I often struggle a bit with how much I want to share and promote. "Struggle" is the perfect word to use in my case because I really do want to be more gregarious, chatting everyone up on Twitter and joining conversations. I want to join social campaigns that bring communities together. I want to go to cocktail parties and work the room, engaging in lively conversation. While I certainly have my moments in the sun, when they do happen, I find myself needing quiet reflective time after. To be social or not to be social - this is my tug of war. I'll be honest with you, I berate myself whenever I lose the battle. I mean, isn't the whole point of blogging and all the social platforms that exist to be more social, not less?
At the beginning of this month, I read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I was prepared to read this book to gain a better understanding about the differences between extroverts and introverts. Before reading this book, if I had to casually put myself into one camp, I would reluctantly peg myself as an introvert. However, something I wasn't prepared for as a result of reading this book was understanding myself better and realizing that being an introvert isn't a bad word.
I guess I don't have to tell you that I found this book fascinating. Not only does it explain the difference between extroverts and introverts, and how each has their own unique benefits, the book also debunks some popular social myths. I'll give you one example, many offices around the nation are transitioning to open floor plan spaces - "The Rise of the New Groupthink". Research has proven that open floor plans are not conducive to employees' best work efforts, especially in terms of introverts who need quiet time and solitude to think. The book also points out the many ways in which our culture is extrovert-driven and how it tries to make introverts more extroverted. A slippery slope considering our nation's most recent financial collapse was driven by what seems to have been an overabundance of extroverts in charge, or at least according to the book; a balance of the two traits is what makes our culture thrive as we need one who is ready to take action and another who is researching all the what-ifs. (Interesting, right?)
Anyway, I'll give you a quick synopsis of each personality trait as defined by the book and then let you decide which camp you fall into:
Extroverts are the people who will add life to your dinner party and laugh generously at your jokes. They tend to be assertive, dominant, and in great need of company. Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening, rarely find themselves at a loss for words, and occasionally blurt out things they never meant to say. They're comfortable with conflict, but not with solitude.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions. A few things introverts are not: The word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope. Nor are introverts shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.
So, I'm curious, are you an introvert of extrovert? Remember, neither is better than the other. The book even explains that there are some who don't fall squarely into one camp - they can be a little of both depending on the situation. I think understanding the two and which one best describes you, will allow you to feel comfortable with who you are and how you choose to engage with the world. Well, it did for me anyway. I can feel equally good about being social and as I do about needing solitude, and not fault myself when I need the latter. I really can't recommend this book enough. What I offer above is a very minuscule sampling of what the book has to offer in the way of understanding the attributes belonging to both the extrovert and introvert. I leave you with this:
A species in which everyone was a General Patton would not succeed, any more than would a race in which everyone was Vincent van Gogh. I prefer to think that the planet needs athletes, philosophers, sex symbols, painters, scientists; it needs the warmhearted, the hardhearted, the coldhearted, and the weakhearted. It needs those who can devote their lives to studying how many droplets of water are secreted by the salivary glands of dogs under which circumstances, and it needs those who can capture the passing impression of cherry blossoms in a fourteen-syllable poem or devote twenty-five pages to the dissection of a small boy's feelings as he lies in bed in the dark waiting for his mother to kiss him goodnight... ~Allen Shawn