My friend CDub almost fell off her chair the other night when I told her that in third through six grades I walked to and from school everyday with my head buried in a biography of some famous person, only because I didn’t have any friends. Ok, if I look back I had a couple friends but not many, that’s for sure, and I much preferred to walk home with a dead president rather than a real person, even if I had a real person to walk with. She almost fell over because she only knows me now, after years and years in a business and work place that celebrates people who are loud and who project out, everything. I am one of those people, most of the time. But I think that somewhere inside her also wasn’t surprised at my young kid need for solitude considering she has found me at work many times “hiding” by the three compartment sink, washing dishes, after any number of grueling hours of group think. No one talks to you when you are doing dishes and she recognized exactly what I was doing, escaping from all that noise because even I can only be a loud and an enthusiastic brainstormer for so long.
She read this book a while ago that kind of transformed her way of thinking about herself and others. That is a big deal when you manage people, in a big job and after forty some years of thinking one way because that is what society tells you to think. And an even bigger deal when you discover that there are other people who think like you and who feel a little out of sync in this crazy culture we live in. She made me read this book too, mostly because I think I make her a little nuts with my outloudness. It is a book about introverts and contrary to what some believe, introvertism is not a personality disorder. It is a different way of operating and for many of us who steer in the extroverted lane, it is complicated and totally new and really cool, at least it is for me. And this is going to sound funny but now that I know what these introverts look and act like, I am finding them everywhere and I am starting to understand.
People who consider themselves introverts retreat and recharge and get over hyped up and have to pull back, they prefer long conversations to small talk and think deeply, best, by themselves and are incredibly thoughtful and are super comfortable in their own heads and have these amazing relationships with a few close people, who just get them. They are patient and persistent and focused. And of course these are all generalizations and of course most people have a little intro in them and a little extro and even the most introverted people can be extroverted when they think they need to be and then there are others who say to hell with all your extroversion, I am who I am.
Extroverts are celebrated in our society but often for no other reason other than that they speak up and are louder than the others. And this loudness doesn’t mean they are smarter or have better ideas, they just demand the attention. Now that I know this, I see it, a lot. The quieter people who don’t speak as often are the ones that are typically left out of the discussion and in an office ruled by extroverts, I look around and most of the introverts are gone-for good reason. And as an extrovert with some introvert leanings it is hard for me to work in a place that operates at DEFCON 1, all the time. I think it is also the reason I escape outside over lunch, spend hours on the weekend tramping around with just my head for company, why I cook at 5:30 in the morning, like doing the dishes and why I write. Things I do by myself to refuel.
So this book is kind of an owners manual for me, and not just so can better understand and be a better friend to the couple of introverted VIPs in my life. This book is a good reminder that people are different, there is not one right way of doing things and contrary to what our society, or office or friends say, loud and boisterous is not necessarily the best or only way of doing things. It is also a good reminder that a little less noise and a little more quiet is a good thing for me too.