Introverts may get mistaken for loners, but they are actually just differently social, says author Susan Cain.
Do you enjoy having time to yourself, but always feel a little guilty about it? Then Susan Cain’s “Quiet : The Power of Introverts” is for you. It’s part book, part manifesto. We live in a nation that values its extroverts – the outgoing, the lovers of crowds – but not the quiet types who change the world.
Oh Kindle, my Kindle! At long last, I own a Kindle. For those of you who are not bookaholics like me, Kindle is an e-reader from Amazon. It can link up with Amazon and sell you books, which appear on your screen in a few seconds. Best-sellers are $9 but old-faithfuls are $1. Collections of five classics cost a buck.
I was like a kid let loose in a candy shop. In my mind, I was running from treasure (Whitman!) to treasure (Wuthering Heights!), picking and choosing and downloading, reading, rejoicing, and going back for more. I felt bright and happy and active.
But what did I look like? I looked like I was sitting in a chair, staring at a tablet, pressing buttons. I’m an introvert, you see. All of this takes place on the inside. People who don’t know me will mistake this as a good time to interrupt, because if they were sitting silently pressing buttons, they would be bored. But I am not bored, I am enthralled and having the time of my life! This is a very Do-Not-Disturb time. After all, I wouldn’t interrupt you when you’re watching the Super Bowl, would I?
It doesn’t last forever, any more than the Super Bowl does. Although that first time with the Kindle, exceptionally, lasted all night.
Are you an extravert? Do you worry about introvert friends or relatives who go inert? Relax. They’re having fun, on the inside.
Our siblings. They resemble us just enough to make all their differences confusing, and no matter what we choose to make of this, we are cast in relation to them our whole lives long. ~Susan Scarf Merrell
I shouldn’t keep falling for this. Mom wants a happy family and we, her four kids (um, make that adults), keep trying to pretend that we are. For the most part, that is true – we get along very well.
Except that we are three introverts and one extravert. The extravert doesn’t understand the problem. I’ve heard that extraverts never do and if I think about it, that might be true. After all, if an extravert reaches “outside” for the answers, then he would (and he does) think there’s something wrong with us. We three introverts, on the other hand, look inside ourselves and see a no-fault difference. We need a bit of quiet to energize, and our extravert sibling needs people and action to energize.
Sometimes I visit my extravert sibling for the weekend (to please Mom). Nothing goes smoothly, because we are opposites. At night, Bro tells me – and this always surprises me – about our schedule for the next morning (remember this is Saturday). I am to take my shower at 7am and he is to take his shower fifteen minutes later. Do you see how differently we perceive that? I, the introvert, want to sit quietly with a cup of coffee and eventually have a leisurely shower. Bro, on the other hand, wants to fling himself in the shower and out into the world as fast as possible. He wants to have breakfast in public, preferably at sidewalk tables, with people yammering and traffic whizzing back and forth. I’ll do it, but I really want breakfast in bed with a good book.
Speaking of reading, I’ve noticed that my extravert brother reads books the way I exercise – twenty minutes, three times a week, and thank heaven it’s over. I think the twenty minutes of solitude must be agony for him, the way that twenty minutes of a crowded gym is agony for me.
It takes me a week of re-energizing quiet time to recover from an exhausting action-packed weekend with my extravert brother.
But it makes Mom so happy.
How would an introvert handle a power struggle?
I’m ashamed to admit that so far, the dog is winning. How do I struggle? I walk away. A more clever introvert might walk away and make a plan. The first time I walked away, the dog bounded after me – I won. Tonight was the second time I walked away. The dog stayed at the sidewalk. When I finally caved and went to him, I saw that his leash was caught. But he’s a clever little beast and he’s done this before. The leash wasn’t caught by much – a flick of my finger dislodged it.
Is a power struggle not introvert territory, since it is by its nature an ‘outer’ event?
Or do we have power struggles in our inner depths? Yes, I believe we might. I have an on-going struggle with Mom (may she rest in peace) about how tight jeans should be. I *think* I’m wearing them my way. But I’ve gotta watch out for those subliminal messages.
Inner or outer, I delude myself that I’m in charge of me. I think.
“Everyone’s alone — or so it seems to me.
They make noises, and think they are talking to each other;
They make faces, and think they understand each other.
And I’m sure they don’t. Is that a delusion?”
We’re having a heat wave now. Temperatures in the 90s. Warnings on TV and radio to stay inside if possible and to move slowly if we must go out into the blazing sun. When I open the door to go out, it’s like stepping into an oven. And that experience is similar to what I (as an introvert) feel when I step into a cocktail party. It really does feel like walking into a wall of jaggedy vibes. That’s the first thing that I perceive. The second is the high noise level. People are hollering conversation at each other. All my instincts are hollering at me to get out of there, but I’m determined to carry this through. I plunge into the room.
