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Caring For Your Introvert


chefranden
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I thought that this article might be of some comfort to Y'all, since many of us are Introverts. Might even be useful to give to an extroverted friend.

 

 

Caring for Your Introvert

 

 

The habits and needs of a little-understood group

 

by Jonathan Rauch

 

 

D o 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? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

 

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

 

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people (I am not making this up). If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world.

 

I know. My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

 

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.

 

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

 

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

 

How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."

 

Are introverts misunderstood? Wildly. That, it appears, is our lot in life. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

 

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

 

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

 

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

 

Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. "Introverts," writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I'm not making that up, either), "are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don't outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness." Just so.

 

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

 

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

 

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

 

Third, don't say anything else, either.

 

The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch.

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Heh - nice article, and has its good points, too.

 

Makes me remember annoying extroverts, like my ex, who thought all introverts were fucked-up in the head somehow (at least she viewed her sister, and me, that way). Hello, introverts are human beings too, lol :Wendywhatever:

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haha, i liked this part:

 

"Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts."

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Here is a good test to tell you what you are as far as introvert/Extrovert and other parts of the personality as well..

 

http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp

 

 

Your Type is

INTJ

 

"They are rather rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population. "

 

yeah, no wonder i feel so different from people.

 

this whole description actually fits me pretty good.

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Thanks for the article Chef, it is so true. I too liked the part "Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts."

 

 

I have an extroverted boss who doesn't like any of us who are introverts just for this reason. We know more than her, are independent and don't run to her with every little problem. She hasn't learned that she should actually embrace us because we are the ones who get down and dirty, get the job done, make sure what we are doing doesn't hurt the rest of the units and don't go off the deep end when a problem does arise.

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Wow, I liked that article. I always knew I was a shy introvert, but didn't realize you can be an introvert without being shy and awkward. I really identified with the possible quote by Calvin Coolidge about not wanting to repeat yourself. That is something that bugs my husband sometimes, when he merely couldn't hear me because of background noise or distraction and asks "what?" and I don't want to repeat it. Now I have a good excuse for it--it's my orientation. I really need time to myself on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean I don't ever want human company. I also think I come across to others who don't know me well as cold or aloof and reserved. I used to wish so much that I could be "outgoing", but finally came to terms with my personality and now have overcome the painful shyness and have reached a point where I can socialize pretty well. I do feel like an actor often when I'm socializing though, as the article said.

 

Sparkyone

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I've seen that before. I am definitely an introvert. I got ISTP on the humanetrics test, which is odd, cause I got INTJ in college.

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I've often thought that we should start an advocacy group to campaign for introvert acceptance. But none of us would want to do all of the public speaking necessary....

 

Have you ever noticed that churches, in particular, are really extrovert places? Always expecting you to "fellowship", i.e., yack on about stuff that's too personal to talk about.

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I got INTJ as well, which is what i've been getting since my first year in College (was that six years ago already? sick!). If INTJs are so rare in the general population, there seems to be a pretty high concentration of us here. Perhaps our particular type does not do well with religion? ;)

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I got INTJ as well, which is what i've been getting since my first year in College (was that six years ago already? sick!). If INTJs are so rare in the general population, there seems to be a pretty high concentration of us here. Perhaps our particular type does not do well with religion? ;)

 

Heh, I'm inclined to ponder that myself, since I'm INTJ too :)

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I got INTJ as well, which is what i've been getting since my first year in College (was that six years ago already? sick!). If INTJs are so rare in the general population, there seems to be a pretty high concentration of us here. Perhaps our particular type does not do well with religion? ;)

 

Heh, I'm inclined to ponder that myself, since I'm INTJ too :)

 

My Type is

ISTJ

Strength of the preferences %: Introverted 56 Sensing 25 Thinking 12 Judging 22

 

Once in a while I feel like I fit in somewhere... Hi everyone...

