If I Could Just Be More Extroverted…

introvertAbout a month ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert.” As an introvert, the story, naturally, piqued my curiosity. Thanks for the advice, WSJ. NOT! Last time I checked, pounding a square peg harder doesn’t make it fit into a round hole. Whoa, whoa, whoa, and shut the front door while you’re at it. Did you catch that? I’m an “I,” yes, an introvert. “INFJ,” precisely. People seem surprised to learn that about me.

Case in point, during one of Joel’s deacon formation classes, the deacons-to-be and us wives completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality assessment. When it came time for the big reveal, the folks I’ve come to know well and love like family were a bit surprised by the “I” in my personality portrait.

I can’t fault them. There are many misconceptions floating out there in the universe about introverts and our behavior. A universe, mind you, dominated by extroverts. According to most research, about 75% of the population is extroverted. So sure, I get that all these “people persons” and their 10,000 friends might be a little confused about introverts. So let’s help clear the air a bit. Adapted from Carl King’s 10 Myths about Introverts, here are a few misconceptions many have of us reflective and reserved types.

Myth: Introverts don’t like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

True, true. Get me talking about something which I’m greatly passionate, and I CAN’T. SHUT. UP! Just ask Joel or my deacon family who all have seen my Chatty Cathy side. And what do we talk about in deacon formation classes? The Church, moral theology, Scripture, our faith journeys, the lives of the saints. Stuff I totally dig. Of course I talk a lot in this group.

Myth: Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting.

Precisely. To reiterate, please don’t confuse introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related.

Myth: Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Aha. I think this gets to the heart of why I struggle with random playdates with woman I don’t know particularly well or with whom I have little in common. Certainly, I have met some very nice women in these social outings, however as much as I enjoy chatting about breastfeeding, why leggings aren’t pants, recipes for how to use up that bulk bag of quinoa, and Downton Abbey (not that any of that is bad, mind you), it all feels a bit forced, and I struggle to fit in. Then I come home and think, Well, that woman will never call me again. And she usually doesn’t.

But that’s usually all okie dokie. See next point.

Myth: Introverts don’t like people.

On the contrary, introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Reminds me of a quote from Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, “…Perfection consists not in having no friendships, but in having only those which are good, holy, and sacred.” Or there’s also this, from Scripture, “Let those who are friendly to you be many, but one in a thousand your confidant (Sirach 6:6).

Myth: Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for introverts.

Does Hotels.com have a special discount for us introverts who must travel to visit family? Give me the night to recharge in a hotel and I’ll see you in the morning!

Myth: Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

That there is why shopping and me don’t get along! Anywhere but a mall, people. ANYWHERE!

Myth: Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an extrovert can learn in order to interact with introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race.

Like Hanking in the cartoon, I’ve been told more than once that I’m “hard to figure out.” I’m really not trying to be coy, difficult, or manipulative. Really. It’s taken all 37 years of life, sometimes emotionally painfully so, to figure out my natural introversion inclinations and how to best use them in this world — to lead with my strengths and understand my limitations, especially in social situations that stretch me. I’m getting more comfortable in my introverted skin. And contrary to the WSJ piece, this has all flourished after I stopped trying to be more extroverted to fit in and be accepted. And the solid friendships I have today (yes, short in number but long in substance) are stronger, more meaningful, and spiritually edifying than ever before. Most importantly, friendships I foresee growing and lasting the rest of my life.

Well, it’s time for me to wrap this baby up. No time for pleasantries. No need to make idle chit-chat to land this plane and hit the publish button. This isn’t exactly how I wanted to end this post, but I’ve had enough of it, and I simply need more alone time in my bedroom to process it all. Plus it’s time for this Bohemian to make an introverted Irish exit. The kids and I have a park outing to attend. Hmmm, wonder who I’ll alienate today?

**Guess it must be the day to write about introverts. Check out this “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert” piece posted at HuffPost earlier today.

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  1. oneview says

    This is a perfect description of my personality and it’s SO comforting to know that others have the same struggles (malls, big parties, yuck!) with their introversion :-)

  2. franciscanmom says

    I too have perfected the Irish exit. Shame on the WSJ for trying to make me fit someplace where I will not. It’s taken me this long to figure out that I need to accept who I am and build on my strengths rather than try to turn into something I can never be.

  3. says

    I read that article, too, and felt put upon when I was told to change myself to make others feel more comfortable. Sorry. Can´t do it. When I´ve tried, I feel like a fake. Thank you for a really good article.

  4. says

    Lisa, I never would have guessed that you were an introvert. However, until very recently was aware that I am an introvert! So, there goes my ability to put people in their box. I keep retyping what I am trying to say to explain why it has been difficult for me to discern my true nature – and every time I do, it seems that it explains even more why I am more introverted than extroverted.

    What I LOVED about the Huffington Post article was the fact that they stated that being introverted does not mean that you are not a good leader. I love MCing events for large groups of people; I am not afraid to be in front of people; I am not afraid to lead. I do despise small talk and networking. I went to a COE event with all the ‘big wigs’ (personal invite from Arnold Mitchem), and I went late and found people I knew immediately and joined their ‘group.’ My skin was crawling the entire time.

    Anyway, maybe this is why we got along well as co-workers? We spoke each other’s heart language, when our heads didn’t yet understand.

  5. says

    Yes, I am. I don´t want to be this way, it just seems to happen in every relationship I have, unless the other person reaches out, I do not like being this way, I don´t know why I am this way, I just am….maybe being an identical twin has something to do with it

  6. says

    You ended up in good hands at the park- I think most of us are introverts, too! No alienating today! :) And I don´t know if this is another introvert thing, or just me, but I think I am most uncomfortable with any and all forms of public speaking. Worse than the mall! Thanks for this, Lisa!

  7. Dee says

    Very nicely said. I just have one question for the writer of the Wall Street article, who says us introverts need to be happier? I’m a crazy happy girl who keeps it within my walls!

  8. Dorian Speed says

    I keep trying to answer the questions on personality tests in such a way that I will finally be revealed to be an introvert but it appears to be hopeless. I do have people tell me I am shy (NO REALLY) when I am new to a group but then my take-overnness kicks in and probably everyone wishes I would stop dominating the conversation.

  9. Raymond says

    most of us are introvert especially I always want to be alone or just quiet most of the time in discus with people who have the same vocation as I which is religious life.

  10. says

    Wonderful article, I can see my daughter in every one of those, now, how do you get an introvert to work? She is 21 going on 22 in a month and has never worked a job. I have no idea how to help her.

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