Introvert Alert

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I’m excited about Susan Cain’s new book Quiet – The Power of the Introvert. I just started it, but want to write about the subject anyway.  I’m betting that most writers, and perhaps more creative people, lean toward introversion – maybe even most bloggers. What do you think?   (She writes that 30 to 50% of the population are introverts.) For that matter it seems to me most protagonists are not extroverts.  We give them a voice – and in doing so they give us our voice.   (I was raised in a household where children were seen but not heard.)

quiet pursuits_0182

Solitary pursuits

But I’m a closet introvert. I can carry on a conversation or tell stories at a party.  People compliment me on public speaking yet I find it drains me for the whole day – the preparation beforehand and the exhaustion afterward.  I’m able to do this because I pushed myself from an early age, but if I was an extrovert I would be energized by the attention. 

I was the shy child of a sociable diplomat.  When I was about seven years old my parents were entertaining a couple who brought their kids and it was assumed I would entertain the children.  Instead I stared at the ground and mumbled – but this didn’t last very long as my father took me aside and told me I could not be shy because I would make them feel bad. Furthermore we were guests in a foreign country and we were viewed as representatives of our own country. This had a lasting impression on me.  Not only did I become cordial in this case but years later in high school in Costa Rica, I was proud when the principal asked me to act as hostess to new kids who arrived from all over the world.  However in my twenties in New Zealand, I failed when a going-away party was held for me and I shrank when they began to clap “Speech, Speech!”  I was unable to do more than stand and stammer “thank you” after they had been so kind to me.  I vowed that would never happen again and learned how to be more gracious. (College teaching helped me.)

kids n dolls_crop0126

Some parents are disappointed by their quiet, reserved kids because extroverted personalities are so appealing.   It seems accepted that we should all be gregarious, alpha and crave the spotlight.   We want our children to be bold and outgoing and perhaps we even apologize for their shyness– yet let’s not forget some of the greatest accomplishments  by introverts such as: Frederic Chopin, Albert Einstein, William Butler Yeats, George Orwell, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and JK Rowlings.  They represent all fields from musicians, artists and social activists, to scientists and writers.

Frederic Chopin

Mahatma Gandi
Mahatma Gandhi

Carl Jung gave us the terms introvert, for personality types drawn to the inner world of thought and feelings, and extrovert for one who prefers the external life of people and activities.  On one side are people who tackle work quickly and like multi-tasking whereas on the other end of the spectrum are those who work deliberately and focus on one task at a time. Extroverts are the life of the party and uncomfortable with solitude; introverts may have social skills but no love for small talk and prefer to socialize in intimate groups with close friends and family

Much of the information in the two last paragraphs is from “Quiet”.   No doubt I will report on it in the next couple of weeks.  But in a nutshell the message seems to be:  “I’m Ok , You’re Ok”.

So… do you think YOU are an introvert or an extrovert? (Or an “ambivert”.) Do you get lonely or do you enjoy time alone?  A good yardstick seems to be whether you find crowds and noise over-stimulating or energizing.

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8 thoughts on “Introvert Alert

  1. Well done, Cinda. After years of calling myself an extrovert, based on my not wanting to be alone, I realize that was just my way of expending my excess energy. But I do prefer to talk one-on-one even in a group. My college major was speech communication and I enjoyed the creativity of planning the talk and then the rush of having “survived the moment” . I’ve settled more into my introverted side as I’ve gotten older and more accepting of my preferences and quirks! Closet introvert or somewhere in the middle – whatever, it’s all good!

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    • I can so relate to your comments. I guess a lot of us are coming “out of the introvert closet” – now that it is “OK” and doesn’t mean we are not sociable beings. Thanks for writing!

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  2. Introversion is not a valued trait in Latin America. I wasn’t very good at socializing as a child, and was usually on the margin at social events. In college I finally learned that when I had nothing to say, I could ask a question and the other person would be flattered by my interest.

    I’m not completely an introvert; I enjoyed the rush of being in front of a class when I was a professor. And now that I’m in my 50s it’s not that hard to be gracious when I visit Latin America.

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    • Hola RDKill Spat: I agree. Learning how to “fake extroversion” was a handy thing to learn! I also found teaching gave the confidence to stand up and speak in front of people. But I push myself less and les these days!

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  3. Hi Cinda. Well, I’m an introvert cubed. I was an only child; my dad died when I was six and my mom went to work. Her sister was with me until I was 8, but thereafter I was a latchkey kid, always in the street with friends. I was fortunate that I loved sports, which kept me out of trouble. In my late teens chess became paramount, and in my twenties it became my focus. Imagine sitting for 10 hours with a person you’ve never met and not saying a word. I think only an introvert would do that. Well, at this stage of my life chess has all but disappeared, but I can be alone for long periods of time without feeling lonely. So, is that cubed?

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    • That’s “cubed” all right Enrique (EC3). But to keep from being a hermit maybe you should revive your chess – and think how good it is for the mind. Or bridge? But wait that involves three other people – is that too many? Smile Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

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  4. Great blog Cinda – I’m a veteran of the “children are to be seen and not heard generation” as well. Funny, parents expect children to be extroverted after they tell them to only speak when spoken to… You are great in front of people which means you’ve overcome a lot. Love the pic of the little girls!

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