Hello, My Name is Introvert

A couple of years ago I was part of the team working on producing our company’s first website. Naturally it involved much discussion and many brainstorming sessions. I was the “copywriter” for the project, and would put together drafts for each of the pages and sections which we then would meet and discuss.

I really enjoyed that writing project, and it wasn’t difficult to come up with ideas to explain the kind of work we did and why it was beneficial. What I knew nothing about at that time was local business marketing or local search engine optimization. Discussion on these topics often came up as well, in reference to getting “hits” on our website to increase our “presence” online and elevate our local listings. However, I could sit in my quiet corner cubby and completely lose myself in describing the ways a medical case manager could help you if you’d been injured in an automotive or work related accident.

But when we’d get together for those group meetings, my brain went into hibernation. Even though there were only three or four of us, when everybody started talking about “what if we said this” or “maybe we should talk about that,” my creative thinking cells shriveled up and died. It was only when I could retreat to the quiet of my own space that I could come up with anything to say regarding our discussion.

Apparently that’s standard operating procedure for introverts like me. In fact, studies have shown that “brainstorming sessions” (which were pioneered in business in the 1950’s) are actually counterproductive. According to organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham, the “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups. If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

An interview in Scientific American with Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet : The Power of Introverts, defines an introvert as someone who “prefers quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” And it’s not just social stimulation that introverts tend to shun-we also shy away from excessive noise and lights. (Perhaps that explains my aversion to bright lights and loud televisions, and most especially to both at the same time!) Apparently, introverts even salivate more than extroverts do if you place a drop of lemon juice on their tongues. So, says Cain,  “an introvert is more likely to enjoy a quiet glass of wine with a close friend than a loud, raucous party full of strangers.”

Oh, yes.

The article states that one third to one half of Americans are introverted, so I was happy to read that I’m not alone – even though society tends to view being extroverted as the preferred social behavior. Cain asserts that there is a societal bias against introverts. “In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight,” she says. “We like to think that we value individuality, but mostly we admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” When I googled “photos of introverts,” there were a surprising number of images with negative connotations – people looking very dejected or lost.

According to Cain, most introverts “learn to pretend they are extroverts” in order to better fit the expectations of school and the workplace and avoid being treated like “second class citizens.”

That surprised me.

I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I’m introverted or act like I’m having a great time when I’m forced into situations that make my skin crawl.  I prefer my own company to just about anyone elses. I work best in a atmosphere of quiet seclusion. I’d rather spend an evening with one or two close friends than go to the fanciest party in town. I know I work best in an atmosphere of solitude, where I have time to think my own thoughts.

I’m not always the most self-aware person, but I know this much for sure.

I am an introvert.

So bring on the lemons.

How about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How has this aspect of your personality effected your life? 


17 thoughts on “Hello, My Name is Introvert

  1. I always thought of myself as an extrovert, but in taking a Meyers-Briggs test several years ago, I was dead-center both introvert and extrovert. The definition of where one fit was “where you get your most energy,” which again was in both places. However…..I am my most CREATIVE and PRODUCTIVE in solitude…

  2. Love this post Becca.
    I am both an introvert and an extrovert. I am also a Gemini, though I don’t really know anything about astrology except that Gemini is represented by twins 🙂
    I crave alone time. I need it like an addict needs a fix.
    But I also truly enjoy being ‘out there’ and love meeting people.
    I know that I need to have a bit of both; if I have too much alone time, I start to slide into a deep dark cave but if I have too much social time, it drives me crazy too.
    My biggest trick is learning how to ride that teeter totter, diving in and out of both worlds.

    • Colleen, you and my friend Carol would really enjoy one another 🙂

      I enjoy time with my friends, but I have to remind myself that I need it otherwise I’m likely to stay in my little quiet corner too long.

  3. I think I fit both. I definitely know I’m an introvert. I’m shy & quiet, I love being alone and love working on my own in peace. But there is also that other side of me. It doesn’t come out often (it usually takes a glass of wine to do the trick) where I’m the first one on the dance floor or holding a circle in conversation.
    It’s interesting because I couldn’t say if I am really one or the other. Just a mix of both.

    • It’s good to have a balance of both characteristics in your personality. When I was performing a lot, I definitely learned to let the more extroverted side of me “out to play.” It felt good most of the time, too.

  4. Wow, your explanation of your introverted tendicies describe me perfectly. I’ve always hated big gatherings of people and all that small talk. I hate loud music or TV shows. I want quiet and solitude preferably surounded by some type of nature. I’m perfectly happy alone – have never been lonely – as long as I had a good book to read. Sometimes I prefer the company of animals to that of humans. I would always rather stay in the background than have any kind of attention come my way. But given the right mix of people, I can have a really good time and my quirky, self- depricating sense of humor, usually makes people laugh. I am who I am and after 64 years, I finally decided I like me just the way I am.

  5. I don’t know what I am…I enjoy being alone with a good book or watching sports on the TV, but, I also equally enjoy being out with folks at a gathering or in groups. I have always thought of myself as fairly extroverted, but, your comments make me think twice about it. At least I like being in both situations and don’t find either uncomfortable in any way.

  6. I think I must be cruising right down the middle line myself. The best example is when I travel. I have no fear of traveling alone, and love meeting and talking with perfect strangers along the way. I suspect that’s extroversion.

    On the other hand, spare me Mardi Gras in NOLA, or any huge festival anywhere. Chamber music in a small venue? I’m there. The Houston Symphony or any event that requires dressing up and parking passes? I’ll listen to a CD. Introversion, for sure.

    • Interesting how many people are saying they fit into both categories. Obviously, I think it’s great to have a good balance of both characteristics. It makes all of life’s experiences easier to handle in some ways.

      Now I love going to concerts, but I’m not so sure about traveling alone 🙂

  7. I am an ambivert. By nature, I’d rather be off fairly independently and like you, in meetings, I sort of clam up unless I really have to say something because I disagree enough or it seems important. I don’t mind doing that, but I’m not real comfortable sharing ideas or such. But I can work a room with people I don’t know like no one’s business. That’s the hitch — I don’t know them. It’s like being in a play. I like to think I’m being authentic and not fake, but if it were to matter — say, meeting a whole group of new neighbors or colleagues — I’d probably clam up. Interesting to be both.

    I just read other peoples’ comments and I’m surprised that many of your readers are like me. But then, why does that surprise me? It doesn’t — not really!

    • Ambivert! You taught me a new word.

      I suspect more of us have the combination of characteristics than we realize.

      And I can just bet you work a room like nobody’s business! You rock 🙂

  8. So glad to hear others talking about being a mix of both. Society would label me an extrovert, because I’m good at playing that role. But only on “special occasions” does it bring me energy. Many times, I work best alone, in the quiet. I like to sit and just “be.” I enjoy being with a small intimate groups having meaningful conversations. I’ve always been this way. I think society tries to put us all in boxes. “Extrovert!” Okay, label her and close her up with packing tape. 🙂

    • My friend – the one I’ve written about quite often who directed the high school choir I accompanied and is now (at age 70) starting a community theater-woult totally agree with you. She buzzes around interacting with people all the time, but only recharges her batteries when she is on her own, reading or going to the movies.

      I think more of us are a mixture of qualities than we realize – all these comments certainly proved that to me!

  9. I hate to be alone but I don’t like meeting new people. I love to be around people that I know, whose reactions I can anticipate, where I feel safe.

    What does that make me? I never know if I’m introvert or extravert
    (ha and after typing this I scroll up and read the other comments and see many more people being confused of being in the middle :p).

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