Tuesday, April 05, 2011

On The Inside ...

I have my friend Alison to thank for pointing me toward this piece in The Atlantic about introverts. It was penned in 2003 by Jonathan Rauch, an introvert who had outed himself to friends and colleagues. "It's not a lifestyle," he wrote. "It's an orientation."

He opened the piece thusly: "Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk?"

I raised my hand.

Quiet conversations about feelings and ideas? Check.

Dynamite presentation to a big audience? Check. Check.

Maladroit at small talk? Check! Check! Check! Check! Check!

Actually, I wouldn't classify myself as maladroit at small talk, but I could surely do without it. I'd much rather talk late into the night with one person – a fellow introvert, no doubt – than make a few minutes of inane chitchat with a group.

Because introverts understand each other.

"We tend to think before talking," wrote Rauch. Precisely. People have assumed the worst about my momentary silences in conversations. No, I am not judging them for what they just said. (Not most of the time, anyway.) More than likely, I'm just formulating what I next want to say. Give me a second to collect my thoughts. It's part of how I communicate. Women are expected to be talkative, apparently. The "strong, silent type" works well for men, but as Rauch wrote, "... introverted women ... are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty."

The fact that I am introverted is well known to me. I have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator many times. Of the 16 types, I am very much the "I" in my INFJ classification. According to The Myers & Briggs Foundation, me and my fellow INFJs:

"Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision."

While Wikipedia's INFJ page and others oh-so-helpfully point out that INFJs are "sometimes puzzling even to themselves." Yeah, ain't that the truth?

So, kindly allow me my occasional conversational pauses. And don't take offense if I decline your offer to go out with a big group. And please know that those New Year's Eve parties with a 1,000 people in a hotel ballroom are my idea of hell. I'd much rather be at home on my couch, eating Chinese food and watching Woody Allen movies, than drinking knock-off Champagne in a loud roomful of strangers and shaking mylar confetti out of my hair.

So to all of my extroverted friends, I say: Go out! Have a good time! Me and a few other introverts are going to stay in instead with olives and cheese and a bottle of wine.


Anonymous Alison said...

There's a Wikipedia entry for M-B results? Who knew? I took the test in 2003, and I was INFP, but I was borderline E. I think I had one more I point than E point.

This article resonated with me, though. I used to say I was shy, and I probably was, but I started outgrowing that as soon as I went to college. These days, I am happy to not talk (but I can speak in front of a group and deal with customers in retail). Some people make me tired with their incessant jabbering and "on" personalities. Shut up for a damn minute, extroverts!

And sometimes I just want to be alone.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

There's a Wikipedia entry for everything, my dear.

11:32 PM  

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