Ever since Susan Cain came out with her best-selling defense of introversion (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking), the blogosphere has been atwitter with articles penned by introverts newly infused with confidence and courage to publish long-winded rants about how grateful we should all be that a third of society has finally been released from long-held stereotypes pinned on them by obnoxious extroverts who rule the world and hold introverts back by the sheer, noisy force of their magnetic personalities.
“Everyone always liked the extroverts better,” the articles seem to agree. “But now it’s OUR turn to shine. Now at last people can see that we’re really much better because we think things through and develop quality relationships with a few people and enjoy spending time by ourselves.”
As an introvert myself, I want to be on the introverts’ side. I’m all about Ms. Cain’s book, and I appreciate the premise. (On a side note, she gave an awesome TED talk on it that you can access here.)
I know what it’s like to be passed over in crowds, to mingle with the same people for years on end and still be unrecognized, to be unable to get a word in edgewise at a party because even when I do start talking, someone louder and funnier than I interrupts me. I’ve felt the dull throb of shame over my periodic need to get as far away from everyone as I possibly can and just absorb the silence for a while. I’ve gritted my teeth in frustration when my coveted solitary time was wrested from me by friends or family members who wanted to talk or just spend some time when I didn’t feel like being with people. I’ve blushed to admit that the happiest hours of my childhood and adolescence were spent alone in my room or folded up in a chair in the living room buried in books. I’ve wondered if there’s something deeply wrong with me because the idea of spending a weekend by myself in a cabin or on a beach somewhere sounds absolutely glorious.
Still, I’m going to make an argument some of you might consider pretty revolutionary, and highly uncharacteristic coming from me. I think we introverts need extroverts, even though they drive us crazy and sometimes make us feel inferior or just plain mean for needing to be left alone now and then.
We need extroverts to pull us out of ourselves, especially when we start to fall into the nastier traps of introversion — like navel-gazing and self-pity and passing harsh judgments on the people around us.
We need extroverts to ask for our numbers and pursue us and ultimately force us to be their friends, because many of us simply won’t go to all that effort to make friends, even if we really like a person.
We need extroverts to organize the parties that we do still like to go to on occasion, even though we complain about them.
We need extroverts to remind us of the power of collaboration, and to force us to work together for things that really matter, from projects at work to volunteer opportunities, grassroots campaigns, and evangelization.
We need extroverts to show us how to reach out in love to others, because often as introverts it’s really easy to forget to come out of ourselves, and to overlook the people around us — especially strangers and newcomers — who may be aching for interaction.
We need extroverts to help us lighten up when we’re tempted to let the weight of the world get us down.
It’s the beauty of the human race that we come in all shapes and sizes and unique personality types. Sometimes we drive one another crazy, and often we perplex and surprise and even intimidate each other. But at the end of the day, we perfect and complete one another through the synthesis of our respective strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy enough to complain that extroverts get all the limelight, but I don’t think that’s quite fair. They may get more attention at parties, but introverts get plenty of credit elsewhere. (I mean, Albert Einstein was an introvert, and so was Audrey Hepburn. I feel like we’re in pretty good company…)
Extroverts have a lot to offer, and I for one would be a much lonelier, colder, harsher person without the influence of some pretty awesome extroverts in my life.
So to my extroverts, I just want to say: thanks for getting my number, randomly messaging me on Facebook in the middle of the afternoon, inviting me to your parties, laughing at my dour moods and caustic comments, and teaching me how to look on other people — especially strangers — with genuine interest, openness, and love.
We may have been liberated from a harsh societal stereotype, but let’s not go overboard in our celebration. It’s not an either-or proposition. Yes, the world benefits from us introverts; but we introverts need our extroverts like Bert needs Ernie. It’s just a simple fact. So take five minutes, put your book down, and thank an extrovert today. Then you can write your own blog post in defense of introversion.
Some great introverted articles and posts you may have missed but probably didn’t, because you’re an introvert who loves thought-provoking reading especially when it pertains to you, and besides, you spend inordinate amounts of time online: