We live in a world of extroverts.
For better or worse, some three-quarters of the population are what is commonly classified as extroverts, which means every introvert is inherently living in a world built by and defined by extroverts.
What is an extrovert?
An extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. This is the opposite of an introvert who is energized by being alone. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like people, but it does mean you will quietly go completely insane if you are forced to interact with other people – especially unfamiliar people – for extended periods of time with no option for respite.
There are some great tracts on the web about introversion in a game attempt to explain introverts to what is a majority population of extroverts, but in most of the various essays there have been some points that I often felt were missing.
Introversion is a not a disease
Being an introvert is not a psychological condition that needs to be fixed. It is not a disease, nor is it a personality deficiency. Introversion is, as well, not in fact purely social. In the same way that introverts prefer a small group of close friends to a large network of acquaintances, introverts tend to specialize rather than generalize and prefer depth over breadth.
Note that this is not the same thing as being shy; shyness is a characteristic of social anxiety which in extreme cases is in fact a social disorder in that it prevents the individual from effective social functioning. Most introverts are not, in fact, shy, and are perfectly capable of interacting at a social level, they simply do not seek it out as their primary focus.
In other words, trying to “help” an introvert by “breaking them out of their shell” or “conquering their solitude” is – perhaps inadvertently – condescending in that it implies there is something wrong with not being gregarious.
Texting is a mark of respect
Mainstream society grants considerable privilege to bold, aggressive communication, and in fact, in certain areas such as sales – whether as a matter of commerce or simply interpersonal communication – this can be very effective.
Direct, aggressive communication has its strengths, but it also has weaknesses that are not as commonly acknowledged. It can be invasive, pushy, rude, and inadvertently strong arm people into actions and verbal agreements they might come to regret. In other words, it is good for the quick sale, but bad for the long game.
Where an extrovert will prize face to face or at least voice to voice communication, often because it is easier to force a response or action faster, and sometimes simply because talking is how many extroverts work through their own thinking, introverts will often value indirect communication. In days past this meant snailmail, then email and instant messaging, and most recently texting.
I have heard it all; texting is a mark of casualness, of informality. Texting is lazy. I have even heard texting compared to cowardice.
For introverts, texting allows the recipient to respond when it is convenient for the recipient, not the sender. It allows the recipient time to collect their thoughts and consider the best response. It is, in other words, a mark of respect that values the substance of the communication over the speed of the communication, and respects the recipient’s time.
None of this is to say there is not a time and place for face to face communication, for phone calls and in-person talking. Obviously, there is, and to state otherwise would be silly. For matters that require discussion or debate, or communication between intimates, nothing else will substitute, but these are rarer situations than is sometimes imagined, and for everything else there is an array of options broader than is often assumed.
Voluntary social interaction is significant
For an extrovert, social interaction is like breathing; it is the medium through which relationships, likes and dislikes, status measurement and innumerable other social measures are gauged. An extrovert may gush happily with an arch-enemy, or make enthusiastic promises of future interaction which they actually have little likelihood of genuinely following through on. The extrovert isn’t lying – they just assume that everyone is using the same dictionary.
For an introvert, social interaction is is like an embrace; it is a significant action with particular meaning. An introvert is more likely to avoid interacting with someone they dislike, and far less likely to pretend amiability. Where an extrovert may simply be flirting for fun, an introvert will tend to flirt with deliberate intention, even if the manner is playful.
In other words, if an introvert makes the specific, voluntary, non-task oriented action to talk to someone, invite someone to something, or join a social activity, it most often implies a significant level of intent. The intent may simply be an extension of friendship, or an attempt to deliberately network, or to pay off a perceived social debt, but it is rarely happenstance. It is a signal, and if the signal is ignored, many introverts will simply shrug and walk away, assuming their offer to have been rebuffed.
Introverts are not insensitive
In fact, it is just the opposite. Some interesting scientific studies have demonstrated that introverts feel more intensely on average than extroverts. Their introversion and distancing is, in other words, a mechanism for controlling an intensity of sensory and emotional input that might otherwise become overwhelming.
On the flip side, this sensitivity means that introverts often pick up subtleties that may be missed. As well, introverts tend to be more cautious and aware of the risk side of any equation, whereas extroverts tend to respond more readily to the reward side of the equation. Fortune can in fact favor the bold, but it also tends to kill them off a lot faster as well.
Creativity does not arise from teamwork
Recent research has overwhelmingly demonstrated that despite claims that open office environments encourage teamwork and the free exchange of ideas, the truth is their true value lies in these environments being cheaper. Training and creativity have been repeatedly and rigorously tied to solitary practice and individual effort.
Again, this does not mean that teamwork, brainstorming and the exchange of ideas do not have a place; they absolutely do. What it means, however, is that these things are most effective when they are segregated to particular points along the creative process and not saturated throughout the process…like soaking french fries with mayonnaise.