3 min read · June 23, 2021
xkcd #2276 "Self-Isolate" https://xkcd.com/2276/
I'm introverted. My Myers-Briggs is INTP, with a bolded, italicized, and underlined 72-point capital "I". And up to this point in my life, I've viewed that as a weakness; a handicap that I have to work on. I've even lost track of how many times I told my wife, Bree, that I hope our kid ends up being outgoing like she is. I think any introvert could easily fall into this trap when you consider how much the world today values extroversion and social interaction.
People think you're being rude because you're quietly listening to and thinking about the conversation instead of participating in it. Schools pressure kids into working together on group projects. Leaders sometimes seem to be chosen at work not necessarily on merit, but on how outspoken they are. I was personally told in my last review that something I ought to work at this stage in my career is to interact more with other teams in order to make a name for myself across the organization. That not enough people know who I am, despite the fact that my current role was originally designed to only work with a select group of people.
I've been reading (well, listening to on Audible) Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and it talks a lot in its opening chapters about how we became an extroverted society and how we're taught from a young age the importance of social interaction.
At first, the book can seem really vindicating. It covers the nuances within introversion, such as the difference between being shy and being an introvert. It also highlights the proven value of working alone and the accomplishments of the world's most notable introverts.
But there's a lot of the book that's made me feel like I need to keep it at arm's length. It may not have been the author's intention, but it kind of rubs me the wrong way at times with how it portrays extroverts and our extrovert-leaning society. It almost reads to me like it is villifying extroverts - or at least the cogs that have driven the world to value extroversion.
It's entirely possible that I've been reading too much between the lines, but I get a sense that this book has a chip on its shoulder about extroverts and it reads as if part of the way to lift introverts up is to cut extroverts down. To me, it almost takes on an us-versus-them tone.
Related, I was flipping through random Subreddits via r/random and just happened to land at r/introverts. Scrolling through the threads there gave me even more of this us-versus-them sense. Granted, my personal opinion about Reddit is that any Subreddit on any topic attracts the most toxic people and attitudes about it. But, r/introverts does seem be overshadowed by this general mentality that extroverts are bad and this is the place to vent about how extroverts make you feel. At its most extreme, it gives off incel vibes.
Extroverts are not villains.
I chose to spend the rest of my life with one and I don't think it could have been any other way for me. It definitely hasn't made me any more extroverted, and there are occasional conflicts because of how differently our brains work, but it has enriched my life in ways that probably wouldn't have been possible if I'd chosen to spend my life with another introverted person.
So I obviously don't think the way to lift introverts up is to bring extroverts down. But I do think we need to stop treating our introversion as a weakness and just own who we are. Be happy with the fact that you're a cerebral, thoughtful person. The amount of talking you do is not something you need to change about yourself. Stop acting apologetic for being quiet. But keep yourself grounded and do it without a chip on your shoulder.
We all just think and interact with the world differently. I think it's valuable to acknowledge those differences, but I also think that can be done in a more matter-of-fact way as opposed to judging and ranking people based on how much they talk.