Myths About Introverts

As introverts are a minority—a mere twenty-five percent of the population—there are many persistent misconceptions about the introvert personality among the majority. After reading The Introvert Advantage, Carl King decided to compile a list of myths about introverts, explaining why each misconception is false:

  1. Introverts don’t like to talk.
  2. Introverts are shy.
  3. Introverts are rude.
  4. Introverts don’t like people.
  5. Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
  6. Introverts always want to be alone.
  7. Introverts are weird.
  8. Introverts are aloof nerds.
  9. Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
  10. Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

The list itself is fairly obvious and pedestrian, but it’s King’s short descriptions that are truly insightful. For example, here are the explanations for myths four, five and six:

Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

via Link Banana

Askers, Guessers and the ‘Disease to Please’

Saying No to seemingly unreasonable requests and unwanted invitations is easy for some and a gruelling mental challenge for others. This disparity between responses can be explained by looking at the behavioural differences between Askers and Guessers:

In Ask culture, people grow up believing they can ask for anything–a favour, a pay rise–fully realising the answer may be no. In Guess culture, by contrast, you avoid “putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes… A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.”

Neither’s “wrong”, but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won’t think it’s rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor – or just an Asker, who’s assuming you might decline. If you’re a Guesser, you’ll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too. […]

Self-help seeks to make us all Askers, training us to both ask and refuse with relish; the mediation expert William Ury recommends memorising “anchor phrases” such as “that doesn’t work for me”. But Guessers can take solace in logic: in many social situations (though perhaps not at work) the very fact that you’re receiving an anxiety-inducing request is proof the person asking is an Asker. He or she is half-expecting you’ll say no, and has no inkling of the torture you’re experiencing. So say no, and see what happens. Nothing will.

This theory originates from Andrea Donderi’s fantastic response to a 2007 Ask MetaFilter query on dealing with unreasonable requests.

From this article, David brings the following to our attention: Sayre’s Law and Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.

Conversational Mannerisms of Geeks

I always put up a mental barrier when reading articles such as this as I am of the opinion that it is difficult to successfully produce generalities about a subset of people unless you are quite intimate with their idiosyncrasies.

Philip Guo overcame this barrier in his article looking at the conversational behaviours of “geeks, nerds, and other highly-smart technical people”. These behaviours:

  • Struggling with turn-taking.
  • Obsessing over correctness and completeness.
  • Preferring exact numerical responses.
  • Using technical terms without checking for understanding.
  • Focusing on the how rather than the what or the why.
  • Favoring complexity and detail over simplicity in descriptions.
  • Rapidly enumerating long lists of items.
  • Showing a lack of interest in outward appearances.
  • Evangelizing their favorite technologies.

The Hacker News thread discussing this article is also worthy of a casual look.

The Introverted Traveller

Starting with the declaration that “We introverts have a different style of travel, and I’m tired of hiding it”, Sophia Dembling looks at the differences in how introverts and extroverts travel, and what this means.

I’m always happy enough when interesting people stumble into my path. It’s a lagniappe, and I’m capable of connecting with people when the opportunity arises. And when the chemistry is right, I enjoy it.

But I don’t seek people out, I am terrible at striking up conversations with strangers and I am happy exploring a strange city alone. I don’t seek out political discourse with opinionated cab drivers or boozy bonding with locals over beers into the wee hours. […]

For some of us, meeting people is not the sole purpose of travel. I travel for the travel. […] It’s good to know that I might be a loner, but I’m not alone.

This is exactly what I needed to read: considering any extensive travel I always feel like I’ll enjoy it less due to my moderate introversion. This article and the corresponding tips make me realise that it’s OK.

Like Jason (via), this reminds me of one of my favourite essays: Caring for Your Introvert (which in turn reminds me of The Nerd Handbook). I loved these two essays when I first read them, and think of them both often.

The Nerd Handbook and Caring for Your Introvert

Rands In Repose’s Nerd Handbook is an essay on understanding geeks; from our insatiable appetite for knowledge to our hard-to-decipher social interaction ‘skills’. The Handbook is at times painfully precise.

The nerd has based his career, maybe his life, on the computer, and as we’ll see, this intimate relationship has altered his view of the world. He sees the world as a system which, given enough time and effort, is completely knowable. This is a fragile illusion that your nerd has adopted, but it’s a pleasant one that gets your nerd through the day. When the illusion is broken, you are going to discover that…

Your nerd has control issues
Your nerd has built himself a cave
Your nerd loves toys and puzzles
Nerds are fucking funny
Your nerd has an amazing appetite for information
Your nerd has built an annoyingly efficient relevancy engine in his head
Your nerd might come off as not liking people

I see a lot of myself here, and I’ll have to remember to send this to any future prospective Mrs Morgans. In fact, while I’m at it, maybe I should also send them The Atlantic‘s article on caring for your introvert… they share a lot in common with us.

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

[…]

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren’t caring for him properly.

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.