The magazines and etiquette books (and even my friends and relatives) give advice on how to enter a room. Apparently I should pause in the doorway and allow the other guests to admire my pretty face. Oh dear. I flubbed it. I’m pretty sure that what I had on my face was horror.
On the right, immediately next to the door, is the open bar, with a bartender who moves with the speed of light. I ask for white wine and get a martini. You can tell them apart by the olive. I smile and keep going.
It doesn’t take long for frenetic interaction with dozens of people to drain my energy. If only I could take a bit of a break – maybe just go outside and recharge in the quiet – then I would be able to stay. But there’s no popping in and out of cocktail parties. Once you leave, you’re gone.
Why do cocktail parties exist? Why would anyone want to bellow conversationally with strangers? Is it for networking? A sort of corporate speed-dating? That may be it. I haven’t been invited for cocktails since I retired. I guess I can learn to live without them.
“Avoid popularity if you would have peace.”
I blush to admit that I am reading a book on how to be popular. How very adolescent of me! How very knee-jerk of me, really, now that I come to think of it. We all want to be popular, right? Whoa, now. I’m an introvert. I need quiet-time to refresh my energy. That leaves me stuck on the bottom rung of the popularity ladder.
But what would life be like if I became popular? It would be a nightmare! People, people, people, always and everywhere, there would be people who want me. My phone would ring all day and all night. I’d be invited to parties, dinners, varnishings, premieres, barbecues, baptisms, and weddings. Not necessarily in that order. As I attend these things, I would rise on the popularity ladder.
And then I would become quiet-time deprived. My smile would get glassy, my voice would be monotone, I’d feel obliged to keep talking just to keep up with everybody else. I’d make up excuses to have a few minutes alone. Slowly but surely, I’d reclaim a quiet quarter-hour here and there. And just as slowly and surely, I’d drop back down to the bottom rung of the popularity ladder.
Whew! What a relief! Popularity isn’t for me. I need to ration my time to accommodate family, friends, associates, and – not least of all – myself.
I recently did one of those fun quizzes that tells you whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, but instead of the standard terminology, it asks Are You a Lava Lamp or a Disco Ball?
Not surprisingly, here are my results:
|You Are a Lava Lamp|
You are dreamy, relaxed, and contemplative. You like to get lost inside your own head.
You never know where your thoughts will take you, and you consider reflection to be a wild ride.
You’re happy to sit and be alone for long periods of time. You only do well with others who are like minded.
You appreciate other peaceful, creative types. Great things can come when great minds get together.
One of the hard things about being an introvert is trying to make people understand what it really means. In a recent interview at Someday Syndrome, I identified myself as being an introvert, and someone who only knows me online (with the exception of one telephone conversation) expressed surprise, because apparently I “have a wonderfully outgoing personality.”
I couldn’t really take offense when what she said was such a compliment, but the reality is that introverts are typically perceived as shy, snobbish, or anti-social. Although there are introverts who can accurately be described using one or more of these terms (including some who even describe themselves that way), I don’t think any of those words applies to me. In fact, I am quite outgoing in some situations, but no matter what quiz or personality test I take, it’s quite clear that I am in fact an introvert. I explained to my online friend that I’m not the shy kind of introvert, but am more focused on my thoughts than the outer world, and prefer to meet people one-on-one than in large groups.
Last week as I was working on a crossword puzzle (a popular activity for introverts, I’m sure), one of the clues was “Introverted?” I immediately got my back up, expecting the answer to reflect an inaccurate, if not derogatory, stereotype. As I began to fill out the intersecting words, I was delighted to see that the answer was in fact DRAWNINWARD. I wonder if it’s safe to assume that Frank A. Longo, who constructed the puzzle, is an introvert?
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me)—
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
Philip Larkin (1922–1986), British poet.
Happy George Harrison’s birthday. I don’t usually have anybody to share this with, but wasn’t he a lovely introvert?
He was/is dear to my heart. Never met him, of course. I just spent an hour on YouTube delving into the George years. For the life of me, I can’t think of anything to say. Something … something that isn’t just plain history after all.
He invented the benefit concert – remember, the one he did for Bangladesh. Paul abstained, don’t know why. I’m without words just now. Maybe the quiet spirit of George Harrison is … nah.
Oh – I mustn’t forget to tell you. September 8, 1965 – Beatles Concert, Second Tour – I sat in Row J with my kid sister – George looked right at me.
We explore and celebrate introversion as a healthy personality type, defined by C.G. Jung and later by the Myers Briggs MBTI type indicator. Click on About and FAQ to learn more about this type. See if it fits you or someone you know. Add your comments to our posts, or join us in online or email discussion with other introverts.