Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'm okay, you're okay - in small doses

Thursday night, I spent four and a half hours catching up with a friend. Today, I've had breakfast with a dear group of ladies, am having afternoon coffee with another friend and dinner with my sweet college-aged friend Renae. I feel incredibly loved and honored that my company is apparently so desired, but all this people contact absolutely exhausts me.

I am an introvert.

Please note that I said introvert, not misanthropic-stuck up-grouchy hermit. There is a difference. I like people; I simply do not need to have them around all the time. I am fine with that - it is my extrovert friends who have a difficult time dealing with it. I find that a ratio of three to one of alone time versus people time is about right for me; it will take a week to recover from this weekend.

In this terrific and funny article, author Jonathon Rauch describes the stigma surrounding introversion:

“In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty…

If you are an extrovert, like the majority of the population, these tips may come in handy in your future dealings with the reclusive and haughty introvert, such as myself:

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice?
First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.”

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