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I think that's a fairly narrow definition of what "introversion" is. In my experience, psychologists define introversion/extroversion as--basically--sensitivity to stimuli, or the amount of sensory stimulation necessary to achieve an optimal level of arousal. Introversion, then, is not just about social interaction.

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I always knew I was an introvert as well, but I never read up on it before.

 

INTJ for me too... I am a bit surprised by it, although I must say, I am an organizer extraordinaire. :P

 

 

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

 

The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch.

 

I hear that just about everyday. :HaHa:

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I also scored INTJ, although a while back I scored ISTJ.

 

I belong to a forum for people with Asperger's syndrome and other autistic disorders, and most of the people there are INTJ or ISTJ (it's very common for those on the spectrum) ...and many there are also agnostic/atheist.

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I've often thought that we should start an advocacy group to campaign for introvert acceptance. But none of us would want to do all of the public speaking necessary....

 

Have you ever noticed that churches, in particular, are really extrovert places? Always expecting you to "fellowship", i.e., yack on about stuff that's too personal to talk about.

 

Yes! It seems to me that churches (and organized religion in general in the West) are designed for extroverts. You have to meet with a whole bunch of people for the weekly brainwashing sessions, then they expect you to get involved and donate your time to doing things with people that you wouldn't otherwise do, and they look down on introverts in general as being "anti-social". Plus they make people like my stepmom believe that "being around people is good for you". Well, it may be good for her, but not me.

 

I wonder if most people who deconvert are introverts. It certainly does not seem like religion is geared toward us.

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I recall somewhere in the Totally Off Topic section, there was a Meyers-Briggs type thread going. What was really interesting about it, was what while only 1% of the general population are INTJ, it was starting to look as though INTJ (of which I'm another one) types seem to make up a large portion of Ex-C members.

 

Very interesting. And thanks Chef for posting the article. Like a breath of fresh air.

 

Makes me think of the social problem I have with the extrovert who sits behind me at work. She needs to talk. Needs it. Half the time I listen to her, I'm wondering two things: 1 Where is she going with this particular line of communication? And 2: When the fuck is she going to get there already?

 

And while I enjoy Christmas, I definitely prefer it in smaller doses. If the christmas shopping part of christmas could be done away with....

 

Next year, I think I'll try to do it all online. My tolerance level for being in moronic places like....the mall....and Walmart....seems to get lower every year.

 

Anyone else feel that way? And get frustrated when the extroverts in you life ask, "Why can't you just enjoy people?"

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I guess I have to chime in as another INTJ.

 

Shortly after understanding what it means to be an introvert and realizing it's okay to enjoy and demand my "alone time," I found that I could enjoy other people's company much more. Funny thing. In fact, I'd venture to say now that most people who know me in a social setting would insist that I am outgoing and extroverted.

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Very introverted here and another INTJ

 

Your Type is

INTJ

Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging

Strength of the preferences %

100, 62, 25, 33

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Clearview, Me too, totally! My roommates know for sure that I'm introverted, but ask anyone at work and they would argue it into the ground that I'm an extrovert. Introverts can train themselves to act extroverted for a time when the situation calls for it (i.e. I'm in retail management, so customer service is my life -- extroversion is a demand of the job) but I, for one, go home, sit in my room and don't talk to anyone unless I have to. :-P

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Clearview, Me too, totally! My roommates know for sure that I'm introverted, but ask anyone at work and they would argue it into the ground that I'm an extrovert. Introverts can train themselves to act extroverted for a time when the situation calls for it (i.e. I'm in retail management, so customer service is my life -- extroversion is a demand of the job) but I, for one, go home, sit in my room and don't talk to anyone unless I have to. :-P

 

Exactly!

 

For folks like us, it's almost like there's a panel switch that gets consciously flipped. Social and not-social aspects of our personalities as as distinct as flipping that switch 'on' or 'off'. The only problem for us is being 'on' or 'social' drains the batteries and those batteries don't recharge quickly.

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