Am I shy? Not really. But, I feel weird meeting new people and will avoid it if I can. If I can’t, I’ll put on a brave face and do OK. It isn’t that I don’t like people, I like them very much in well-measured doses. It’s that I’m an introvert. I worked hard to overcome a lot of this stuff because I saw when I was in junior high school that it was going to make my life difficult. Like a lot of other people I had the misapprehension that introversion meant not liking people.
Introversion simply means that too much social contact wears us out. Extraverts GET energized from social interaction, introverts don’t. That was a small epiphany for me. It explained the paradox of why — even as a kid – I WANTED to be invited to parties but I didn’t actually want to GO.
While I was teaching business communication, and constantly looking for engaging projects for my students that would simulate the real world and teach them something in the present moment at the same time, I began to learn what it really means to be an introvert. Here’s a good article with nice pictures on the subject. This article didn’t exist when I was teaching, but I would have used it. Since most of the business majors I taught were, naturally, pronounced extraverts, I had to learn how to deal with them en masse. I hope they learned as much from me as I did from them.
I do introvert things. I write. I paint. I walk alone with my dogs. I hang out by myself — a lot — and always have, and when I was a kid, and my mom opened my bedroom door and told me to come out and join the family, I felt violated. I need a LOT of time alone. Stuff I do? Extravert friends say, “How do you have the patience to write a novel? I wish I could draw like you.” It’s not about patience, discipline or skill. I think it’s about being content to be alone working on something FOR A LONG TIME. I very, very, very seldom get the urge to hang out with other people, but I enjoy it a lot when I do. Extraverts often don’t feel that anything is going on if they are alone. Introverts can feel that MOST of life’s important things happen when they’re alone.
I can’t say that introversion had any really BIG benefits until this year. Most of the time, in normal reality, extraverts run the world. Their expectations and preferences define normal. Oddly, a couple of years ago I noticed that an “Introvert Movement” was afoot — quietly, on tip-toe. Really. I laughed because I could imagine that 1) the meetings would be very brief and, 2) only one or two people at a time would show up for demonstrations. But, if you read the linked article — which is an interview — you will hear a classic, non-confrontational introvert voice “asserting” itself. It’s kind of, “Uh, excuse me, please, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but the thing is — and please understand there’s nothing wrong with you. Being an extravert is awesome. No, really, some of my best friends are extraverts, but introverts have things to contribute, too. What? No. I’m not shy, that isn’t it at all, I just, oh, well, look at the time.”