I figured out I was an introvert in an undergraduate psychology class, but didn't think much about it until I came across the book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by psychologist (and introvert) Laurie Helgoe. (Pictured, left.)
I devoured that book in one sitting, and actually cried with relief at times. You mean I'm not the only person who finds the telephone odious? My preference for online communication doesn't make me a weirdo? (Preference over the telephone, that is. I like face-to-face.) You mean there are other people out there who don't think parties are loads of fun?
You mean I'm not a freak?
It's not the only book about introversion out there, but it's the book that changed my life. After reading it, I stopped trying to fight my nature and started figuring out how to work with it.
Dr. Helgoe was kind enough to answer some questions about introversion for this blog--via email, of course. Because that's the way we like it.
SD: When and how did you realize that you're an introvert?
LH: I didn't put it together until I was in my 30's! I was on the couch in a psychoanalytic session and, in that safe space, I spoke out loud my subversive truth: I didn't like a lot of what I had been trying to like, had been trained to like, was supposed to like. I didn't like playing a social role, I didn't like meeting with patient after patient, and I abhorred work parties.
At that moment, I was loosed, free. And that set my course toward becoming an author.
SD: What do you think is the most troubling general misconception about introverts?
LH: Wow -- it's hard to choose. I am very troubled by the tendency to define introverts by what they lack. Introversion is a preference, not a fallback plan. Introverts like being introverts. We are drawn to ideas, we are passionate observers, and for us, solitude is rich and generative. Think of all that goes on in the playground of solitude: daydreaming, reading, composing, meditating -- and just being, writing, calculating, fantasizing, thinking, praying, theorizing, imagining, drawing/painting/sculpting, inventing, researching, reflecting. You get the idea.
SD: What do you most want other introverts to know about themselves?
LH: Your preference for introversion is normal and healthy, and you are not a part of some deviant subculture. In fact, the largest studies to date document that you make up a slight majority of the population.
SD: What do you most want extroverts to know about introverts?
LH: --When an introvert is quiet, don't assume he is depressed, snobbish or socially deficient.
--If you ask an introvert a question, WAIT until she thinks about it. Introverts think before speaking, not through speaking. If you want to get to the good stuff, you need to slow down.
--Don't assume that your fun is an introvert's fun. Parties are often BOR-ing to an introvert.
--Introverts need to withdraw to refuel. Don't take it personally.
(To learn more about Dr. Helgo, visit her website, Waking Desire)
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Copyright 2009 Sophia Dembling