Confessions of an Introvert

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

The other night my friend John called me and I almost didn’t answer the phone. Each time I see “incoming call” on my phone I always hesitate. When my phone rings I always have the urge to run away from it or make excuses as to why I should not answer it.

I only answered because it was John and I had not spoken with him in a few weeks and, in the end, I was glad I did because we made plans to hang out at another time.

But the reason that I react this way to a simple phone call is because I’m an introvert. No, I am not antisocial because that behavior is antagonistic toward social situations, and to be truthful, I do my best to avoid conflict. I just prefer to be in solitude.

Introverts are not any of the following:

  • antisocial (aggressive/antagonistic)
  • maladroit  (we do like people, actually.)
  • shy (because shyness is anxiety about social situations and we are not necessarily anxious, we just get exhausted being around people)
  • Awkward (Introverts are not socially awkward. When you look up “introvert” it does not come with the words “socially awkward”. I think social awkwardness is just a matter of immature or maladjusted social awareness, and introverts are not maladjusted or immature by definition.)

Simply put, introverts are people who get tired of being around people. We do not gain our energy from being around others, like extroverts do. While both introverts and extroverts need “alone time”, introverts thrive on alone time.

But the truth of the matter is that much of the world is, or at least appears to be, extroverted. Also, society loves extroverts and much of the functions and activities of society is geared toward extroverted personalities. How wonderful.

Recently, I lamented with my friend Anthony about how though there has been talk of introverts in the news lately because of Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Even with this positive publicity, introverts are still misunderstood, ignored, and occasionally maligned by others. I think I even said introverts are “hopelessly maligned”, which sounds severe, I admit, but I think it is at least mostly true because it seems as if the “battle” between introvert and extrovert is a battle you just can’t win. In fact, Doc Mara once told me this and I nodded and understood, though I really had no idea as to the truth in his comment. Now, I think I am beginning to understand.

One of the reasons I am interested in voice comes out from being an introvert. I am the kind of person who thinks about if what she is about to say has value at all. If I am in a seminar class, I worry that I don’t talk enough and if I talk more than usual I can’t help but wonder if I have spoken up too often. But my main concern is always the relevance of my comments because I hate talking just to talk. When I speak to my students in the classroom, I am always careful about how I word things, so I realize I probably talk slower than many of their other professors who are extroverts and so easily go from one thing to another in a fluid manner.

That is the greatest thing I admire about extroverts—their almost spontaneous fluidity along with the fact that they are amazingly quick thinkers. It takes me a long time to make a decision, for example, but an extrovert will come to a decision almost immediately. Extroverts, I admire your quick responses. Seriously. Bravo.

And so when I showed a video in class today, which was Michael Strand’s discussion titled “Between Spaces: Art, Craft and Humanity” I noticed the first thing he identified with was being an extrovert. He talked about how he is the annoying type of person who wants to talk to you and get to know you, even if it is only for two minutes. He said, “I love people.”

Yes, we introverts also love people, but don’t think poorly of us if we don’t talk to you. We love people for the potential that people have to be creative, thoughtful, wonderful individuals, but just because we think these things doesn’t mean we want to hang out or even form a friendship with someone. Introverts, or at least I am, are notoriously picky about the friendships they choose to invest time in. (Note: if we choose not to be your friend or hang out with you, it does not mean you are a bad or inferior person.) Don’t think we are being maladroit or antisocial if we don’t come to your party because we probably have been at work or school all day and we are tired of people, or perhaps we have seen you all week and want the weekend to ourselves. If you walk past us in a crowded room (or even in a room that is not crowded), don’t be upset if we don’t notice you in enough time to say hello. We were thinking about something and perhaps trying to make an important decision or trying to further understand a newly learned concept. The point is that we were not trying to ignore you because we don’t like you or whatever, we just didn’t notice you because we were busy thinking.

I do appreciate Susan Cain’s book, even if it cannot change the world. I doubt it can, honestly, but perhaps giving a little more awareness to a personality type that isn’t the socialized ideal will be beneficial.

And no, I probably don’t want to join your committee or work collaboratively, but realize that it isn’t because I don’t see the value in those things. I do. I think any type of collaborative work has a place and time, however, and most of the time I prefer to work alone and be alone because when working alone I am at my most productive.



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