I cut it out and put it on my apartment’s little refrigerator, deciding that it summarized my modus operandi pretty well. Over thirty years later, it still fits, though I would change “boring” to “introverted.”
Introverted, not shy
First of all, I am an introvert. This does not mean I am shy. (My family, all introverts, will back me up on this. Prone to striking up conversations with complete strangers, I come off as a flaming extrovert in their mortified midst. For the record, I am not an extrovert, I’m just curious).
No, introverts re-energize by spending time alone. At the end of the work week, it is common for extroverts to share a beer in a bar. Introverts? We just want to go home, draw the shades and sit down with the newspaper or a good book.
The power of introverts
Speaking of a good book, a woman named Susan Cain has written one: Quiet: The Power of Introverts, which made it on the New York Times bestseller list. In her book, she argues that our Western culture’s strong bias toward extroverts is short-changing our society by de-valuing introverts and what they have to offer.
It wasn’t always this way. In pre-industrial times, our cultural focus was on character (think of Abraham Lincoln’s reputation for honesty). Enter the Industrial Revolution. People moved off the farm and into growing cities, jostling for jobs. The cultural focus shifted from character to personality (as in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People).
Introverts often feel guilty for spending time reading, writing, researching and thinking. How many of us have found ourselves in a meeting when we’ve begged for “time to process?” When introverts do spend quality solo time “processing,” Susan Cain says the research shows the results are often dramatic, resulting in creative breakthroughs.
Not a contest
Susan Cain is not arguing that introverts are better than extroverts. Nor am I. However, the point is that all of this collaboration and teamwork can come with a price. Aren’t there enough problems in the world that demand all of our talents to address them?
So, how about you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Does your workplace support both? What about at home? Do the introverts in your life get enough time and space to re-energize?
And if you are an introvert…take care of yourself, so you stay energized, replenished and creative. I dare you.