Thursday, March 16, 2006


There's a great article called "Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group" by Jonathan Rauch at "The Atlantic Online" that perfectly sums up my personality. Here's a brief excerpt from the beginning that lays it out pretty well:

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? 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.

I also loved this line:

Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts.

I think a lot of people misunderstand what introverts are, mistaking it for shyness, or arrogance, or rudeness, or some other social malady. It isn't necessarily any of those things, as Rauch explains:

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." (emphasis mine)

That is so me it's not even funny. I have a very outgoing persona with people in a group setting, telling jokes and keeping people laughing. I have been known in the past to be the life of the party, even, so it's not that I don't know how to get along in social situations. It's that doing so completely wears me out. I lose energy doing it, whereas extroverts gain energy from it.

I highly recommend the entire article, as I would bet that you have an introvert somewhere in your life that you are unaware of and, as Rauch says, you're probably driving them nuts. The link again is here.. Now I need to go take a nap, all this interacting has worn me out!


Jill Phenix Avila said...

rats I didn't realize I bothered you so much.. sniff sniff.. ;) Actually I am an extravert that likes to revert to an introvert to recharge my extravert batteries... =) In other words.. I have to get away from people at least once per day or I will go crazy!!

David M said...

From one introvert to another - Thank you! I'm considering printing this out and having copies always at the ready for folks that think I'm blowing them off. Seems a tad more polite and productive than the small business cards I use now that just say "Go Away!".

Denise said...

That guy really hit the nail on the head for introverts, didn't he. However, I will take exception to a few lines(I read the article) one in particular about introverts being arrogant. No, they are just "more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined and more sensitive than extroverts." Gee, that certainly does give his article a different slant because sensitivity and refinement have nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. Just because a person is an extrovert doesn't mean they cannot excel in sensitivity. Quiet does not always equate to better. Sometimes a person is quiet at a party because they have absolutely nothing of interest to say. I would also take exception that extrovertsare as inscrutable as puppy dogs. Granted, we who like to talk and be with people have a tough time understanding someone who wants to be alone, but we really do get it. And how does he know that we only come fully to life around other people? As an extrovert, I'll tell you that's not true. We simply enjoy sharing the company and conversation of life with others. Seeing a beautiful sunset, I always wish someone was with me to enjoy it too -- not so that I could talk with them, but so they could see the beauty as well. Perhaps I am filling in the stereotype of an extrovert here on these pages -- granted, I often think I should hit the delete button and not post anything -- but we extroverts believe that other people have wonderful things to say and wonderful thoughts to probe -- we want to learn and share. So, for those of us who bark and yip, understand that we just want you in our lives, silent that you are, because for us, life is enriched when the people we love are with us. I will say, Jeff, that I have always known this about you and other introverts I have the pleasure to know. You show me the other side of the coin and knowing how you tick makes me understand you better. So -- this guy did do a lot of explaining, but you did it better.

Jeff Hebert said...


I think that part was mostly tongue-in-cheek, kind of like how I'll go on sometimes about how the youngest child in a family is generally smarter, better looking, more fun, highly successful, and all around a better person than any other possible birth order. I know it's not true and I'm just poking fun, which I think is what he was mostly doing in that section. As you said, "Sometimes a person is quiet at a party because they have absolutely nothing of interest to say." I think that's generally what most people at parties assume about the introvert, which is why he was being over-the-top with the alternate possibility.

Or heck, he could be a real ass-hole, who knows?

Anyway, don't stop commenting, we love your posts!