Kind of an oxymoron. We introverts do not join up so easily. But it seems we are finally getting our 15 minutes. There’s a whole bunch of books out there now that focus on introverts, including Quiet by Susan Cain. She’s also got a talk on TED. It turns out there are more of us out there than we knew. My hope is that all this attention and discussion will lead to greater understanding and greater tolerance for our differences.
I don’t know about you, but I have always felt a little bad that I am not good at small talk, that I can’t start up conversations and make friends easily. I find it all soooo draining. I avoid my building’s Holiday Party like the plague and duck out of various other events as soon as I possibly can. When someone addresses me on the subway I respond in mono-syllables. Can’t they see I’m trying to read my book?
But they don’t see. It’s rather like a slightly crooked picture on the wall or a typo in a page of text. To some of us it is just glaring. We must go over there and straighten it. Then there are others who don’t even see it. Really don’t see it. I do have a hard time imagining what that is like just as I have a hard time imagining what it must be like to adore chit chat and large crowds.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some wars in the past were started by an introvert and an extrovert being inadvertently insulted by each other. Seeing things from another’s point of view is an effort and a practice but one that I think is well worth doing. If we are to create a sustainable future for ourselves we are going to have to be creative and active. We will need all the different skills that are out there. We must value ourselves and each other, value our differences as much as our commonalities. My practice is to pay attention, try to determine how someone else sees things, how that person would like to be treated. Does she want me to talk to her, inquire into her day? Or does he want me to just say a quick hello and then leave him be? I’m not trying to change who I am, to become an extrovert around other extroverts, but I am trying to honor their needs. I have confidence that if we approach others in this way it will spread. Be the change that you want to see.