Jenn Granneman is the author of the latest entrant into the burgeoning field of popular introvert literature. Her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts, is autobiographical, relatable, and filled with strategies to help introverts accept and even embrace their differences with the mainstream. I interviewed Granneman to learn more.
NA: With all the introvert books springing up, especially over the past half-dozen years, what got you to write The Secret Lives of Introverts? What’s different about your book?
JG: The Secret Lives of Introverts is the book I’ve been wanting to write since I founded IntrovertDear.com in 2013. It draws on interviews with hundreds of introverts and the latest research on introversion. The book is different because it’s more personal and relatable than other introvert books out there. It offers explanations of the science behind introversion in easy-to-understand, everyday language. It also addresses common problems almost all introverts face, such as getting burned out by socializing and feeling overlooked at work. Reading the book, introverts will say, “Hey, that’s me!”
NA: What have you learned about the science of introversion, including how introverts process stimuli differently from extroverts?
JG: Introverts are wired differently than extroverts. That explains why an introvert will want to go home after an hour or two of socializing, while an extrovert is more inclined to party all night. According to the experts I spoke with, introverts have a less active dopamine reward system than extroverts. This simply means that introverts care less than extroverts about certain rewards (you can find a more thorough explanation in my book). Introverts are just not as motivated and energized by, say, shaking hands with strangers or building huge social circles. In fact, the very things that energize extroverts can be downright draining for introverts.
A: How can introverts find their calling?
JG: It may not be easy for introverts to find their calling, but it should be done. Introverts tend to crave meaningful work, and they don’t feel fulfilled until their outer life represents their inner life, at least on some level. A “calling” for an introvert could mean many different things, from driving a truck solo to teaching a classroom of children to being self-employed. Introverts don’t necessarily have to choose a career that sequesters them in a private office all day long. In fact, many introverts told me that they feel very fulfilled working a job that allows them to interact meaningfully with others. Think consulting or counseling – fields in which the interactions are meaningful, as opposed to a call center, where the interactions are repetitive and often frustrating. The important thing is that introverts choose jobs that allow them some quiet time, preferably alone.
In my book, I provide six questions that introverts can ask themselves to help them find their calling. One questions is, “What message do you want to share with the world?” In other words, if you could rent a billboard in Times Square for just one day, what would you put on it? Another question is, “What kinds of tasks don’t feel like work to you?” Some tasks are a cakewalk to complete, and you get compliments on them; build your calling around these energizing tasks.
NA: What is the most surprising misconception you’ve discovered about introverts in the workplace?
JG: Introverts are – wrongly – undervalued as employees. Initially, bosses may favor extroverts for their confident, smooth-talking ways. However, as I explain in my book, research shows that the perceived value of extroverts’ work and their reputation actually decline over time. In other words, we expect a lot from extroverts, but they are not always able to deliver. Introverts, on the other hand, especially those who are conscientious and concerned about what others think of them, may make better employees in the long-run. I believe this is true because introverts tend to come to work, to, well, work, rather than chat and make friends. Introverts also want their work to speak for itself, so they tend to put a lot of time and effort into what they’re producing.
NA: What challenges have you had speaking up at meetings? What tips do you give other introverts to help them with that?
JG: I’ve had many jobs that required frequent attendance at meetings. Often, even when I was mentally poking holes in my colleagues’ plans, I wouldn't speak up. Having all those eyes turned toward me, watching me speak, was overstimulating. Today, I still hate speaking up in groups or meetings, but I have learned a few tricks. First, instead of focusing on how you sound, focus on what you’re saying. It won’t matter if you “um” or “ah” or don’t use a chipper tone of voice if the content of your message is valuable. Also, push yourself to be one of the first people to speak up. Psychologically, this will make you feel more a part of the meeting, and people will tend to direct follow up questions to you.
NA: What survival skills do you recommend for introverts who work in overstimulating environments?
JG: Take breaks alone. Explain your introversion to your coworkers so they don’t misinterpret your behavior as antisocial or rude. And, if your job consistently leaves you so drained and exhausted that you have little energy left over for other things, consider formulating an escape plan.
NA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JG: The Secret Lives of Introverts is primarily for introverts, but I haven’t left out extroverts — I offer tips for them on how to live with, work with, and love the introverts in their lives.
Copyright 2017 © Nancy Ancowitz