Introverts' Quick-Start Guide, Part 1

The manual that should have come in the box

Posted Sep 30, 2014

The Introvert Manifesto by Peter Vogt is the latest addition to the increasingly popular literature by, for, and about introverts. My favorite thing about his book is how deeply he shares from his own experience—what rocks as well as jolts his world as an introvert, and what he’s learned to do about it.

As background, Vogt and I first connected in the mid-aughts, when he interviewed me about introverts in the workplace for Monster.com; he spent nearly a decade as the college careers expert there. Vogt is career counselor in Moorhead, Minnesota. He publishes a monthly newsletter, Campus Career Counselor, for college/university career services professionals in the United States and Canada.

A natural storyteller and wordsmith (a fine trade for many an introvert!), his passion for all things introvert is palpable. So his book was inevitable. He’s here to share more about his worldview in this two-part story.

In the first part of our interview, we delve into Vogt’s biggest surprises in writing his book and a useful tool he’s created, “The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being,” a useful tool for introverts in navigating their day-to-day needs.

NA: When you reconnected with me recently, you shared that writing The Introvert Manifesto is your effort to teach the world how introverts really tick and, especially, why. What’s the most surprising thing you learned about the “why”?

PV: There are actually two surprising things I learned: first, while sometimes it seems like it’s only the extroverts* of the world who often don’t understand why we introverts operate the way we do, we introverts are just as likely to not understand ourselves and why we operate the way we do!

That was the case for me until my twenties, when I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality assessment in grad school, and realized—finally—that nothing is “wrong” with me; I’m just an introvert. So the first surprising thing I learned is that when I said, “teach the world how introverts really tick and, especially, why,” I was referring to both introverts and extroverts. Both need to understand the “why.” Hence the book’s subtitle: “Introverts Illuminated, Extraverts Enlightened”with “Illuminated” meaning “made clear” and “Enlightened” meaning “made aware.”

Second, on a related note, I learned—or perhaps reaffirmed is a better way of putting it—that the “whys” behind how we introverts operate are legitimate, healthy, normal ways of thinking and feeling and behaving. I like some alone time each day not because I’m anti- or asocial, for example, but because I simply need a little time to recharge my batteries. In other words, I learned that the “whys” aren’t flaws that need to somehow be fixed, but that they are instead simply traits that need to be identified and respected—again, by introverts and extroverts alike.

NA: You mentioned that you poured all of your energy into writing the book after your first wife died of cancer a couple of years ago. What was it like writing your book?

PV: My wife, Lois, battled cancer (melanoma) for almost 10 years in all, the last four-and-a-half involving nearly nonstop treatment at the Mayo Clinic. We practically lived there. Shortly before she died in May 2012, Lois looked up at me and said, “I wish people would learn something from what’s happening to me.” I took that to mean, among other things: Get going! Do what you need to do while you’re on this earth! You could be gone tomorrow!

So that’s what I did where The Introvert Manifesto is/was concerned: I got going. The book had been brewing in my mind for years, and it had to come out.

Yes, writing it helped me deal with my many difficult emotions after Lois died, and it certainly gave me something positive to focus on as well (especially since I wrote bits of it every morning when my daughter, Katie, was in preschool—it became a routine that I really needed). It was indeed cathartic in that sense. But the true catharsis was getting the book out of my head and onto the page so people could read it and, hopefully, learn something from it. It was a little getting out of my own way—with the help of many loved ones and friends. My friend, Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job, once told me: “Writing, Peter, involves putting words on paper.”  Her admonition came during a time when I kept telling her I was thinking of writing a book. With The Introvert Manifesto, I’ve finally put some pretty important (to me, at least) words on paper. And it feels so good to have done so—a critical bucket list item achieved.

NA: What are “The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being”?

PV: It’s a visual tool I created to help introverts—myself included—take good care of themselves in their daily lives. The “4 Pillars” is a tool that is definitely meant to be appliedactually used—and not merely thought about.

NA: Where did it come from?

PV: For years I have been reading every article and book I can get my hands on where introverts and introversion are concerned. Over time, I’ve noticed that virtually all of our key day-to-day needs as introverts can be sorted into one of four distinguishable categories:

  1. Solitude – quiet time alone each day to decompress and recharge
  2. Reflection – the chance to think carefully and thoroughly
  3. Focus – the opportunity to home in on one person/activity/responsibility at a time
  4. Depth – true substance in daily conversations, interactions, and activities

The four categories, then, are “The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being.” Put simply, the 4 Pillars are the four things we introverts need each day to be happy and healthy. 

Each “pillar” helps hold up the “roof” that is my well-being as an introvert. The stronger the pillars, the better I feel; the weaker the pillars, the worse I feel.

So if I’m having a bad day, I can easily turn to this tool and use it to help myself. I can ask myself:

  1. Am I getting my alone time today (Solitude)? (And if not, I can do something about it to feel better.)
  2. Am I getting time to think today (Reflection)? (And if not, I can do something about it to feel better.)
  3. Am I being pulled in too many directions at once today (lack of Focus)? (And if so, I can do something about it to feel better.)
  4. Am I involved in too many shallow, surface-level things today (lack of Depth)? (And if so, I can do something about it to feel better.)

I picture (this is my actual plan, by the way!) “The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being” as a poster to hang on the wall so that whoever sees it can easily put it to usewithout having to read an entire book on the subject! Because let’s face it: While I am very passionate about introverts and introversion – and you are too, Nancy!—for most people it is a mere interest. That’s why I intentionally kept The Introvert Manifesto brief—and it’s another, related reason why I came up with “The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being.”

NA: Thank you for the reminders of the importance of solitude, reflection, focus, and depth for us introverts. 

Stay posted for the second part of this interview, in which Vogt explores the underbelly of teamwork, multitasking, and overtalk—all challenges for an introvert. He also reconciles his human need to be recognized for his accomplishments with his introvert’s avoidance of being the center of attention.

*Also spelled "extraverts" by Carl Jung and the communities of the MBTI® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.

© Copyright 2014 Nancy Ancowitz