An Introvert in an Extrovert’s World

Being an introvert in an America that only values extroverts sucks. The Meyers-Briggs study of the 1960s estimated 25% as being introverted, but that was without any firm evidence. According to a 1998 Meyers-Briggs Institute study, however, 50.7% of the population are introverts, with males at 54.1% and females at 47.5%. I put what the data says up front because most extroverts seem (at least to me) to think that introverts make up only about 10%.

Workplaces and schools, in particular, are designed for extroverts. The average space per square foot required for an office worker that the real estate market recognizes has dropped (at least in the greater Seattle area) from 250 sf per employee to 175 sf as more and more workplaces shift from cubicles to open space. For introverts in Seattle, this creates increased levels of stress and anxiety, especially when businesses do not provide places of quiet for introverts to recharge during break times.

One of the worst activities for an introvert is the “let’s get your group to bond by doing a stupid game” idea. Whenever I hear this, I shut down. I’ve been accused of being a negative influence in these activities, but it’s simply my defense mechanism kicking in against what I see as a worthless, meaningless game that couldn’t provide a more shallow method of bonding.

For introverts who are students, the only thing worse than getting called on in class is being forced to work on a group project, especially if there’s a dominant extrovert in the group. Teachers often seem to not understand that introverts and extroverts work very differently, in styles that can really clash, especially when the teacher does not provide enough oversight or guidance.

This idea of Groupthink, which is the idea that the most creativity and productivity comes from working in a group, is anathema to many introverts. I don’t mind brainstorming with others, but I get far more accomplished on my own. For me, this is because extroverts tend to dominate the groupthink and, generally, have little to no empathy for introverts.

Introverts need time to think, and that usually means quiet. Extroverts seem to thrive on “energy” (i.e., noise and speed) and often act as if introverts are stupid or inferior because we aren’t as “fast on our feet.”

As I watch our current presidential campaign, it seems to be dominated by extroverts. We have been force fed for a long time (at least since I was young) that good leaders need to be “charismatic.” However, in today’s society, being charismatic no longer has anything to do with character, but with personality. The former is a reflection of the internal person, or who the person really is, while personality is a reflection of how a person portrays themselves to the rest of the world, or the person’s veneer.

I’m not trying to bash extroverts, but I am trying to increase awareness of the needs of introverts in an extroverted world. Introverts can operate in such a world (many introverts are very loud, but that is a coping mechanism), but to be our best, we do need quiet and alone time. We especially need extroverts to be empathetic rather than dismissive.

If you want to read a great book on this topic, try Quiet by Susan Cain. Should be required reading for every extrovert in a leadership position.


Eljena’s Backstory, Part 3

continued from Part 2

“The blows were clearly from assassins and my father was certain that the rest of the family would be targeted. In my grief, for my heart was sorely torn open as much by my husband’s murder as by the fact that I had never forgiven him, the truth of my attack spilled out to my parents. We fled that night, as much of our belongings as we could carry, my two younger sisters not understanding as we crowded into our carriage that whisked us to the ambassador of Quoque’s mansion, where my father pleaded for asylum.

“They let us in, seeing how frantic we were, and my mother and sisters all in frightened tears. I felt so hollow in that moment; I’m sure I was a horrid sight, probably huge circles under my eyes and gray skin in my grief. The ambassador wasn’t a wizard but a Helexi, the first birdman I’d ever met. He was old, and all I really recall is the softness of his feathers as he came to hold me an hour or so later, and the scent of his tobacco on his breath. That was when I really cried. He interviewed me when I was done, or that’s what I realize now in hindsight.

“We stayed hidden in his mansion for a couple of days while I’m sure arrangements were made, and the old ambassador assured me over and over that Quoque was the place for us, and indeed was where we ended up. None of us have ever been back to Javern, and I never really saw my family much. They became servants to one of the wizards who is a professor at the college, and I poured myself into my studies. I was older, of course, when I started, but not by much, and my learning allowed me to bury my grief. I suppose I know I’ll have to accept Alasaia’s wisdom and deal with it honestly, but maybe just telling you, what only your wife knows, is enough.”


Eljena’s backstory, part 2

Continued from here

“Poor princess. Other young women like me just had big local parties. She had to be paraded through the streets of Jacumba for everyone in the capital to see. My husband and I were seated at the palace’s public ground for the end of the parade, rather near the back and close to the right side as appropriate for our station. When she entered through the gates of the wall that separates the grounds from the city, the crowd all rose and started to move with her towards the palace where the final ceremony would be. That’s when I was separated from my husband, and I did not see him alive again.

“The woman I’d insulted had a group of men who surreptitiously moved between us in that mob. It wasn’t hard, as there were at least three thousand nobles all crammed into the grounds and I doubt my husband was ever aware I wasn’t at least close when hell unleashed herself on me.

“Because we were at the edge of the crowd, and towards the back, it was rather simple for these men to form a wall, you know, a barricade that kept me from pressing forward with everyone else, while in the tumult, not even my husband could hear me calling for him. Then she hit me and, for a moment, all I could see were stars. When I shook my head clear, I was on my knees and the woman I’d insulted was standing above me, a stick in hand raised for another blow. Not a small stick: it looked like the leg of a fancy dining chair that had been torn off. If she’d been strong like a man, I’m sure that first blow, or one of the later blows, would have killed me, which her eyes made clear was her intent. Then the beating began.

“Sometimes she clawed my face instead of hitting me with that chair leg. If not for my magic, I’d have terrible scars now, because her nails were long and quite sharp, and able to rip my skin after bashing me in the cheek with her stick. The beating was vicious and those men just stood there, backs to me as I pleaded for my life, ignoring me.

“There was no warning, just as she’d given me no warning, when the magic erupted. I was about to just give up and welcome the fatal blow when it exploded out of me. To this day, I have never experienced such a rush of magic. The woman and all the men were each blown a good twenty feet away, tumbling like leaves. And it left me healed, completely healed, although still weak.

“They were all frightened when they could glance back at me, and they ran away one by one like scared puppies, until I was alone in that back corner of the palace grounds, unnoticed by the rest of the crowd. I didn’t know why until later, but as that surge moved with the princess towards the final celebration, there’d been a murder. My husband, I learned the next day, was stabbed by unknown assailants. Witnesses said they weren’t certain who, but they were certain that my husband had no idea of his doom until the blades pierced him, one to each side. He only gurgled when he fell, which was quite enough to distract the witnesses from realizing who had killed him.

Concluded here..