Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introverts of the World, UNITE! Time for the 'Quiet Revolution'!

One of the annoying aspects of life growing up as an introvert is the incessant meddling of well-meaning teachers, do-gooders, parents etc. who try with every fiber of their being to get you to change your basic personality. Realizing the US of A is the hotbed of hothouse acting out personas (most of them bogus) these well-meaning people believe if you don't transmute to an "outie" type personality you will end up a loser, unsuccessful, unmarried, whatever.

All of which is horse manure. But that doesn't mean they don't stop trying!

In my case, through most of elementary and high school I had to tolerate endless check marks for 'Needs attention' under the report card banner of 'class participation'. Never mind that my grades were almost invariably Bs or higher (except in music), it was the class participation that got my folks' attention. Trying to help me out, while in 3rd grade at St. Sebastian School in Milwaukee, my Aunt Lil decided one fine day to get me enrolled in the Cub Scouts.

I kicked up a right good storm about it since I much preferred constructing imaginary cities (using assorted blocks, etc.) as well as drawing imaginary geographical maps for imaginary planets. But my parents had the final say and within weeks I was a member of some 'den', kowtowing to a "den mother" and mouthing words of homage to "Akeela". Not satisified with that success, Aunt Lil followed it up by getting me involved in a class play on "King Arthur" - where I had to play the role of a page in his court.

All of this I despised, and to this day regard it as mostly wasted time. But then, this is - was coming from an introvert.

Now fast forward to modern day corporate Amerikka, and one beholds the ever, ongoing pressure to conform to extrovert "belongings" and ways of doing things, including at work. Thus, we find now employees expected to function in open office plans for maximum interaction- and office layouts (including the obscene 'cubes' ) are designed for this. But....what if most of those you are expected to work with are morons, or at least dunderheads? What if THEY keep progress back?

Same with corporate 'teams' - the bane of most sane employees, and the nascent belief of HR Depts. in "team building" bullshit. (Alas, I escaped the corporate world before being subjected to those aspects, and before that I taught college which confers at least a high degree of autonomy. So long as you got good results, you didn't get questioned.)

Despite the evidence most corporate "teams" are bullshit, and that real creativity doesn't work that way, it remains the standard template for the corporate honchos, their HR underlings and too many brainwashed employees. The very idea that one would produce better, more substantial work on his own, in his own office, is regarded as heresy.

Given this world biased in favor of extroverts, it's no wonder too many introverts pay a steep psychic price. (I also have a theory, well maybe just a conjecture, that when you see or read of the 'quiet guy' that was 'always so nice'  at work and suddenly loses it and pulls a "Dexter" - that he was an introvert who reached the limit of his psychic stress.)

All of this is why Susan Cain's new book, QUIET, is must reading for any introverts, and also ought to be for the extro brigade. Cain, since its publication, has become the de facto spokesperson for introverts everywhere by her keen insights such as her observations that:

- Even successful introverts feel there's something wrong with them and that their preference for quiet alone time over socializing marks them as flawed

- Status in the US of A 'extro' society generally hinges on speaking up, speaking out and socializing frequently. This leads even tough introverts to ape extroverts.

- Schools remain notorious for high social expectations of students and demanding extro behavior, ability to work in groups etc.

The effect of this personality bias is to render one personality type acceptable and another abnormal. This despite the fact that at least 1 in 3 humans are born with the DNA of intros (see 'Nature's Thumbprint') and hence it's as much an abomination to expect introverts to become extroverts as it would be to expect short men or women to always wear 6" heeled shoes to fit in with "tallies". It also leaves enormous human potential unused if those introverts are unable to fit in, and hence must pay a steep status and economic price.

Sadly then, in a sociophile culture like the U.S. (which disproportionately rewards gregarious behavior in schmoozing, networking etc.) the extrovert personality is generally adopted as the "normal" standard while the intovert is often regarded as "abnormal" and introverts themselves are often dismissed as "loners". Or even "anti-social".  The end result, regrettably, is to corrupt language and skew perceptions, judgments against anyone with an introvert personality.

A final word of clarification is also in order: introversion is not the same as shyness!

The introvert is perfectly capable of socializing when he wants to.  The shy person is always fearful of doing so on account of excessive self-consciousness. Then why doesn't the introvert socialize more? The reason is because he's energized more by being alone, apart from others. His thought processes work better (he detests small talk at parties as well) and he feels more alive. When in the middle of a social milieu he hasn't consciously chosen, however, his energy rapidly dissipates.

Extroverts, on the other hand, are inevitably energized by social connections and lose energy when they're by themselves.

Which personality type does the world need most? It needs BOTH. The introvert in this case will always provide the conscientious check on the potential actions (i.e. launching a new war in the Middle East) on the died -in -the- wool extro president who is cheered on by his extro generals to have at it. The introvert with his introspection, has already tallied the costs mentally, and knows they'd be too costly.

To see more of Cain and her TED talk on introverts, go to:


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