Here’s a great essay from fellow introvert Jonathan Rauch about our orientation. As he notes, we’re not necessarily socially inept nor shy, but we are different. I’m known as a favorite and funny teacher and am comfortable with public speaking and leadership roles, actively participating and speaking up for causes that are important to me. But I am most definitely an introvert, happily spending much of my time alone.
- Assert yourself as a legitimate personality type. There are two legitimate personality types: extroverts and introverts.
- Correct people when they refer to introverts as neurotics. Introverts are not neurotics. They are introverts.
- Correct people when they refer to introverts as prone to mental illness. Introverts are no more prone to mental illness than others. When extroverts are under stress, they overeat, smoke, drink and become violent. When introverts are under stress, they withdraw. This does not make them mentally ill.
- Correct people when they assert that introverts are anti-social. Introverts are not anti-social. They are drained by other people and must limit their time in company, but they are friendly and loving people.
- Correct people when they assert that introverts have nothing to say. On the contrary, introverts won’t speak unless they have something important to say!
- Put a proper value on your ability to be a good listener. Good listening skills are invaluable in all areas of business and industry.
- Do not apologize for time spent alone. Explain to critical “others” that introverts need to spend at least half their time alone for good mental and emotional health. Then assert, if necessary, that introverts are a legitimate personality type.
- Introverts are not losers. Take pride that you are in the company of such introverts, past and present, as Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Darwin, Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Jordan and Bruce Lee.
- Stand up for introverted children who are being misunderstood in your presence. This is one of the most healing things you can possibly do for yourself as it will heal your own inner child.
- Don’t let pushy extroverts interrupt you while you’re reading a good book. Explain politely that you can’t talk right now, you’re reading a book.
And, lest we get too serious, here’s an old joke:
How can tell if a physicist is an introvert or an extrovert?
She’s an introvert if she looks at her shoes while talking to you. She’s an extrovert if instead she looks at your shoes.