kottke.org posts about introversion
Introverts have limited reserves of energy and attention stored up for socializing with others and when they're used up, the aftermath can feel very much like a hangover from too much drinking.
After a few hours, I couldn't take it any more. I slipped away like a thief, skulking about the house, searching for a place where it was quiet. I came across a half-lit room and saw my future brother-in-law sitting in there, staring out the window. Knowing him to be an introvert himself, I decided this was my best option for escape and sat down across the room, wrapping my arms around my knees. I remember hoping he wouldn't think I was intruding upon his own solitude before I allowed myself to zone out, letting my thoughts drown out the raucous laughter from downstairs, breathing deeply and feeling the tension drain away. I don't know how long it was before my now-husband came looking for me, but I remember him laughing at finding the two introverts seeking refuge together.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I travelled to a friend's wedding but got to town a few days early to go see a show and meet up with some other friends. By the time the wedding rolled around, I had spent time with so many people in different social groups that I left after the ceremony and didn't stay for dancing and karaoke or anything (sorry!). I didn't even get to congratulate the bride (so so sorry!!)...I was just done. After that, I mostly just holed up in my hotel room, reading, and walked around by myself, even though there were so many other things I could have been doing with so many other people. Several years ago, I would have felt weird and horrible about this, but I know myself well enough now that I just roll with it...I read so much of a book I was enjoying that the time spent can hardly be considered a loss.
As something of an expert on the topic, I thought this New York Magazine piece about spending time alone in the Big Apple is pretty good. The opening of the piece gets at why busy, crowded NYC is actually a good place for an introvert to be:
Being alone here is a state of mind, a perpetual choice, and an occasional imposition, a burden, and a gift -- and sometimes the very best way to meet a fellow stranger. "Every form of human expressiveness is on display," Vivian Gornick writes of walking the streets by herself, "and I am free to look it right in the face, or avert my eyes if I wish."
And this tip on the Empire State Building is one for the ol' bucket list:
A lot of people don't know this, but the Empire State Building is open until 2 a.m. The last elevator leaves at 1:15. If you go up then, it's empty, it's beautiful, and the city sounds like the ocean.
According to a model developed by psychologist Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues, there are actually four types of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained.
Social: Social introversion is the closest to the commonly held understanding of introversion, in that it's a preference for socializing with small groups instead of large ones. Or sometimes, it's a preference for no group at all -- solitude is often preferable for those who score high in social introversion. "They prefer to stay home with a book or a computer, or to stick to small gatherings with close friends, as opposed to attending large parties with many strangers," Cheek said. But it's different from shyness, in that there's no anxiety driving the preference for solitude or small groups.
I took the quiz at the bottom of the article and I'm a mix of roughly equal parts social, restrained, and anxious introversion with a dash of thinking.
Susan Cain, author of the excellent Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, has launched Quiet Revolution, a resource "to unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all". There's already quite a bit there...you can take a test to see if you're an introvert, five ways to deal with an open office plan, learn how to connect with extroverts, and 15 ways you can be a better parent to your introverted kid.
Understand that your child's temperament is due to biology. Think your child can just "get over" hating raucous birthday parties? Think again. Introverts' and extroverts' brains are "wired" differently, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. She writes that children's temperaments are innate (although parents play an important role in nurturing that temperament).
Introverts' and extroverts' brains use different neurotransmitter pathways, and introverts and extroverts use different "sides" of their nervous systems (introverts prefer the parasympathetic side, which is the "rest and digest" system as opposed to the sympathetic, which triggers the "fight, flight, or freeze" response). Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortices, which is the area of the brain associated with abstract thought and decision-making. If your child tends to be more cautious and reserved than her extroverted peers, rest assured that there's a biological reason for it.
I've read a lot about introverts and extroverts over the years (posted this back in Feb 2003 for example), but this list (found here) of how to care for introverts still hit me like a pile of bricks.
1. Respect their need for privacy.
2. Never embarrass them in public.
3. Let them observe first in new situations.
4. Give them time to think; don't demand instant answers.
5. Don't interrupt them.
6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
7. Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
8. Reprimand them privately.
9. Teach them new skills privately.
10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities.
11. Don't push them to make lots of friends.
12. Respect their introversion; don't try to remake them into extroverts.
It's just dawned on me that when something goes wrong in my life, it's often one of the things on this list that's the culprit, especially #4 and #6. And #2 pretty much explains my middle and high school experience. Has anyone read Susan Caine's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking? I've heard great things about it, but haven't had a chance to read yet. Thinking I should bump it to the top of my queue. Holy crap, it's only $2.99 for Kindle...BOUGHT. (via @arainert)
As an introvert myself, this piece really resonated with me.
Sorry I killed everybody! I just really need my alone time.
Sorry that everyone is dead. They weren't respecting my quiet power and inner strength. It's a common misconception that introverts can't lead; we're just not always the first to speak up.
Sorry I butchered all of your friends in front of you. It's just that I'd rather curl up at home with a good book than go to a party.
The web has been a real boon for introverts...the asynchonicity of email, the information-rich messaging of Twitter & Facebook, and the social acceptability of conducting much of one's social & business communications online all play to the introvert's strengths.
A text message, a Facebook message, a tweet -- each is a discrete, articulated piece of information being shared. Rather than riding the texture of a live conversation to figure out how to give and receive information, people are now used to simply pushing their thoughts out into the world, to be responded to at some undetermined future point. Even voicemail messages are now more often the point of a phone call than an actual conversation.
Fellow introvert Joanne McNeil on Jonathan Rauch's classic article on introverts and what introversion might mean on the internet.
Social media drains me like a large party might. I just deactivated Facebook. And I don't @ much on Twitter. Too often it feels like the "fog of [an extrovert's] 98-percent-content-free talk," as Rauch put it.
It might surprise you that introverts travel differently than extroverts, particularly because most travel magazines, guidebooks, and TV shows are produced by and for extroverts.
I don't seek people out, I am terrible at striking up conversations with strangers and I am happy exploring a strange city alone. I don't seek out political discourse with opinionated cab drivers or boozy bonding with locals over beers into the wee hours. By the time the hours get wee, I'm usually in bed in my hotel room, appreciating local color TV. (So sue me, but I contend that television is a valid reflection of a society.)
I almost broke my neck extensively nodding in agreement while reading this article. The author also has some tips for the introverted traveler. And if you haven't read it, Jonathan Rauch's Caring for Your Introvert remains one of my favorite things that I've ever featured on kottke.org.
Seth Stevenson describes an attempt to break out of his introverted shell by taking Paxil. Did it work? Only when he'd had a few drinks...oh and he basically lost the ability to feel emotions the rest of the time. "The fact that I considered a wholesale career change under the drug's effects, and couldn't complete any work, is alarming. "
Three years ago, Jonathan Rauch wrote an article for The Atlantic Monthly called Caring for Your Introvert, one of my favorite pieces of magazine writing ever. He recently did an interview about the piece, which is the most popular article ever posted to the Atlantic's Web site.
Rarely does a passage of text resonate with how I am as a person as the opening paragraph of Jonathan Rauch's Caring for Your Introvert did:
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?
Well, except for the "dynamite" part of "dynamite presentation".
The Internet has helped me a great deal in this regard. Email, IM, and my weblog allow me to communicate with people when I want and how I want, without worrying about all the things introverts worry about when interacting with people: small talk, first impressions, awkward silences, etc. With the web, I can carry on a conversation with a whole group of people and stare down at my shoes at the same time. That's an amazing and special thing for me.