Monday 28th January 2013

by sophie

Absolutely loving this article on understanding introversion from The Atlantic. Introversion seems to have a resoundingly negative connotation in (Western) society, which is a real shame, considering that it is estimated ‘a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population’ identify as such.

Why has calling someone an introvert become such a bad name? There is an idea that to succeed in the business and political world, one must be outspoken and outgoing, and thrive off the energy of others, which defines the traits of extroversion. Parents are constantly egging their toddlers to be “less shy”, and worry when they occasionally refuse to socialize. These unfair stereotypes even tread the territories of areas closer to our heart– the author, Jonathan Rauch, sympathizes: “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and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty”, which I can state as true from personal experience.

Misunderstanding plays a key role in the perpetration of the Introvert Myth. Introversion is not equivalent to shyness; this is a grave and unfortunate mixup. Neither is it misanthropy; the central characteristic of introversion is that we “find other people tiring”, not that we don’t like them. Many people are surprised to find that I identify as an introvert; after all, I am a very vocal student, a big fan of public speaking, and enjoy meeting new people. I love nothing more than animated discussions with people whose ideas intrigue me.

Yet at the end of the day, I need a large portion of time to be alone with my thoughts. It is both a mental and physical necessity; my body literally repulses from the thought of others invading my mental space. If I am not granted this peace, my intellectual and emotional state will literally deteriorate; it is “recharge” time from social interactions, and the way I am able to perform challenging mental tasks on a daily basis at school and/or work. Yet, due to the commonly accepted myths of introversion, I find that people who do not know me well are often confused or worse yet offended by my need to be alone when I so clearly have the skills to socialize, which is a real shame.

Failing to recognize and respect introversion is highly problematic as it can lead to deteriorating business and personal relationships and injustice at large. My own case is only a small and rather weak example, as I do not test extremely introverted, and can sustain interaction with people for extended chunks of time (as in, more than 24 consecutive hours) if necessary. In fact, an estimated 25% of the population identify as such, although the real percentage is likely higher.

For more, read the article. And then, leave me alone. (Just kidding. Somewhat.)

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One Response to ““I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.””

  1. arvin says:

    “Many people are surprised to find that I identify as an introvert; after all, I am a very vocal student, a big fan of public speaking, and enjoy meeting new people.” I have friends who are the same way, and I consider them some of my most success-bound friends. That combination of extroverted qualities but inherent introversion (aka thoughtfulness) is powerful. Keep it up!