Sunday, March 8, 2009
It ain't easy being one of us....
We humans have been paying attention to "aspects of personality" for some time now. It is very common to hear people refer to someone who is "Type A", "Compulsive", "Passive Aggressive" or a host of other labels that refer to personal characteristics about behavior. Among the earlier of these stereotypes to enter the public lexicon were "Introvert" and "Extrovert".
Despite the long tenure of these labels as common descriptors, it is amazing that so many people (approaching practically everyone is seems) totally misunderstand what is meant by "introvert". Jonathan Rauch wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago and I thought he did a good job of summing up many of the thoughts I've had on this topic; I really wish all the extroverts would read it and try to remember it.
We introverts mean no harm, we just find idle banter tiring, especially if it must be conducted with someone we really don't know well. Not engaging in small talk does not mean we are shy, nor does it mean we are inept at conversation, it just means we don't always have the social energy to do it. Preferring not to dress up at Halloween and not to whoop loudly at the stroke of midnight on New Year's eve doesn't mean we are grumpy or anti-social, it just means those kinds of things are drains on our shallow social reserves.
It ain't easy being us. I dressed like a pirate to please my kids on Halloween of 2007 and I am glad I did for their sake. But don't be fooled into thinking I enjoyed my time in the costume. Introverts are not like children who need to be goaded by adults to join the fun and then end up realizing what a good time they had been missing. We make rational grown-up choices based on a good understanding of what we will enjoy and what we will not.