How to be an Introvert

Jane Austen understood the power of the quiet person. Anne Elliot, her heroine in Persuasion, sits in the background to play the piano while the extroverts dance, but the hero finally learns to appreciate her quiet depths. If you find it exhausting to be part of a noisy group, or wonder how other people manage to tell anecdote after story, making the room rock with laughter, you may be an introvert, too.  
An introvert's picture of bliss? Dreamstime Stock Photo

As an introvert you may find reflection and calm more energising than the liveliness of social interaction. Not all introverts are the same. Andy longs for a remote island where he can think in peace while Mike thoroughly enjoys a drink with a few friends, and even loves a party – so long as he can take some time out to recharge his batteries alone later. You may be easily over-stimulated by noise or flashing lights and prefer to work in a silent room. Maybe you turn the TV off, for the peace, while your partner turns it on for the company.

Introverts make a difference
Whatever your preference, remember it’s OK to sit and think. Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, urges you to let go of your guilt. Although today’s world seems to value fast talkers and people who think on their feet, there’s a place for those who inhabit the other end of the spectrum. Einstein, Ghandi, the Dalai Lama and Warren Buffet are all introverts who have made a significant difference to the world.

Beware of over-thinking. That can be an introvert’s curse. You may love Facebook. because it gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you want to say before posting your comments. On the other hand, you may never post at all if you consider your words so carefully that you tweak them for days, until they're no longer relevant. A would-be author can fail to get beyond writing chapter one, by spending every minute of his writing time perfecting the first 3,000 words.

How others see you
Ask an extrovert what she thinks, and you may be surprised by the way she views you. “James sits quietly through a whole meeting, then says something so profound that we all have to stop and rethink,” remarked one of James’ colleagues. Another self-avowed extrovert, Terry, said she was terrified of the introverts at work because they seemed to her to be sitting silently and judging her.

Team work
Jane, a cheerful, noisy talker, said she wished her quieter colleague, Sarah, would say something (anything) to her so they could get a dialogue going. She likes to hone her ideas aloud, while Sarah prefers to think things through and only speak when she feels she has something useful to say.

Would Jane and Sarah make a great team, or should they keep away from each other and stick with work colleagues who work in a similar way?

Does society need people from across the whole spectrum, from the wildest rock-star extrovert to the silent monk in a priory, or should quiet people make more of an effort to make themselves heard?

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