Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Introversion is the new black

Rob and A and I went down to an outdoor blues festival a couple of weeks ago.  It was a perfect August evening; the weather had been unseasonably cool for the midwest.  We took a blanket to spread on the grass, enjoyed some ribs and listened to the bands.  The big name performer at the end of the evening was one that Rob enjoyed, so we stayed to listen, moving up to the front, near the stage, to be closer to the musicians.
All around people were dancing, singing along, hands in the air, getting caught up in the music.  I tried to dance a little to the music; it was Good, but not a band that I was familiar with.  I found myself watching the crowd more than the band.  (At social events you find yourself acting as more of an observer than a participant.  Yes or No?) Rob kept asking me what was wrong, if I was ok.  And I WAS ok.  Really!

As we were walking to the car, he was talking about something, I don't remember what, (I can concentrate easily. Yes or No?) and suddenly asked me why I was ignoring him.  Uh oh.  So, I tried to explain.

And, Rob should get this.  He knows I am an introvert.  The funny thing is, he claims to be one too.  I know differently.  He may have had some shy, awkward years in grade school and junior high (oh my, who didn't?) and he may still have to consciously work at the art of conversation, but he is so far away from me on the continuum from introversion to extroversion that I can hardly believe he wouldn't identify as an extrovert.

Anyway, I explained, though talking was the last thing I wanted to do, that I wanted some quiet.  After an evening of being in a crowd, with so much activity and noise, I needed to be inside my head for a bit.  I wasn't purposely ignoring him.  I had just tuned out.  (I feel drained after I've been out and about, even if I've enjoyed myself.  Yes or No?)

Because I am an introvert, and that is my nature.

Introversion and introverts are getting a lot of press recently.  There are social media quizzes to help you determine if you are an introvert.

Are you an Introvert?  

Take this quiz to find out!


I find this funny.  No introvert needs a quiz to self-identify. We KNOW we are the wallflowers, the people watchers.  We KNOW why we choose extroverts as our friends and mates:  they do the work of keeping the conversation going and we can just relax and do what we do well, which is listen.  (People tell me that I'm a good listener.  Yes or No?)

But, how does this difference in personality or nature actually affect our relationships?  Rob's influence on me has compelled me to look at ways I use my introversion to avoid connecting with people on a deeper level.  He encourages me to reach out more often, start those conversations, and benefit from interacting with people, even when it's just small talk. I see the ways that he interacts with the world and it truly comes across as such a loving way of interacting with people, strangers many of them, and it is one of the many things I love about him. To me, that willingness to open up to people, ask them about themselves, share a little bit of yourself with them, is one of the highest and best characteristics of being human.  While I have always been the one to immediately open my book on the airplane, to avoid having to talk to my seat-mate, he will have exchanged email addresses with them by the time the flight is over.  Has he gained a life-long friend?  Maybe not, but he has connected with another person, heard their story and perhaps learned something along the way.  I can definitely see the beauty of that. 

Susan Cain has a book about introversion on the NY Times bestseller list:  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.  After reading it some months ago, I immediately thought of all the people I wanted to share it with.  (Isn't that the sign of a really good book?)  I put it on Rob's reading list, of course, and gave it to my oldest daughter.  For the extroverts of the world, I think they will benefit from learning more about the way the other half lives.  For the introverts that I know and love, I think it will help them see their quiet nature in a new light.  Susan relates that introverts are often drawn to extroverts as life partners.  The two personality types can complement one another comfortably, as long as they can understand how and why they differ in the ways that they communicate and interact with each other.

So, it turns out that being an introvert is the new thing.  Who knew?  And I am.  So, when you, my dear extroverted friend, have me out at a party and I don't appear to be having a good time, or if I seem to shut down just a bit after an especially loud and busy social experience, chalk it up to my introversion.  Give me my down-time and then, I promise, I'll be ready to interact with you again. And, when I do, be prepared for some witty insights and interpretations, because I've had the time to put it all together in my head before speaking. (I tend to think before I speak.  Yes or No?)