as much social contact and external validation. Perhaps that makes us more confident?? In fact, it just makes us different. Which, in my world, is not an insult. 🙂

    Comment by Sheri | August 29, 2013 | Reply

  7. A friend of mine pointed out that a lot of these would also count if you were an extrovert with social anxiety, so they aren’t great examples. I preferred a different list I found, which referred to making frequent bathroom breaks at work just to escape for a few minutes (guilty).

    And the “you’re in a relationship with an extrovert” one is stupid. 90% of people are extroverts. STATISTICALLY you are more likely to marry an extrovert, no matter what you are. And besides, most introverts I know married other introverts.

    I’d suggest that most traits of introverts are shared with social-anxiety extroverts, so the point, while true, is also irrelevant. Also … 90%? According to who? The books I’ve read suggest 75-25, certainly holds true in my own experience. It’s certainly true that in North American society, where extroverted traits are much more valued, introverts learn to present as more extroverted than they are, but ninety sounds like a gross exaggeration to me. However, your point still holds true. Even if the stats I’ve read are the accurate ones, extroverts outnumber introverts 3 to 1, so odds are good we’re going to marry extroverts. (Not that I did, in either marriage!)

    Comment by IfByYes | August 30, 2013 | Reply

  8. I admit to feeling a little validation when this list comes round (at 20/23)!
    It IS too bad you can’t be on holiday all of the time but thanks (again) for your insights!

    Comment by LoryKC | September 2, 2013 | Reply

  9. I love it!! I could relate to so many of those! Thanks for posting.

    Comment by Natalie | September 6, 2013 | Reply

  10. I’ve started reading “Quiet” on your recommendation, and I really like it so far — makes some very useful points.

    Comment by Helen Huntingdon | September 17, 2013 | Reply


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