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Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues.Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice? If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes.
If you are behind the curve on this important matter, be reassured that you are not alone. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world. Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone.
They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion.
Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. "It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert," write the education experts Jill D. (They are also the source of the quotation in the previous paragraph.) Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They seem to come fully to life only around other people.
In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."How many people are introverts? Or—my favorite—"a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population."Are introverts misunderstood? They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place.
My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?
They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping. " (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations.
From Atlantic Unbound: Interviews: "Introverts of the World, Unite!
" (February 14, 2006) A conversation with Jonathan Rauch, the author who—thanks to an astonishingly popular essay in the March 2003 Atlantic—may have unwittingly touched off an Introverts' Rights revolution.
Follow-up: The Introversy Continues Jonathan Rauch comments on reader feedback about introvert dating—and poses a new question Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day?
Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests.