At a Blogher 2008 panel about introversion and blogging, I found myself wanting to jump up and wrest control of the microphones away from the panelists, leap to the top of one of the tables, and yell, “Point of order! Point of order!”
Yeah, alright. I actually didn’t want to do any of those things, but I got really fidgety.
Here’s the thing: everyone—audience members included—was talking about shyness or social anxiety: a form of self-consciousness, not introversion.
As a long time genuine alien marooned on planet earth (just ask my family or any of my friends), I know introversion.
Introverts like me are not shy. Not even close. I can be borderline scary when I’m in the mood, swooping down on unsuspecting conference attendees, proclaiming, “Life is short—eat dessert first!” I was a musical comedy performer, a speaker at more than a few conferences for HP user groups, and nearly famous as a writer/performer for “The Machine,” a high school comedy group in Los Angeles that played skits over the telephone in the late 1960s. Don’t laugh; we busied out our prefix more than once.
I’m definitely an aberration, since I can get as loud and party as hearty as any extrovert I know, and do it without alcohol, but I remain an introvert. I know this because a couple of hours after I put on the lampshade and start boogying to Super Freak, I’ve got to jump down from the table and find a quiet place where I can put my feet up and be alone with a good book. While my extrovert friends are still pulling people onto the dance floor, I’m looking for my jammies and a hot cup of peace and quiet.
Therein lies the big difference between introverts and extroverts: extroverts get a buzz off being with other people—it recharges their batteries and gets them going. Hell for extroverts is solitary confinement. Introverts get recharged by being alone with their thoughts. Hell for us is an unending cocktail party.
My public face can be dramatic and forceful, but after a few hours, it will start to slip. If I don’t make like Cinderella and bail on the prince’s dance, my low batteries will begin to pulse to a samba beat and leave me on the silly setting. This is not pretty, as it often involves me dancing by myself, imitating barnyard animals, or drinking too many espressos in an attempt to stay “up,” resulting in an enviable ability to travel from room to room on “vibrate.” Once the mask has cracked, peeled, and fallen off though, I’m inevitably revealed as a middle-aged woman with my mother’s face who has an overwhelming desire to go home and find out what her dog has been up to.
It’s difficult to be an introvert in an extrovert world, and make no mistake about it—75 to 80 percent of the general public are extroverts. This is why success is often measured in extrovert terms involving sociability.
We introverts have our own style and it’s every bit effective as an extrovert’s. We’d like our particular contributions to be recognized and valued. And don’t worry if we take the spotlight—we’ll give it right back. We’d rather be holding a book, anyway.