As a friendly and outgoing introvert, I’ve been reading numerous books on introversion lately, among them Susan Cain’s already classic Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and extroverted speaking coach Jennifer Kahnweiler’s Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference.
But the one I’m most inspired by for how it’s turning my thinking upside down is Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.
She points out that “accessible introverts” (her term for introverts well-adapted to an extrovert world) are used to adjusting based on our assumption that we’re the different ones. We think we need to do things the extrovert way. Yet the most comprehensive research reveals there is a 50-50 split between extroverted and introverted personality types. (Cain’s Quiet does a good job explaining why the USA is a place where we assume most people are extroverted, in case you are curious).
Differences for introverts and extroverts are enormous. We find our strength for everyday living from different places, extroverts from external circumstances, introverts from reflection. Research from imaging studies show that the “brains of introverts show more activity in response to stimuli than the brains of extroverts.”
Another way to put this might be that it’s more exciting inside my head than it is for my extrovert friend. She can enjoy more outside stimuli because her internal reflections don’t feel quite so fun to her as mine do to me. It is satisfying and joyful for me to think in depth because my brain is wired that way. And outside events and doing as opposed to thinking feels more meaningful to my extrovert friend than to me because her brain is wired that way. The world needs both types.
What I’m amazed by is how many ways I have handicapped myself by trying so hard to be an extrovert’s-world-oriented introvert! I always thought it was my job to adapt because I was in the minority. But if half the people I know are in my camp and if we really cannot thrive working so thouroughly against the way we’re wired, I’m doing less good, not more, in all my efforts to adapt.
One way I’m inspired to change is how I’m going to go about starting my writer’s group at my home. I had planned to have a format where someone presented useful writing information (at first that would have been me) each meeting and then we shared our work. I assumed there needed to be some sort of formal presentation because that’s how things often work in an extrovert-oriented world.
After reading Introvert Power, I have a new idea that would be better for writers who have an introvert bent.
Imagine that each person who comes in my front door that first night already knows that the schedule for the night is to first settle down somewhere coffee-shop-style and work quietly for the 1st hour. No need for conversation right off the bat. Working quietly will energize us and then we can gather a short while to share in the more social part of what a writers’ group is about.
For another post, I even have ideas for how we can avoid wasting time by getting right to meaningful conversation rather than the shallower stuff that most introverts find draining.
This is a new blog, but if you are an introvert who has come across this post, how do you think my suggested style of meeting would work for you? What are your ideas for how Introverted people who love to connect in deeper ways can moved from their extrovert-influenced thinking to methods that really work well for them?