Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I've always known that I have introvert-like tendencies, but I've never thought I was a true introvert because I don't have any fear of public speaking. I'm not shy at all, in fact, and quite enjoy lecturing on technical topics in particular. I gave an hour-long presentation on Trends in Rich Client Development at a local council for technology executives just this Tuesday, in fact.

Therefore, it was with great surprise that I discovered this article from The Altantic, and this follow-up interview from several years after the article's original publication (thanks to Shrinking Violet Promotions). It turns out that I'm apparently an introvert after all, even though I have an affinity for the limelight much of the time, and am quite good at relating to people. Often I unconsciously make myself the center of gatherings (oops) by keeping up with everyone present and providing a lot of casual banter (as I've gotten older, this attention-grabbing habit has lessened steadily from its peak during my teenage years).

There are many different degrees of introverts, but I fit what are apparently the most salient factors in determining one's introvert/extrovert orientation: I don't seek out parties or the company of other people in most cases, I have no problem being alone for extended periods, and I tend to be drained, rather than energized, with extended social contact with others. Workplace contact is fine, and I've been known to run multi-day all-day meetings with large groups of clients, while retaining more stamina than any of the other attendees... but put me in a party with a group of non-family acquaintances for a couple of hours, and I'm bushed by the time I leave.

As the writer notes, this is largely because I have to consciously work to keep up the conversation when its not someone extremely familiar (family or my very best friends) or a topic with a very specific agenda (work, for the most part). I don't have to pause to think overly much when I'm talking about work things, but if you just want to chat with me about random inanities, I'm really going to have to work to hold up my own end unless we slip into anecdote-sharing mode. Then the storyteller in me takes over, and I'll be just fine until I run out of relevant anecdotes or the topic shifts again. And if it's a topic I don't have any real knowledge about, like professional sports, you're going to find me just smiling and nodding a lot (with the occasional grunts of agreement or commiseration).

Reading the interview, I was surprised to discover that my wife is not just an introvert, but also shy. I'm an introvert only, and one with an affinity for positive attention, so that's a pretty big difference in outlook. We've both always known this about ourselves and each other, but we never really had the words to put to it before. It's somehow reassuring to discover that there are a lot of others out there just like us. In college, all our friends thought we were crazy for never going to their parties. We thought they were a little crazy for being amused by the endless routine of empty socializing and drinking. Now that everyone is older, and more focused on careers and apartments/houses and serious relationships, it's a lot easier for us all to relate.

Still, it's nice to see it written in a major publication that we weren't the crazy ones. We were simply introverts, and we still are. Perhaps that's why I so very much look forward to (hopefully) someday going on book tour, even though I know how exhausting it will be for me. I imagine the majority of writers are introverts, and that those who aren't also shy probably know exactly what I'm talking about.

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