What’s Introversion Got to Do with Occupy Wall Street?

It’s a matter of how we present ourselves.

Posted Dec 06, 2011


Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele from The Happy Introvert

I learned as an introvert that I need to frame myself or others will frame me. I was often so quiet, people would project onto me whoever they wanted me to be. After too many experiences of people imagining I was different from the person I am, I decided to try to show them who I really am first. I didn't learn overnight. Introverts tend to act and react slowly. Besides, many of us aren't as interested in how we look to others (our image) as extraverts are. 

In George Lakoff's article in the Huffington Post, How to Frame Yourself, he says unless you frame yourself others will frame you, referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. I think it's wise the movement has been dedicated to remaining leaderless and vague so far. It is wise to use the qualities of introversion: thoughtfulness, inwardness, and processing information slowly. OWS will benefit from reflecting on what its goals are until it is sure of itself, the way most introverts do. It's gathering itself together now. When the time is right, the movement will become more extraverted as appropriate, pushing for and carrying out policies after carefully having adopting them.

Most of the people I've heard criticize the Occupy movement for not having more of a platform have been extraverts. Extraverts tend to be spontaneous and sometimes act in haste. Let's not rush into the details. Once we make demands, the right wing will try to shoot them down. Let's be prepared.

Meanwhile, Lakoff has some constructive thoughts. He sees OWS as primarily a moral movement, seeking economic and political changes to carry it out. He sees OWS as "a patriotic movement, based on a deep and abiding love of country, a patriotism that it is not just about the self-interests of individuals, but about what the country is and is to be." He thinks it's "important to be positive, to be clear about loving America, seeing it in need of fixing, and not just being willing to fix it, but being willing to take to the streets to fix it. A populist movement starts with the people seeing that they are all in the same boat and being ready to come together to fix the leaks."

Lakoff also warns against the movement becoming too negative, chaotic, calling for revenge, or having nothing to say. He recommends it focus on the 2012 elections.

Jim Hightower is a rational voice for change regarding donations and corporations, among other things. In The Nation of Change he writes, "This citizens' uprising is clearly not going away. To the contrary, 76 % of the people polled support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's edict that corporations can make unlimited secret donations in any and all American elections. The same big majority supports an amendment to make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people."

George Lakoff, Jim Hightower, Robert Reich, Bill Bradley, Michael Moore, and Jeffrey Sachs,  director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, are some of the voices of reason that will help the Occupy movement find its way. I hope when they make their list of values, the principle of nonviolence heads the list. That would not only be the moral way to behave. It would command respect and set the tone for taking the high road in other ways.

About the Author

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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