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A few thoughts on introversion

September 13, 2012

One of the wonderfully insightful books that is forefront in my mind as I start the #oped12 course this week is “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

Yesterday, Ms. Cain posted an interview with Gretchen Rubin, the author and blogger of The Happiness Project.

Their dialogue was captivating so I’ve decided to reflect on the same questions myself, as a way of being more open about introversion and the learning profession.

1. Am I an introvert or an extravert? How do other people see me?

I’m definitely an introvert, and even more of one than I realized before eagerly consuming every word of Ms. Cain’s book this spring.

Although I had dreamed of a particular career since I was a young child and did pursue it formally for many years, it was a very good choice for me not to stay in that role.  I do not have the stamina required to be ‘on’ with people all day.  All teacher education programs would be greatly improved by having an honest discussion about introversion and extraversion before handing out their degrees!

Over the past three years, I have realized how easily I become exhausted by extraverted energy so now I am choosing quite often to decline interactions with extraverts or invitations to extraverted activities, without regrets.

Other people in my work environment likely see me as fairly extraverted because I am very outspoken and I address individuals and groups quite confidently when sharing the expertise that I have accumulated in recent years, particularly if I am addressing people at a distance.  I do a lot of online coaching and desktop sharing with collaborative technology but it’s usually one-on-one now.  I can only sustain the energy required for the group stuff once in awhile and with considerable advance preparation.  Ms. Cain writes frequently about how introverts are not well suited to speaking extemporaneously (on our feet) and I can see that in myself, for sure.

2. What did I want to be when I grew up, and why?

From quite a young age, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher and that is what I pursued wholeheartedly through volunteer and paid work, formal training, two post-secondary degrees and considerable first-hand experience for a dozen years.  Ultimately, I am much happier in my current learning profession, in which I work with adults.  Admittedly, working with children seems much easier sometimes! 🙂

3. Write about someone I admire.

I admire my closest friends and a small number of colleagues and superiors for being ‘black sheep’ who stand their own ground, who call a spade a shovel and who challenge the status quo in their personal lives and in their professions.  That takes a tremendous amount of courage and resilience, which I admire and try to emulate in my own ways.

My close friends and I are spending a lot of time reflecting on what makes us happy and what doesn’t, in great detail, as introverts are prone to do.  Ms. Cain’s book has been a source of lengthy and intriguing conversation about our similarities as introverts, our fatigue from feigning extraversion and our growing realization of how the world is generally not structured for our success.

4. When I feel afraid, how do I embolden myself?

I often ask myself why I’m afraid of something.  If I’m procrastinating about taking action, I try to go forward and conquer it using Ms. Rubin’s helpful mantra “tackle a nagging task“.  When I do so, I usually find that the anxiety I was investing in the procrastination was not worth it!

I also take a look at the clock: if it’s getting close to bed time, it is *not* a good time to make a decision or take action.   Go to sleep and figure out if the issue still has as much weight in the light of a new day.

5. Quirky or mainstream – which adjective suits me better, and why?

Rather quirky and proud of it!  And I find myself caring less and less what others think these days.  As Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”  And this gem: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

In a tech-loaded world where image is supposedly important and ‘fame’ is instantaneous and fleeting, I put a lot of effort into identifying and sticking to my priorities, regardless of whether others know about them or agree with them.

6. What is my absolute favorite way of spending time (other than with my family)?

Swimming in fresh water, if I’m lucky, or travelling to locations with salted water, if I’m even luckier.  Water is calming and cleansing to me in ways that almost defy words.  I spent 18 decadent days at various beaches this summer and loved every minute of it!

7. Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” If I could shake the world gently, what would my own signature contribution be? (Please don’t feel the need to say something like “End world hunger” or “Create lasting peace.”)

My pet peeve right now is distracted driving with cell phones, which has become illegal in many places.  To everyone out there who thinks it’s okay to text or talk on the phone while driving: I see you in my rearview mirror everyday.  You are really not 1/10th as important as you think you are and most of what you think is ‘urgent’ is not so put the damn phone away and keep the rest of us safe!

Hey, I wonder if most of the guilty parties are extraverts?  Now, that would be an interesting study!

If any readers would like to explore one or more of the above questions, I would be delighted to read your responses.  Thanks for spending some time with mine.


From → Smarter worker

  1. I came into my workspace this week, equipped with my lists of things to accomplish, opened my email to indulge in this little treat before beginning my day, read ‘fatigue from feigning extroversion’ and was blown off my feet. There’s no going back now.

    Thank you!

    • What a compliment, thank you so much! Am mildly obsessed with Ms. Cain’s site at the moment, as well as the hashtag #introvert. Keep me posted on your discoveries! 🙂

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