Today’s Letter is “I”

For the “I” part of me, I really appreciated this article in The Atlantic. It’s from 2003, but recently made the rounds on Facebook.

Turns out, they also ran a follow-up piece in 2006, that I stumbled upon today.

A few points in the follow-up article really hit home for me:

I think it’s particularly hard for girls and women. ‘You’d be so much more popular if you’d talk more. ‘It seems to me that the world would be a much better place, and that people would be much more rightly popular, if they talked less. Because so little of what most people say is actually worth hearing.”

I’m bad at small talk. Yes, I work in a career where I need to be talking all the time. But when I’m promoting my destination, which I feel pretty passionate about, I can talk and talk.

Seems author Jonathan Rauch understands my feelings:

“But once an introvert gets on a subject that they know about or care about or that intrigues them intellectually. . .They get passionately engaged and turned on by the conversation.”

I used to tell people who said I was “quiet” that actually, once you get to know me, you can’t shut me up. I think what really happens is that I’m friends with people with whom I have common interests, so I like conversing with them, because the “introvert” in me is stimulated by that conversation.

However, I don’t like to talk for the sake of talking to fill silence. Silence is golden, sometime. A silence is only awkward if you feel like you need to be filling the void.

 I marvel at people who can make small talk about anything. I’m not trying to sound pretentious, but I like to speak with a purpose, and to me, I’d rather save my energy than talk about the weather (unless, the weather is relevant and topical).

Of course then I get branded as “shy” or “aloof.”

The interviewer, Sage Stossel discusses the discovery of her introversion:

“I’m not sure. I guess it probably hit me in seventh grade when somebody told my older brother, “You know, Sage could be popular if she talked more.” Of course, he reported this to me, and I started to brood over it.”

I had a similar moment in my life, only I was about six years old, but it stuck with me. I was at my babysitter’s house with my sister, and the babysitter’s mother was asking me questions. She was sort of a scary woman to me anyways, but she said to me “you know what, you are shy, and that’s not going to get you far in this world.”

A)I was 6, and B) I wasn’t shy, I just didn’t want to talk to HER.

Let’s look at the almighty Wikipedia definition of the MBTI Introvert:

  • INFJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).[8]

Rauch says, “You asked about shyness versus introversion. To me, shyness implies a real reluctance to be socially aggressive or assertive. It’s very difficult for shy people to put themselves out there if they need to. For introverts, it’s never easy to do, but it’s more a matter of reluctance to expend the energy, because it tires us out.”

I agree with Rauch’s assessment. I put myself out there; I can be very assertive and aggressive when I need to be. I just save my energy for those moments when I need to be “on.”

Thus, to be an introvert is a balancing act. We need time to be silent, to recharge our batteries, so we can expend our energy having fun with all you extroverts.

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