Are you energised by spending time alone? Is your ideal celebration a small get-together rather than a big party? You, my friend may be an introvert. The good news is, you are not alone. Hello, you’re looking at one!
As a child, I found it terribly difficult to fit in. I didn’t speak much in class nor did I have many friends. In fact, my report cards were filled with notes such as, “Needs to participate in class”, “Very quiet in class” or “Too quiet!!!”.
Most of the time I did have something to say, but when called to participate I’d usually blank out. I maintained that I wasn’t shy, I just didn’t like to be overwhelmed by attention.
When I first started using the Internet more than 10 years ago, one of the applications I enjoyed using the most was the IRC, because I loved the fact that no one knew who I really was. With it I can anonymously be myself (does this even make sense?). However, I found out talking incognito to a group of people in real-time online had the same effect it would in real life — it drained my energy out.
When I started working, I knew I had to change. So I became or tried to become more sociable. I managed by assigning short “talking sessions” (yes it was that unnatural) with colleagues followed by longer solitary “me times”. (If I’m not slated to talk to someone, I’d try my best to avoid that person.)
I applied this system throughout my daily life — I found the more mentally prepared I was for a situation, the better I’d perform — and managed relatively well (the keyword here is “relatively”).
Like I said, I’m not shy. My work calls for numerous presentations, which I take in stride. When I’m talking about a topic I know intimately and have prepared well for I do not have a problem with speaking to a group of people. It was therefore very odd and embarrassing to find myself struggling when it comes to small talk with my clients.
A few months ago, I chanced upon this book — The Introvert Advantage – How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney. For the first time in my life I felt like somebody finally understood me. The book is filled with examples of people like me, facing and managing situations in remarkably similar fashion. If you’re an introvert let me just say “Go buy this book now, believe me it’s worth it!” If you need more convincing, read on.
This book is slightly over 300 pages long and divided into three parts:
The book starts by determining whether you are an introvert or not (there’s a little quiz at the end of the first chapter):
“The strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions… they can be easily overstimulated by the external world… introverts need to balance their alone time with outside time”
It goes on to explore the fundamental differences between introverts and extroverts. Apparently the brain works in a slightly different manner for introverts.
One message that reverberates through the chapters is that of accepting who you are, whether if you’re an innie (introvert) or an outie (extrovert).
One thing I like in particular is the fact that the writer, Marti, an introvert, gave good examples of how she and her extrovert husband resolve conflicts and come to compromises in their life together, e.g. when choosing an activity or a vacation. My brother and closest friends are ALL outright extroverts so you can imagine how glad I was to read about someone else dealing with the same challenges I had.
The second section of the book teaches you how to cope with extroverts and the pro-extrovert world that we live in. A chapter each is devoted to of the following: parenting, socialising and working. My parents are both introverts, so I didn’t have the problem of feeling like the weird one out, however extroverted parents who are frustrated with their seemingly “unsociable” introvert child may find this section useful (you might also be interested in The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child by the same author).
I feel this part of the book is a good read for anyone in a position of authority — parent, teacher, boss — even if you are not an introvert yourself because it can help greatly in conflict management.
There’s also a chapter dedicated to dating which addresses the difficulties of introvert and extrovert pairings in all its permutations (e.g. innie female + outie male).
The final section is about taking steps to ensure a balanced, healthy life — how to find your personal pace, sort out your priorities so as to not overwhelm yourself and defining parameters that you are comfortable with. There are also practical suggestion on how to nurture your introvert self.
The last chapter is about extroverting yourself. “Extroverting myself? I thought this book is about accepting me being an introvert?!” you ask. Yes, you see, the fact of life is, we need to be extrovert at times — at a job interview for instance, or when making new friends. And more often than not, we need to do some extroverting to achieve our dreams and goals. This last chapter will walk you through the steps.
I read a lot of books every weekend and as you might have noticed, I only put reviews and links to books I had enjoyed. With that in mind, I cannot overemphasise how much this book has helped me in coping as an introvert. If you are an introvert, you’d do yourself a great favour by reading this book. :)
Or you could try avoiding people for the rest of your life. :O